Thursday, November 29, 2012

Sun-Dried Tomato and Parmesan Focaccia Bread

Let me be honest.  When my children all leave on the bus for school around seven each morning, I often crawl back into bed with the t.v. remote in hand, flip through some morning news channels and, inevitably, doze back off to sleep for a couple of hours.  It is the most marvelous thing in the world.  As a self-proclaimed and self-diagnosed "night owl," my mind and body never seem to quite settle down at night until well past one or two.  And, a morning person I am not, although I do have to rise around 5:30 a.m. to get my children ready for school. 

So, that bit of extra snoozing after my kiddos leave is pure bliss!

This week, however, I have been up and at 'em (and raring to go) all morning long and have not went back to sleep!  It's amazing how productive I have been - with my cup of coffee in tow - in these quiet, early morning hours this week.  Laundry is getting done well before lunch.  My housework is done and out of the way early-on.  And, I have been able to spend more time working on my blog and all that having a blog entails.

And, the biggest plus - I have been spending more time in the kitchen.  Quiet, peaceful, therapeutic, uninterrupted cooking and baking while Christmas songs play in the background.

As I begin typing up this post, a lovely roast with potatoes and carrots is cooking away in the slow cooker, scones are cooling on the counter and the dough for this focaccia bread is proofing by the oven.  And, it's not even ten o'clock.

In regards to this recipe, if you've never made focaccia, let me encourage you to try it!  I have made this many times and I think I love it more and more each time!  Focaccia is a flat Italian bread that is usually seasoned with olive oil and herbs.  Because the dough bakes atop an olive oil base and is rubbed on top with olive oil, the outside of the bread becomes a bit fried.  My version has the addition of sun-dried tomatoes, slivered onions and some shaved Parmesan.  Any herbs, toppings or cheeses can be used.  You can keep it super simple ... just a little olive oil and fresh, chopped rosemary. Or, you can spruce it up a bit with whatever your sweet, little heart desires.

I use a focaccia dough recipe from A Flock in the City.

Ingredients for the Dough:

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus about 6 tablespoons more for pan and top of bread

Ingredients for the Toppings:

5 - 6 sun-dried tomatoes (packed in oil), chopped into small pieces
1/2 onion, very thinly sliced
2 - 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano or dried Italian seasoning
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved into large pieces with a peeler
Fresh basil (optional)


Add the flour and salt to the work bowl of your mixer.  Give it a quick whirl to combine.

In a small bowl, add the brown sugar to the warm water.  Stir.  Sprinkle in the yeast,  Stir to combine.  Allow to bloom for about 5 - 10 minutes.

Add yeast mixture into the flour/salt mixture.  Add in 1/2 of a cup of olive oil.

Turn on the mixture and knead until a dough forms that clears the sides of the bowl.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.  Knead just a few times until it has all come together and you are able to form it into a round, smooth ball.

Place dough ball into a greased (I use non-stick spray) large bowl (glass works best) and allow to proof for one hour or until dough has doubled in size.  Lay a clean kitchen towel loosely over the top of the bowl during proofing.

Once the dough has risen, turn it back out onto the lightly floured surface and gently press out to form a rectangle. Gently pull and press the dough until it is a good sized rectangle.

Onto a sheet pan, pour 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Move the dough onto the sheet pan. Continue to press the dough out to just about fill the sheet pan.

Now, dimple the top of the dough with your fingertips.

Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil onto the dough. With your hand, spread the olive oil across the entire surface of the dough.

Layer on your toppings:  tomatoes, garlic, onions, spices, cheeses.  Do not add the fresh basil at this point, if using.

Allow the focaccia to rise again for 30 minutes while you heat your oven to 425 degrees.

Bake the focaccia for 10 minutes at 425 degrees, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees for 12- 15 more minutes.

Top with torn basil, if desired.  Slice into squares or strips.  Best served immediately.

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