Know what’s surprisingly easy to whip up in your own kitchen, without spending hours slaving away? A one-woman Panera.
Allow me to explain: With just one simple, adaptable recipe (and a few pieces of helpful equipment), your apartment, house, efficiency, whatever, can smell like a European bakery filled with fresh, warm focaccia. Whether cut into wedges and served with soup, grilled with toppings as a flatbread pizza, or sliced and toasted to create the perfect panini, this bread is shockingly easy to make and even easier to eat.
The secret? This book right here:
I’ve mentioned its awesomeness before, albeit in brief, but this book has truly revolutionized the way I look at my own lil kitchen. (Could Lil Kitchen be Lil Kim’s culinary alter ego? Ohh man, the images in my head right now … ) The book introduces a simple technique for creating truly artisan-style bread in your own kitchen — and really, I think, “revolutionizing home baking” as much as the cover claims.
The secret? Pre-made dough — as in, a dough that you make yourself, in a large enough batch that you can divide it into four loaves — that you store in your refrigerator. The dough lasts up to two weeks, can be formed and mixed in myriad ways, and develops its sourdough flavor more and more as you continue to store it. Seriously? Srsly.
A few necessary pieces of equipment, according to the authors:
- A pizza or baking stone (optional if you make the book’s “olive oil dough,” which also works really well for focaccia)
- A broiler tray for adding steam to your oven.
- A wooden cutting board or a pizza peel for shimmying your pizza into the oven, after pre-heating your baking stone.
Remember: This will create a very wet dough, and the wetter it is, the flatter your focaccia will be. We’re adapting their basic Boule dough into a focaccia by omitting a small percentage of flour, and making the dough even wetter than it normally is. Since it’s a high-moisture dough, it lasts a while in the fridge and develops a sourdough character over time. Enjoy!
Parmesan and Herb Focaccia — makes enough dough for 4 loaves. Easily halved (or doubled!)
- 3 cups of lukewarm water (105°F; not too hot or you’ll kill the yeast)
- 1.5 Tbsp dry yeast
- 1.5 Tbsp kosher salt; if using table salt, reduce to 1 Tbsp
- 6 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour* $
- 1-2 Tbsp dried basil, plus extra for the top of the loaf
- 1-2 Tbsp dried oregano, plus extra for the top of the loaf
- 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan. (You can also use Romano!)
- Cornmeal for the pizza peel
*Normally, the recipe calls for 6.5 cups; reducing the amount of flour will make the dough slightly runnier, allowing for a more focaccia-like flat shape.
$ If you’d like to make a wheat focaccia, substitute up to 1.5 cups of wheat flour in the overall flour amount.
Here’s what you do:
- Add the water to a large mixing bowl. Then, add the yeast and salt, mixing until combined (not too long!)
- Add the flour using the book’s “scoop-and-sweep” method — scoop flour into the cup, then sweep the excess off of the top with the back of a knife. Add herbs and cheese; then, mix using a large wooden spoon until All of the flour is mixed (DON’T overmix!). Alternately, you can make the dough in an electric mixer using a dough hook.
- Allow the dough to rise in a room-temperature place, covered in plastic wrap and/or a dishtowel, for 2 hours. The dough is ready to use at this point, but refrigeration for a few hours (or up to overnight) makes it easier to handle.
- When you’re ready to bake, liberally sprinkle cornmeal on the pizza peel. Sprinkle flour on top of the dough. Using a serrated knife, cut a 1-lb ball (roughly grapefruit-size) from the mix.
- “Gluten cloak” the dough by pulling from the top of your dough ball, bringing the dough back down to the bottom of the ball, rotating 90° and repeating 3 more times.
- Allow the dough to rise on the pizza peel — after forming into something of a focaccia-shape, or just a wide circle / ball — for 40 minutes. Sprinkle more herbs and cheese on top of the dough, if desired.
- Preheat the oven to 450°F for 20 minutes (the last 20 minutes of rising time work well.)
- When you’re ready to bake …
- Shimmying! Shake the pizza peel until the bread dough meets the hot stone.quickly add 1 cup of hot water to the broiler tray.
- Immediately add 1 cup of hot water to the broiler tray and shut the oven door. Don’t be tempted to check your bread — you’ll let out the steam, resulting in a potentially deflated loaf. (Nooo!)
- Allow the loaf to bake, undisturbed, for 35-40 minutes. Allow it to cool completely before slicing and serving.
SO incredibly fabulous, especially with pasta, soup, or toasted as the base for a panini. A few variations:
- Rosemary-Olive Bread: Add 1 cup chopped olives and 2 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary to the dough after it has risen and chilled.
- Caramelized Onion Focaccia: Saute sliced onions over low heat until translucent; add a splash of cider vinegar, a pinch of dried oregano, and a dash of salt / pepper; cook for 5 more minutes. Repeatedly add 1 tsp of water until the water is dissolved, about 8-1o times over about 30 minutes. Top the focaccia with onions; then, bake according to directions.
- Basic Baguette: Raise the amount of flour to 6.5 cups. Omit herbs and cheese. Mix and chill dough according to directions. On baking day, stretch 1-lb size ball of dough into small baguette shape, or split into two baguettes. Place on a heavily-floured pizza peel, and bake according to original directions. Before baking, slash the top with a serrated knife in 3 or 4 places.
Do you guys like to bake your own bread? Have you tried it before, or are you a little intimidated? What are your favorite breads, and have you tried to bake them?