June 19, 2013

The Maine Ingredient: Plain and simple, focaccia lends itself to rosemary-red pepper topping

Focaccia is similar to pizza but is eaten as a snack or an accompaniment to a meal, and is especially delicious with soups and chowders.

Since focaccia is not meant to be a meal in itself the toppings (if any) are kept simple and are added in a single layer so they incorporate into the bread as they bake.

Plain focaccia can also be sliced horizontally and used to make sandwiches. With any of these loaves, you can shortcut by buying uncooked pizza dough and adding the toppings.

PLAIN FOCACCIA

Makes 2 loaves

DOUGH:

1 package active dry yeast (21/4 teaspoons)

1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees), plus additional if necessary

1 teaspoon sugar

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons kosher salt

23/4 cups all-purpose flour

PLAIN TOPPING:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

Pour the cup of warm water into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer. Add sugar, sprinkle yeast over the top, and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Stir oil and salt into the yeast mixture; stir in flour until a soft dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured board and knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, or knead in a stand mixer with a dough hook, about 5 minutes, adding a tablespoon or two more flour if dough is too sticky. You want a soft but workable dough. Place in a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 11/2 hours.

Grease two 9-inch cake pans with 1 tablespoon of the topping oil. Punch dough down, divide into two balls, and transfer to prepared pans; cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest for 30 minutes. Pat dough evenly into pans and let rest, loosely covered, until slightly puffy, at least 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Make dimples in dough surface with your fingertips, drizzle each round with 1 tablespoon oil, and sprinkle with salt.

Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes; reduce heat to 400 degrees and continue to bake until focaccia are golden brown, 20 to 25 more minutes. Turn out on a rack to cool. (Can be baked several hours ahead of serving. The loaves also freeze well. Wrap in foil and reheat in a 375 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes.)

ROSEMARY-RED PEPPER TOPPING:

2 tablespoons olive oil

Half a medium-size red bell pepper, seeded and very thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)

Half a medium yellow onion, very thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)

1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon salt

TOMATO-SCALLION TOPPING:

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 scallions, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise

3 plum tomatoes, very thinly sliced

1/2 cup torn basil leaves

1 teaspoon salt

After dimpling the dough with your fingertips, drizzle loaves with the oil. Arrange toppings over dough in the order given, making pretty much a single layer -- if topping is too thick it will not cook properly -- finishing with a sprinkling of the salt. Bake as directed.

 

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently "Lobster!" (Storey, 2012). She can be contacted via Facebook at facebook.com/brookedojny

 

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