Tuesday, January 25, 2011

rising to the occassion: my first yeast dough

Oh hi, 2011. Nice of you to creep up on me like that.

Well, since its a new year and I've got time to kill until our little bundle arrives, I thought I'd work on my culinary goals list that I started last year (I've found that on-going goals are a lot more realistic and attainable than traditional resolutions, and I'm a procrastinator by nature so time constraints don't work for me). Since I've conquered things like making *good* pie crust from scratch and boiling my own lobster (so what if I cried!), I decided to go for something I'd been putting off for a long time: making my own yeast dough for bread. 

I don't know why I was so intimidated by these fabulous little micro-organisms, 'cause this dough was super easy to make and produced a fantastic focaccia bread. So chewy and buttery, and absolutely irresistible when served warm. These are only the first of what I hope to be many loaves of delicious homemade flatbread created this year.

Focaccia bread

{Recipe adapted from JOY of Cooking}

Makes: 2  8-9 inch loaves

  • 1 1/3 cups warm water (105 - 115 degrees F)
  • 1 package of active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • toppings of your choice
In a large bowl, combine the warm water and yeast until it is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Add the flour, olive oil, and salt to the dissolved yeast and mix by hand or on a low mixer speed for about 1 minute. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes by hand (or with a dough hook on low to medium speed, if you're lucky enough to have one of those amazing stand mixers) until the dough is smooth and elastic. 

Lightly grease a bowl with olive oil and transfer the dough to the bowl, turning it once to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a clean cloth and allow it to rise in a warm spot (75-85 degrees F is best) until it has doubled in volume (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours).

Divide the dough in half and roll or pat each piece out to a 1/2-inch thick disc. Transfer the dough discs to two well-oiled 8 or 9-inch cake pans (round or square will do), and allow them to rise, covered in oiled plastic wrap, for an additional 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Make indentations all over the surface of the dough with your fingertips, then drizzle with olive oil and top with whatever your heart desires: grated cheeses, dried herbs, coarse salt, olives, grapes, sun-dried tomatoes, sauteed onions, whatever floats your boat (I used grated Parmesan cheese on one loaf, and a combination of rosemary and sea salt on the other, and both came out fabulous).

Bake for about 25 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown. Remove from the cake pans to a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, as is, cut into wedges or sliced in half and then open horizontally to use as sandwich bread. Its also wonderful enjoyed with flavored olive oil for dipping. x