Daring Bakers Do Focaccia

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For the month of April Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch

Focaccia? I had heard of it, but didn’t really know what it was, other than a bread.  AHHH! More bread!  I had to do a little research to find out what it really is.  Basically, focaccia is an Italian flat bread, seasoned with olive oil and herbs and is sometimes topped with a variety of toppings, (putting me in mind of pizza).

Rachael, the host, provided us with four different recipes to use but also gave us the option for use a different one we liked.  As this was totally  new to me I immediately went to Google, and Pinterest to search out more visual instructions, different options and variations.  I was happy to see there were MANY variations with very different results.  While searching  hundreds of recipes on Pinterest I saw this one, Focaccia Bread from Handle the Heat, to me it looked perfect!

Focaccia Bread

Adapted from Handle the Heat

1 3/4 cups warm (110-115°F) water
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
2 tsp parsley + more for sprinkling
1 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 1/4 cups (23.63 or 670 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus coarse sea salt for sprinkling
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Garlic
Parmesan Cheese

Directions:

1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the water, yeast, 2 teaspoons of the chopped rosemary, sugar, and half the flour.

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2. Stir to combine. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and on low speed add in the remaining flour, salt, and 1/2 cup olive oil.

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** I was very concerned with the amount of olive oil going in this recipe, a full cup!  I am not a huge fan of the flavour of olive oil, but I went with it…

3. Once the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and knead for 5 to 6 minutes, or until smooth and soft. If the dough is really sticky, add in another tablespoon or two of flour.

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4. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl.

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5. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, at least 1 hour. Make ahead: place the dough in a large plastic bag, or divide in half and place in two plastic bags, and refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 1 month. If frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge or for a few hours at room temperature. Proceed with the recipe.

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WOW did it rise!  I don’t think I have ever had this kind of success with dough rising – I was kinda excited and hopeful!

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6. Coat a baking sheet with the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. (I made 2 smaller ones instead of a big one, so divided the oil between 2 pans)

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7. Put the dough onto the pans and begin pressing it out with your fingertips to fit the size of the pan. Coax and stretch the dough to fit the entire pan, or just about.

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8. Spread your fingers to make little holes all the way through the dough. ( I found a wooden spoon handle worked better)

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9. Cover the dough with plastic and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.

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10. Brush the focaccia with the olive oil on the pan and sprinkle liberally with coarse sea salt and the remaining parsley.

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** for my second one I grated fresh garlic and fresh Parmesan cheese

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11. Bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before cutting and serving.

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They look and SMELL delicious!

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Nice and golden on the bottom

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I am not sure why, but I was expecting a ‘dense and tough’ bread.  Nope. The bread had a wonderful texture, soft and chewy.

Love it!

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The plain was so flavourful.  There was no taste of the olive oil which I had feared.  I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t taste the yeast.  Generally, when I make homemade bread it has a yeasty back taste to it, blah!  This was just perfect.  It didn’t need anything.

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The addition of the garlic and Parmesan was fantastic! It was like gourmet garlic cheese bread.

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Thank you Racheal for a wonderful challenge!  I wasn’t thrilled when I saw another bread challenge, but I was finally successful and I am optimistic about my focaccia future.  I am looking forward to trying it again with different toppings.

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