Sunday, June 27, 2010

Focaccia Bread - Bread Baker's Apprentice #13

Another week spent in the Caribbean, it must be my day to post my bread baking adventures for the week. I promised myself on New Year's Eve that I would be trying to learn more as a bread baker, and if possible to cook through the"The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread" book. I brought three cookbooks with me to my island adventure. The "The Bread Baker's Apprentice" book was one. 

And my my my am I glad I brought this book.  Challenging and fun, cost saving and talk about good eats!!!

But I am ahead of myself...

Isn't that beautiful.  And the inside is soft and creamy, while the crust is crunchy and filled with extra flavors from the oil topping, combined with a little sprinkling of fresh grated Parmesan and my convenient mixture of "not your Grandmother's HERBES de PROVENCE". 

But I am ahead of myself...

But, this is such an incredible bread... The recipe does make quite a bit (a good thing).  So I made a batch for dipping (in the first photo, see that bowl of EVOO and Balsamic... FABULOUS bread for dipping!  But I can also use half for... Nah, come back tomorrow to see what I did with the second half.

But, I am really ahead of myself.  Let's get to the bread...

In the commentary for the bread, Chef Reinhart bemoans the state of American commercial Focaccia bread.  Seen on many appetizer menus, often served as the "freebie" bread, and sold in full service grocery stores; the "modern" take on the bread leaves out the soft and creamy center, while over crusting the crust.  This recipe gets the best of all worlds.  A nice crunch, but the soft center dough is incredible.  He is right.  If all you know is the supermarket Focaccia, you don't know Focaccia...

5 cups unbleached Flour
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Instant Yeast
6 TBS Olive Oil
2 cups room temperature Water
1/4 to 1/5 cup Herb Oil

Instructions are very easy...

  • Mix the dry ingredients
  • Add the wet ingredients and mix (I like to do this stage in a plastic gallon ziplock bag, saves mess).  Kitchenaid mixer works great (sigh).
  • This is a dough that needs a longer kneading time.  If you are lucky enough to have a dough hook on a kitchenaid, mix for 7 minutes.  If kneading by hand, double the time.  The oil in the dough will make it just a bit sticky, clearing the sides of the bowl easily, while sticking to the bottom.
  • Now it's time to start forming the loaf.  Make a flour bed about 6 inches square.  Drop the dough onto the square and dust liberally with additional flour.  Let this rest for 5 minutes.
  • After the dough rests, stretch the dough.  Envelope style.  Meaning stretch teh dough out one side, double the 6 inches.  Stretch the other end out an additional 6 inches.  Fold the first stretch over the middle and the second over that.
  • Mist the the dough with spray oil, dust with flour again and cover while it takes another 30 minute rest.
  • Repeat the envelope fold one more time, allow the dough to ferment on the counter for one hour.  the dough will rise, but not necessarily double.
  • Line a baking pan with a sheet of parchment paper and make the final form.  You can make separate circles, a large rectangle, or two smaller rectangles (what I did).  Dough should only be @1/2 inch thick.
  • And these bad boys get an overnight rise.  Up to a three day visit in the fridge (or freeze if you are making ahead).
And now a word about Herb Oil...

I have a recipe for an herb mixture I call... NOT YOUR GRANDMOTHER'S HERBES de PROVANCE.  It is not the traditional recipe, contains a little citrus flavor, as well as garlic and does not include lavender nor fennel.  I just like this mixture better...

Here's the recipe...

5 TBS dried Tarragon
5 TBS dried Oregano
5 TBS dried Dill
5 TBS dried Thyme
5 TBS dried Rosemary
5 TBS dried Garlic Flakes
2 TBS Sea Salt
2 TBS Fresh ground Pepper
1 TBS dried Lemon Zest

Store in a sealed plastic ziplock bag, airtight in a dark drawer, and stays fresh for 6 months or more.

I use this mixture a lot.  It is terrific to add to fish, and amazing on a tomato with a little oil.  I make a batch up about every other month.  A very handy mixture to have on hand.

Like for times when you need an herb oil...

1 TBS "not your Grandmother's HERBES de PROVENCE"
1/4 cup EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)... I used 1/4 cup of the mixture for each half of the bread.  2 TBS of the herbe mixture added to 1/2 cup of EVOO divided.

Mix and let sit overnight (or longer).

OK, back to the bread...

  • Remove the pan of dough from the fridge at least three hours before baking.
  • Use your fingers to "dimple the bread" and spread across the length of the pan.  Do not stretch the dough, it will be creamier and softer if you use your fingertips to spread the dough, instead of pulling the dough and breaking the gluttons.
  • Top with the herb oil (1/4 cup if you are making 1/2 recipe, 1/2 cup if using full recipe).  Do this as the dough warms to room temp, and all the oil will be absorbed into the bread.  No matter how it looks like just a bunch of small pools.

  • Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (yep, HOT)
  • When ready to bake, put the pan in the oven, drop the temp to 450 and bake for 10 minutes
  • rotate the pan for even cooking after 10 minutes, and at this time, add any additional toppings.  I like a bit of grated Parmesan.
  • Return to the oven and bake for 5 additional minutes...
  • Allow to cool for 20 minutes before serving!
And just imagine a still warm bread stick, dipped in the EVOO/Balsamic mix... melts in your mouth good!

Came out PERFECT!

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The book is LARGE, lots of photos, and information.  Filled with dozens of recipes and easy to follow step by step directions.  And now Amazon is selling this for nearly half price (less than half if you want a used copy.  Follow the link  above and order TODAY)!


Take the challenge.  Become a bread baker!

And just wait till tomorrow when i tell you about what I did with the other half of the recipe! 


  1. I love all of your bread recipes. Foccacia is one of my favor breads ever. BTW I just posted all of the BBQ sauces from the chef. Thought you might want them for when you get back to your grill.

  2. This is officially by far without a doubt my favorite bread that you've made! I'm enamored.

  3. I really LOVE!!! this recipe. I have never made Foccacia, but after reading your post it a must try.

  4. i wanted to make Foccacia long time ago, this recipe just come in the right time, what should I need to replace if I dont have that herb oil (I can't find so many herbs to prepare this)? Thanks for sharing.

  5. That bread is making my mouth water! Nice job & will have to try your version of Herbes de Provence - I love the stuff! Thanks for sharing:)

  6. One of my absolute favorites from the BBA Challenge. I've made it numerous times. We love it!