There can be no finer fragrance in the kitchen than that of bread baking in the oven… it’s simply ethereal! Over the years I’ve noted that each type of bread has its own distinctive aroma while baking, allowing it to be identified by one’s sense of smell. When family and friends come from out of state for a visit we always enjoy playing tour guide, taking in the sights, sounds and distinctive smells of San Francisco. What could be finer than the smell of the salty sea air lovingly caressing our Baghdad by the Bay? I’ll tell you! It’s the fragrance of sourdough bread baking at Boudin’s on Fisherman’s Wharf! I go into near sensory overload each time we approach this wonderful bakery and stand at the huge plate glass windows watching the many bakers shaping creatures of all sorts with this world famous tangy and pungent dough. I could stand there for hours in complete and utter contentment, the fragrance of baking loaves permeating the sea air drifting across San Francisco Bay.
I experience the same sensory rush when Dayton bakes focaccia here at home. Shortly after the pan is popped into the oven the glorious aromas of garlic, green onions and feta cheese fill the kitchen with culinary perfume! I was first introduced to focaccia nearly 20 years ago when Dayton was chef/owner of Ristorante Ze here in the San Francisco East Bay. He would bake numerous sheetpans of this glorious flatbread every day, the fragrance of which would waft through the front door of the restaurant, enticing customers to come in from the street and dine.
The most typical focaccia is a simple baked dough topped with olive oil and a simple herb such as rosemary or sage, then salted with coarse salt. Focaccia is typically rolled out or pressed by hand into a thick layer of dough, then baked. Also common is the practice of dimpling the bread with one’s fingertips as soon as the dough is fitted into the pan, creating multiple wells across the surface of the dough. As a way to preserve moisture in the bread olive oil is spread over the surface of the dough by hand or with a pastry brush prior to rising and baking.
Focaccia with Garlic, Green Onions and Feta Cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
4 tsp active dry yeast
2 C warm water (water should not feel hot to the touch)
Bloom the yeast in the warm water (approximately 10 minutes). When bloomed combine in a 5 – 6 quart mixing bowl fitted with a dough hook:
5 C all-purpose flour (1 1/2 lb)
the bloomed yeast and water mixture
3 T olive oil
2 tsp salt
Mix for approximately 8 minutes. This is a wet dough which will still stick to the bowl upon the completion of that time. Using a dough scraper transfer the dough to a well-floured surface and knead several times, incoporating enough of the flour to allow the dough to stick together. It will still appear somewhat wet and glossy. Transfer to a well-oiled bowl, turning the dough so that all surfaces are coated with extra virgin olive oil. Cover with film and allow to rise in a warm draft-free place until double in bulk, approximately one hour. Punch down and transfer to a well-floured surface using the dough scraper:
Fold dough over itself in half so that the top surface is floured. With a rolling pin roll the dough to fit the baking pan (this recipe fills one half sheetpan):
Transfer dough to a well-oiled half sheet pan. Using the rolling pin and the palms of your hands fit the dough as snugly as possible into all four corners of the pan. This takes a bit of patience since the surface of the pan is slick with extra virgin olive oil. It can, however, be accomplished!
Dimple the surface of the dough with your fingertips:
Spread across the surface of the dough, using your fingers:
3 1/2 T ground garlic in oil (refer to “Fine Cooking… Bring in your Personality”):
Dust the dough with:
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch green onions, including both the white and green portions, thinly sliced crosswise:
Crumble and sprinkle over the dough:
4 – 6 oz Bulgarian feta:
Dust the surface with:
1/2 C grated Parmigiano Reggiano
Allow to rise in a warm draft-free place until dough rises above the edge of the pan, approximately 50 minutes:
Place in the preheated hot oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack:
This focaccia stands deliciously alone or can be used for an unforgettably delectable sandwich. We also use this as one of the primary ingredients for our Thanksgiving dressing. It’s magnificent… Bon Appetit!
Copyright 2009 Via Aurea Designs, Inc., All Rights Reserved