Sunday, May 17, 2009

Outside-In Focaccia Bread

A while back my brother asked me if I could take a bread recipe and snazz it up a little. He said it had great texture and firmness, but was lacking a little in the flavor department. So, I did some research and decided to add roasted garlic and rosemary. With, I humbly submit, marvelous results.

Here's the original (and originally unnamed) recipe (he got it from the Oregonian, Food section, September 26, 2006--I tried, truly tried, to find it online--I think their archives only go back to 2007) with my amendments (in red):

Outside-In Focaccia Bread *click here for printable version*



3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (3 1/2 ounces)
-I used bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast (see note)

3/4 cup room-temperature water (65 to 70 degrees)

1 2/3 cups room-temperature water (65 to 70 degrees)

4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (1 pound, 4 3/4 ounces)
-bread flour, again
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour (3 1/2 ounces)

1 tablespoon table salt

1/4 cup coarse cornmeal, for dusting


Makes 1 large loaf

Please note that I'm giving the flour measurements both in cups (be sure to use a dry measuring cup) and in weight, for those of you who have a scale. To measure the flour using a cup measure, spoon the flour from the bag into the cup and then level off with the back of a knife. Do not scoop the flour out of the bag, which would compact it and give you too much.

To make starter: In a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer), stir together the flour, yeast and water with a rubber spatula until it is smooth with some lumps, like pancake batter. It will start to bubble immediately. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature for 2 hours. It will rise in the bowl, thicken and be very bubbly.

While starter sits at room temperature: peel most of the paper off one head of garlic and cut the top 1/2 inch off the head. Place on aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt, and freshly ground pepper, and fold the aluminum foil closed around it. Roast at 450 degrees for about an hour. Allow to cool. Remove individual cloves from the garlic head and smash into a paste. Strip approximately 3 sprigs of rosemary and chop very finely. Mix with the garlic paste. Set aside.

To make dough: Into the starter, stir the water, all-purpose flour,
whole-wheat flour and salt with a few strokes of your spatula to form a scraggly dough. Cover the bowl and set a kitchen timer for 10 minutes to let the flour absorb all the water.

If using a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and mix on medium speed
for 10 minutes. The dough will clean the sides of the bowl but will stick to the bottom. Using the spatula, scrape the dough hook and the bottom of the bowl to collect the dough into a ball. Leave in the bowl.

[note: I kneaded it by hand and it was quite hard going. This is a good recipe to build up those arm and shoulder muscles. If you own a stand mixer you should use it.]-I disagree. Nothing wrong with muscles. If kneading by hand, work the spatula firmly through the dough to collect as much of the flour as you can. Scrape the dough onto a clean, unfloured countertop. Set a kitchen timer for 10 minutes and knead. The dough will become very elastic and will still be sticky. After 10 minutes, make a large indentation in the dough and place the garlic/rosemary paste in it. Knead the dough for another 5-7 minutes to work the paste thoroughly into the dough. You may need to sprinkle a little more flour on the dough at this point. Just enough to lightly cover the top surface of the dough and maybe the surrounding countertop. Using the spatula, collect the dough, including any scraps from the counter and your hands, into a ball. Flour your hands and place the dough back into the bowl.

To rise, shape and bake the bread: Cover the bowl securely with
plastic wrap and leave it at room temperature for 2 hours. The dough will rise to roughly double its original volume and look very spongy.

Sprinkle the center of a baking sheet with the cornmeal and set it aside. Dust the countertop with all-purpose flour. Using the spatula, scrape the dough from the sides and bottom of the bowl and tip it onto the flour. Flour your hands well and lift and tuck the edges of the dough underneath it like you're tucking in a sheet on a bed, to make a round. Pick up the round with both hands and continue tucking underneath the loaf until it is smooth.

Place the loaf onto the cornmeal, sprinkle it with all-purpose flour
over the top and drape it with plastic wrap. Let the loaf rise for 45 minutes. It will roughly double in size and look pillowy.

Fifteen minutes before the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 450 degrees, with the rack in the center.

Just before putting the loaf in the oven, use a serrated knife to cut a large X in the center of the loaf. Use a smooth stroke and cut about 1/2 inch deep.

Bake the loaf for 50 to 60 minutes until the crust is well-browned on
top and golden brown all over. When you press on the crust it will offer resistance and feel very crisp. Another good way to check doneness is with an instant-read thermometer. Insert it into the center; the loaf is done at just over 200 degrees.

Transfer the loaf to a rack and let it cool for 1 hour before slicing. Store the completely cooled bread in a resealable plastic bag for up to 5 days.

Note: Instant yeast does not need to be dissolved in water before
using. Look for three-pouch foil packs from Fleischmann's called RapidRise.

Also, please note: this recipe takes almost 8 hours from start to finish.

I was amazed at how thoroughly the garlic and rosemary were distributed throughout the bread. And, of course, pleased. This was the best bread I've made to date, I think. As noted, I used bread flour, as opposed to all-purpose, which could account for some of my success. I don't know if the starter accounts for the rest of my success, or what. But, I haven't had bread that rose so well or cooked up so perfectly with that crispy outside and slightly chewy inside (just slightly, that's how bread's supposed to be--too soft is just not right).

The kneading part, you should know, really does take some muscle (assuming you knead it by hand, which I did). It was extremely sticky dough (as is indicated in the recipe). So sticky it was just pulling my pastry mat up with it, so I did have to knead it on the counter. When I added the garlic and rosemary, as is to be expected, it became quite a bit more sticky. At that point, I added not quite another 1/4 cup of flour, just enough to sprinkle over the surface of the dough and the surrounding area of the counter. That seemed to get it to a point where it was kneadable again, though still very sticky. If I were a professional bread baker, I would have to have my shirts custom-made with the right arm larger around than the left arm from building up that muscle--I am not an ambidextrous kneader.

And--it tasted like focaccia, except better. A more complex texture and taste but with the benefits of a focaccia-like topping with the garlic and rosemary.

TGIP Rating--Outside-In Focaccia Bread--KEEPER--and try with other combinations, including kalamata olives.

Next up: I think this week I'll try inventing a recipe of my own. Combine Chewy Pecan Squares with an all-butter pâte brisée crust. We'll see how that works out.


Bill said...

Awesome! Thanks April.

I've always used my stand mixer to do the kneading. Partly because I take the easy way when I can, partly because it gives me a reason to use "power tools." I've used AP flour and haven't had any problems with the rise. But it may be the AP flour that is hurting the taste.

I'm definitely trying your garlic additions the next time though.

pinky said...

Maybe try it with some Graber olives too! It really looked and sounds terrific with the garlic and rosemary.