difficulty level: Rrrrgh . . . . Burns . . . .
i've been making this foccacia with just lots of dried herbs and sometimes cheese for years. this is the recipe that taught me to make bread, through much less trial and error then my previous attempts. i really think the best way to learn to make bread is by standing next to someone who does it but i didn't know anyone who did it. there's something about the time honored tradition and the way it makes the house smell. the history of child learning from mother or aunt over hundreds of generations. the warm silken pliancy of the dough, like shaping flesh with alchemy and massaging it into a healthy whole. anyway, this time it's all about the fresh beautiful ingredients and i think it's going to turn out lovely. it's rising now
fresh greek foccacia bread:
3 1/2 cups flour + more for kneeding
1 1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup chopped kalimata olives
3/4 cup light goat cheese, crumbled
2 Tbs fresh chopped dill
2 Tbs fresh chopped basil
1 head roasted garlic
1 1/2 Tbs instant yeast
1 1/2 Tbs sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil + a few spoonfuls for coating
-if you don't keep roasted garlic around you can easily make it by trimming off the top of a whole garlic bulb, just enough to expose the cloves, make a little cup around it with a 6 inch piece of tin foil, drizzle a spoonful or two of olive oil into the exposed cloves, wrap it up and bake at 375f for some 45 min or until soft. it makes the house smell so good and makes it so easy to add lovely healthy garlic to everything i often keep a head in the fridge. just squeeze out of the skin and you can do whatever with it.
-mix yeast, sugar, and water, set aside till it starts bubbling suspiciously. if your yeast is really fresh keep an eye on it or it will bubble over, you want it to just start bubbling so all that rising power goes into the bread itself. btw, yeast should be kept in the fridge in an airtight container once opened and not for more then 3 months or it wont rise properly anymore. i'm testing what happens with longer term storage in the freezer.
-mix the flour with the herbs, olives, cheese, garlic, and salt in a big bowl
-add the yeast mixture and the oil to the flour mix and stir till a soft dough forms. it'll be really sticky at first but that's ok. try to keep it mostly in a lump and not on your hands. sprinkle with a few handfuls of flour and kneed until it's pliable and elastic but still soft.
-let rise in a warm place, covered with a clean towel until doubled in size (about 45 min to an hour) if my house is cold i sometimes turn the oven knob just until the burner clicks on-not even to 170f which is our lowest, let it heat while i kneed the dough and clean up and then turn it off before putting the bowl (totally wrapped in a towel in case the racks are too hot for the plastic) in the oven and leaving the door closed to keep warm. i've also had good results with setting the bowl on the burner the oven vents out of with the oven on a low setting and a pot holder under the bowl but then my cats can get into it.
-once it's risen punch down the dough and kneed a little more, you might need to add a bit more flour to keep it workable and not too sticky but don't add so much that it becomes hard to kneed. it takes some practice to get the feel for the texture thing but this is a fairly forgiving recipe so don't worry about it too much
-divide in two and form into two smooth, round loaves about 1 inch thick, coat in a bit more olive oil and place on a greased cookie sheet, remember that they'll double in size again so give them room to expand. if you want you can freeze the dough at this point and when you thaw in the fridge it will do it's second rise at the same time
-let rise to double the size again, be aware that the second rise sometimes goes a lot faster then the first and heavily over-proofed bread ends up with large air pockets that collapse after baking.
-bake at 325f for 30 min or so or until it sounds hollow when tapped gently. if it's getting too brown turn the temp down to 310f. when done they should be just golden.
-let cool for 15 min or until you can handle easily. if you want a soft crust instead of a crispy one you can brush with a bit more oil after baking. this is a very soft bread so use a serrated knife to cut (ala sawing) and try not to press down too hard or you'll crush it,
-serve with butter or a shallow dish of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
i wasn't paying attention and over proofed them a bit on the second rise. this turned out fluffy and soft and lovely. the goat cheese flavor gets lost a bit, next time i might leave it in bigger chunks or lightly kneed it in just before forming the loaves. would have been great with fresh oregano but i couldn't get any. overall i definitely call this a win. could also have added more olives, more herbs, and maybe some feta. this was mild, fresh and decadent.