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(post, Patricia Conte)
As posted on Grab a Plate Fantastic focaccia! What’s better than homemade bread? I’d say homemade bread without much fuss. To me, that translates to focaccia. Focaccia is a flat bread that is similar to pizza, yet not quite the same. Olive oil, herbs and salt are popular toppings for this Italian specialty, but it’s easy to add other toppings you find appealing and that go well with bread. Since my mom is visiting and my family is one that loves its bread, we scheduled a focaccia-making session. As long as I can remember, my family has been making bread at home on a weekly basis. Focaccia, however, is relatively new to our oven. My mom’s good friend (who makes a mean focaccia) recently taught her how to make it, and since she arrived she’s been chomping at the bit to make it with me. I’m so glad we did! Decisions, decisions After struggling to decide what to use for toppings, we agreed on green onions (mostly because I still have a ton in my garden – can you believe it?), tomatoes and garlic. The beauty of focaccia is that the list of topping options is long: anchovies olives onions peppers sun dried tomatoes potatoes leeks mushrooms cheeses ham, salami or prosciutto …and the list goes on to include whatever you find appealing. (You may want to slightly pre-cook some of the “sturdier” ingredients, like potatoes or onions, before baking your bread.) The thick and thin of focaccia My mom prefers her focaccia thinner, but I was thinking of those sandwiches — slicing it in half and using the dusty Panini maker in the cupboard — so we went a bit on the thick side. It turned out light, fluffy (and just a bit toastier than we wanted, so keep an eye on it as it gets close to being finished), and delicious! Ingredients 2 teaspoons of quick-rising yeast 1 cup of warm water 2 tablespoons sugar 4 cups flour (if you want thinner focaccia, use about 3 cups of flour) 1 tablespoon coarse salt 1/4 cup olive oil Cornmeal for dusting Toppings: 2 tablespoons olive oil (maybe a bit more) 1 green onion, minced 1 garlic clove, sliced thin 1-1/2 small tomatoes, diced 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 teaspoon coarse salt 1/2-1 teaspoons dried oregano Directions Note: You can use a standing mixer with a dough hook to mix the dough, but we made our bread the old-fashioned way, kneading it with our hands. # Combine the yeast with warm water (this is referred to as proofing the yeast) in a small bowl along with the sugar. Gently stir the mixture to dissolve everything. Allow the yeast to stand for about 3 minutes until it gets a bit foamy. # Add the flour to a large bowl and make a well in the center of it. # In a small bowl, dissolve the salt in a few tablespoons of water, and add it to the flour along with the yeast mixture. Next add the olive oil to the mixture. # With your hands and a spatula to scrape down the bowl, mix everything together to form the dough. Punch down and knead the dough, turning it as you go, for at least 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth, soft and pliable. Add a bit of flour to the dough as needed. Form the dough into a round ball. # Add some olive oil to your hands and smooth it over the dough ball to coat it and leave it in the bowl. Cover the bowl with a thick towel and place the bowl in a warm spot to let the dough rise to double its size (about 45 minutes to an hour). # Coat a baking sheet (with sides) with olive oil and sprinkle a few tablespoons of cornmeal over the entire pan. Set aside. # Once the dough has risen, place it on a floured surface and punch it down 3-4 times. Allow it to stand for a few minutes while you get your toppings ready. # Moving back to the dough, roll and stretch it out into an oblong shape that is about 1/2 an inch thick. Place the dough on the oiled baking sheet, cover it with plastic wrap and let it stand for about 15 minutes. # Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. After the dough has rested and you’re ready to bake it, poke small wells all around the dough using your finger. Brush the surface of the dough with olive oil. # Evenly sprinkle on the dried oregano, green onion, tomato and garlic. Sprinkle with coarse salt, then grated Parmesan cheese. # Bake on the bottom rack for 20 minutes, checking it as it gets close to the end of the baking time.