Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sun Dried Tomato Focaccia

I have mentioned previously me and Ben's purchasing prowess when it comes to focaccia.  Consequently, trying my hand at making my own round has been on my kitchen bucket list for awhile.  And really, there is no reason for me to have put it off for as long as I have.  I possess no less than three cookbooks, two dog-earred magazine and at least one newspaper clipping that contains a recipe for focaccia. 

So what did it finally take to push my lazy bum into gear?  I went a bought myself a fancy dancy pizza stone!  Nothing will get me into the kitchen faster than a new addition to play with.  And this new addition came with it's own cookbook.  Foregoing the obvious first use of a new pizza stone, I saw a focaccia recipe inside and realized I would christen my new kitchen toy with my first attempt at focaccia making.  I just had to decide which recipe to use, a task easier said than done.

So there I was, sitting cross-legged in my living room in front of the TV with my various focaccia recipes surrounding the floor around me, trying to decide which to go with.  I'm not going to lie, I was a tad overwhelmed initially, especially considering one included a cup of mashed potatoes.  I just wasn't sure what to do with that.  After much internal debating and whatnot, I decided to use the recipe that came with my pizza stone simply because they were made to be together, right?

Ok, maybe that wasn't the only reason.  It looked pretty simple and I figured I deserved that because I was doing this on a weeknight.  And you know what?  That's how it tasted.  Simple.  The dough itself, even though it came together very easily in my food processor was boring and lacked seasoning.  The sun dried tomatoes I covered the dough with got much more charred than I expected in the oven.  The suggested sprinkling of herbs over top was not enough.  I admit, the bay leaves were mostly for aesthetics, but I really did think they would at least give something.  And, nada.

I suppose I brought this on myself.  I thought the toppings would be enough.  I really did.  And they weren't.  But at least now I know, the flavor has to come within the bread, not just from the top.  That being said, Ben and I did eat the whole loaf in one weekend, and it was quite a huge loaf.  We dipped some in oil and vinegar on Friday night, made sandwiches from it on Saturday, and finished off the rest as toast on Sunday morning, cut in half, topped with shredded cheese and broiled quickly.   I guess I'm trying to say, it wasn't bad.  It just wasn't spectacular.  It was a good, boring, background note for each of our weekend meals. 

But never fear, I have at least five other focaccia recipes to try.  I will find the one that stands alone and makes me knees go weak.  And after I eat it all, I promise to share the recipe at least.

Sun Dried Tomato Focaccia
Adapted from The Haeger NaturalStone Pizza Cookbook

I halved this recipe for you, because it isn't fantastic enough to make the giant round that I did.  I included the toppings that I did, but I wouldn't throw them on at the beginning of cooking, rather in the last 5 minutes.  The addition of some grated Parmesan cheese may really help out here until I find the focaccia recipe.

2 1/4 - 2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 package (2.5 tsp) active dry yeast
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 tsp. sugar
7/8 c. warm water (110 deg. F)
1/4 c. olive oil, plus more for brushing
1/2 tsp. coarse see salt
small handful of roughly chopped sun dried tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 tsp. Italian seasoning (or basil, or oregano)

Combine first 4 ingredients in food processor, starting with only 2 1/4 c. flour.   Pulse food processor to thoroughly blend together.  With food processor running, slowly drizzle in warm water and olive oil.  Pulse dough until it just comes together.  Dough should be "tacky to the touch but not sticky".  If it feels too sticky, slowly add up to 1/4 c. more flour until it feels right.  Turn out into large oiled bowl, turning several times so dough is covered in oil.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm, draft-free area until dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/4 hours.  (Timing for double batch, so keep an eye on your dough)

Flour work surface and turn out dough onto it, sprinkle light with flour.  Punch dough down, then pat and stretch dough into a round about 3/4 in. thick.  Transfer dough onto pizza stone and cover with a clean kitchen towel.  Let rise for 1 hour. 

Preheat over to 400 deg. F, with rack in the middle. 

After dough has risen, dimple dough with fingertips all over.  Generous brush dough all over with olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt, Italian seasoning and place 2 bay leaves in middle of round.  Put pizza stone in oven and bake until golden brown, 15-25 minutes (again, estimate for smaller batch.  Watch like a HAWK).  5 minutes before focaccia is finished, sprinkle with sun dried tomatoes.

Remove focaccia from pizza stone as early as possible (and safe) and let cool. 

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