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Katherine's Favourites

Focaccia Bread with two toppings

Home & Garden

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Katherine Martinko

I love good bread – the dense, chewy, moist, yeasty kind that sends an unmistakable and tantalizing aroma from a bakery out to the street.  Regardless of how recently I’ve eaten, or how much bread is piling up at home, I can’t keep myself from going in. 

This was more of a problem when I lived in the city; my apartment was located halfway between a Portuguese bakery and an Italian bakery, and I swear those two businesses must have been competing with each for Best Smelling Bread.  I never did choose a favourite, but learned to sniff out each one’s specialty.  The Italian bakery sold me many an almond croissant and the Portuguese potato bread was to die for!    

I love seeing fresh, unpackaged loaves on shelves, baguettes stuffed upright into baskets, piles of buns in boxes.  The oval flatbreads and round sourdoughs and mushroom-shaped sandwich loaves create a visual effect that is nearly enchanting enough to make me want to drop everything and dedicate my life to the art of bread making.  (While that isn’t exactly feasible, I do spend shocking amounts of time poring over cookbooks at home with poetic subtitles such as “the artful mix of flour and tradition”.)  

At home, I make bread at least once a week and, yes, you can do it without the help of a bread machine or a stand mixer.  It is the most satisfying household task on my list – and one of the easiest.  Flatbreads are a good place to start, if you want something leavened that’s also fast and fabulously delicious.  Focaccia is traditionally cooked on the hearth in a skillet covered with hot embers, but modern versions use regular ovens.  Focaccia is thicker than pizza and usually carries its flavours in the dough, so my version with toppings is not entirely authentic!  I like to serve it with soup and salad for a hearty lunch.  

Focaccia (with Two Toppings)

1 tbsp active dry yeast

1 tsp honey

1 cup warm water

3-2/3 cups all-purpose flour (or part whole-wheat)

1 tsp salt

1/3 cup olive oil, plus extra for brushing

2 tbsp cornmeal

1. In a large bowl, mix the yeast and honey with the water and let sit for 5 minutes.  Stir in 1 cup of flour, then salt, and 1/3 cup olive oil.  Add remaining flour, ˝ cup at a time.  Knead the moist dough on a lightly floured surface for 8-10 minutes.  Grease a large bowl with olive oil and turn the dough to coat.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.

2. Punch dough down and divide it in half.  Pat each half into an oval, then use a rolling pin to roll each one out of ˝ thickness.  Spread the cornmeal on two cookie sheets and place an oval on each one.  Make dimples in the bread by gently pressing your fingertips into the dough, about 2 inches apart.  

3. Choose a topping (I usually do one of each).  Pesto topping: Spread a thin layer of basil pesto over the top of the dough.  Sprinkle with chopped toasted walnuts and crumbled feta cheese or freshly grated Parmesan.  Tomato topping: Spoon ˝ cup of prepared salsa over the dough and spread evenly.  Sprinkle generously with grated mozzarella.

4. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest 20 minutes.  Bake at 375 F for 16 to 18 minutes, or until the edges and bottom are golden brown.  Brush the edges with olive oil as soon as it comes out of the oven for a softer, tastier crust.  Makes 2 focacce.

Dough recipe adapted from “Disney’s Family Cookbook

 

 

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011