That’s right: me.
I could have slept in and started the bread later in the day, saving it for dinner. I could have started the bread the night before and left it in the fridge to rise but no. I had to have my bread for lunch and if I wanted it for lunch I had to get up early. So there I was, kneading dough, sipping coffee and getting dough all over my coffee mug.
Once I get a craving for something, it tends to stick with me, haunting my palette until said craving is satisfied. When I saw Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe for homemade focaccia a few weeks ago in the New York Times, the possibilities seemed endless. All the different variations combined with the deliciousness of fresh homemade bread.
Shulman describes focaccia as kind of a cross between and flat bread and a pizza crust. It definitely is that, especially if you layer on the veggies. But still I was a little hesitant. I have my typical go-to bread recipe and I don’t often deviate from it as new bread dough recipes can be a little intimidating if you’re not used to them. But the mouthwatering photos from the NY Times haunted me all through the weekend, Shulman promised the recipe was easy and forgiving, so I decided to take a chance.
Though I made the recipe pretty much as written, I didn’t need all the dough for just one serving, so I took about 200 grams or 1/3 of the dough for my lunch. The rest went into the fridge for another day. Possibly I’ll share it with my husband… if I’m feeling generous.
It’s true that the possibilities for toppings are endless. I had so many ideas brimming over in my head, and I had to tell myself over and over “keep it simple” “keep it simple.” Otherwise I’d end up with a bread piled with half-cooked vegetables and cheese and totally lose any sort of coherence in taste.
Zucchini and tomatoes won out in the end with some fresh garlic and yes, a tiny sprinkling of shredded Emmental cheese on one half. On the other half, because we had to use it up, I added a little slice of ham. I was afraid I was going over board, but justified it with the excuse that I could try two different versions of the recipe and clean out the fridge. These two vegetables are a classic combination of course, didn’t need much extra garnish other than a sprinkle of salt, pepper and olive oil. Sliced thin and layered on top of the slightly cooked dough, they bake right along side the bread and end up infusing the dough with a great veggie flavor. The focaccia itself, I have to add had an excellent crust and crumb.
This bread makes a great light meal, or if cut into smaller slices can be excellent party food. It’s slightly fancier than your regular pizza and as I’ve already said, the variations are endless. I’m already cooking up new recipes in mind, including asparagus, strawberries, and goat cheese – though not all together.
After lunch, I took a nap. Because that’s what you do when you’re up at 7am kneading dough, working hard for lunch. But it was totally worth it.
- 250 g whole wheat flour
- 220 g all-purpose flour
- 340 g lukewarm water
- 1 packet or 8g dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 ¾ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 8 thin slices tomato
- 12 thin slices zucchini
- 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
- salt and pepper to taste
- shredded cheese for garnish, optional
- ½ slice ham, optional
- In a large bowl, dissolve the yeast and sugar in the water. Add salt, flour and olive oil and knead for 10 minutes until the dough is elastic and smooth. Add more flour if necessary. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a damp towel and let sit 2 hours or until the dough has doubled in size.
- If making just one serving, break off about ⅓ of the dough and dump on a lightly floured surface. Punch down and let sit for 15 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 220°C/425°F. Line a sheet pan with parchment and set aside. Form the dough in to a thin, even rectangle. You can either do this by hand or with a rolling pin. Cover with a clean, damp towel and let sit for 30 minutes.
- In the meantime you can slice your zucchini, tomatoes and garlic.
- Just before baking, dimple the dough with your fingers all over and then drizzle on a little bit of olive oil. For about 5-7 minutes bake the dough alone, then remove from oven and line on the tomato and zucchini and if desired add a bit of salt, pepper and olive oil. Bake again for about 20-25 minutes. About 5 minutes before the bread is finished sprinkle on the optional shredded cheese and ham. Bake until the bread is done and the cheese is melted and bubbly. Remove from oven and let cool at least 10 minutes until serving.