Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Herb and Bacon Focaccia

When I see focaccia on the menu, I usually turn the page, for more often than not it tastes like stale pizza crust, but being in the mood to try something new, I figured I could easily do better. I went to my cookbook library, but after being discouraged by complicated recipes with poolishes and overnight this and that, I decided to do it the simple way, by started with my basic pizza dough and turning it into focaccia by way of getting they hydration up to 72% and doing some stretching and folding, as with ciabatta.  I had some fresh thyme and sage in the garden, and threw in some bacon for good measure. The result: a delicious, airy crust with an herb-infused flavor.

Here's the recipe:

 326 g all-purpose flour
 161 g levain (see my levain recipe here )
 212 g water
 9 g salt
 1/4 teas. instant yeast

 2 Tbl chopped fresh sage
 1 Tbl chopped fresh thyme
 3-4 Tbl olive oil steeped with some sage and thyme
 6 slices bacon, cooked about 2/3 of the way through  and chopped
  1.  Make the dough: combine all ingredients, mix, cover with towel and allow to rest for 25 min.
  2. Knead by hand about 7 minutes. The dough will be quite wet.
  3. Place in oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap sprayed with vegetable oil spray and let sit at room temp for about 2 hours.
  4. Place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours; more time if you have it. Then return to countertop for another hour or two, until it's no longer ice cold. It won't rise an awful lot; don't worry about it.
  5. On well-floured countertop, gently press dough into a 6-inch square; cover with the plastic and let rest a few minutes.
  6. Lightly flour the top of the dough., then grab the dough in the middle of the square and stretch outwards about twice the original size, and fold back. Do the same with the other half, envelope style.
  7. Cover and rest for 30 min. Repeat the folding; cover and rest 30 min.
  8. Cover a rimmed  cookie sheet with parchment paper and lightly spray with oil. My pan was about 11 by 16 inches, but the size is not too important.
  9. Using your fingers, gently push the dough out to form an even layer over the pan about 3/8 to 1/2 inch high. It may not fill the pan. Add the herbs, cover with plastic and let rise about 1-1/2 hours.
  10. Preheat the oven to 525 degrees.
  11. Fifteen minutes before baking, Brush with the herb-infused olive oil, then use your fingers to gently poke indentations into the dough, thus working the oil into the dough. It will pool up in the dimples. Add the bacon.
  12. Place in oven; turn oven down to 450 degrees and bake for about 15-20 minutes until lightly golden brown. Let cool for a few minutes, but it's best eaten when warm.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A vist to the bread museum (okay, so I'm a dweeb)

On a recent trip to Provence, I found myself staying in Bonnieux, where I'd read in a guideboook there was a certain museum of interest. I asked our innkeeper where it was, and he had to consult a map. "You're the first one to ever ask," he said.

Figures. The museum in question was the Bread Museum, or more properly, the Bakery Museum, La Musée de la Boulangerie, and I wasn't leaving town without seeing it. Fortunately, by the time we'd arrived on this rainy Sunday afternoon, the crowds had dispersed, and we had the place almost to ourselves. Other than the plaster figure loading the (authentic) oven  (the museum was formerly a bakery) and some ancient reapers,
much of the museum is devoted to documentation regulating the price of bread and flour -- not the most thrilling collection, but real important if you happened to be living in France a century or two ago. Still, there were some great vintage posters, some neat antique baking instruments, and we had a grand time. So should you ever find yourselves  in Provence on a rainy day, I highly recommend it. If you find it.


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