Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Focaccia alla Salvia e Formaggio and other Italian words as well!

(Aka, Italian hearth bread with sage and cheese for y'all anglophones)

I've been baking a lot of bread to sell to friends and coworkers, and the big hit lately has been my focaccia bread, so I figured I'd share the love here.

This is the yield for one loaf, but I always double up and bake two at a time. If you have people over, the first one will be half gone before it gets cool.
  • 3 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup pinot grigio
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp dry yeast
  • About 30 fresh sage leaves
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for topping
  • Coarse salt for topping
  • Small handful of a hard cheese for topping (I use either manchego or asiago, whichever is on hand)
Basically, combine the salt and flour in a big mixing bowl and form a well. In another bowl, combine yeast and a half cup of water, and let the yeast wake up for 5 minutes. Mix the yeast solution up and add to the well, then stir in a little flour to form a watery paste, and cover for about 20 minutes.

In the meantime, set aside ten sage leaves, and finely chop the other 20. Add those to the mixing bowl, and add the olive oil, wine, and remaining water, and mix until fully combined. Turn out onto your work surface and knead for ten minutes. If you need to flour it, go ahead, but I never do. If the dough is sticky, it shores up after kneading, and comes together nicely. After kneading, put the dough into a greased bowl and cover for about 90 minutes, or until doubled.

Punch the dough down, chafe it into a smooth ball, and let it rest for ten minutes, then come back with a rolling pin and spread it out until its a flat circle about a foot in diameter, and around an inch and a half to an inch thick. Cover that, and let proof for 50 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400, and spread a little extra virgin olive oil on the dough until coated. Spread out the sage leaves remaining on top, then press them into the dough about halfway deep with your little finger. Continue to poke the dough with your pinky until there are dimples all over the surface, then add salt evenly.

Pop the dough into the oven. I like to steam the oven with a spritzer bottle, but its up to you if you want steam. It helps make the crust a little crispy, so do what you want. Let it bake for about 20 minutes, then open it up, and sprinkle your cheese on top, and let it bake for another ten minutes. Remove and let it cool on a wire rack.

Now, I used manchego on this, which doesn't melt like other cheese. It crisps and browns a little, so it's going to be a little different than melty stuff. Either is good, it's up to you.

Rough crumb shot. I don't bother cutting this, just tear a bit off as you go. People like to dip this in olive oil,but I think its rich enough really, with all of the oil used in baking. You don't really need any extra, but go hog wild if you like that.

This stuff pairs with other dishes pretty well, but it's even more fun just as a party pass-around. People just take a plug out and go along.

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