I find restaurants that serve warmed bread, sincere. They provide customers something to fill their empty stomachs as soon they settle down indicates their extra effort to care for their customers. I am particularly impressed if they serve a variety of breads and allow the customers to choose from the spread. One of the breads which I look forward to is Focaccia. It is a flat Italian bread, generally softer and savory in taste. It is flavored with olive oil and salt, and often topped with herbs, cheese, olives and/or other vegetables. Because of it own flavor it is unnecessary to complement it with butter.
This is the first time making Focaccia bread and the oven in my apartment is very old and cranky. The thermostat is highly inaccurate and insensitive. Despite with an oven thermometer to help to calibrate the moody heater, the dial reads differently after every use. Almost everyone in my building faces the same problem. Luckily, the Focaccia turned out pretty okay.
Recipe (8 x 10 loaf) For hand kneading
2 1/2 cups of Bread Flour
1 1/4 cups of cold water
1 tbsp and 1/2 tsp of granulated sugar
1 tsp of salt
1/2 packet of instant yeast
Extra virgin oil
1/2 cup Pitted Olives, sliced
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
In a large stainless steel mixing bowl, combine flour, water, sugar, salt and yeast.
Knead all the ingredients together for 2 to 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky. To prevent your hand from sticking, wet your hands with lukewarm water occasionally during the kneading process.
Let it rest for 5 minutes. Knead for another 3 minutes to achieve a smooth rounded dough.
Using a separate large bowl, grease the bowl with olive oil. Put the dough into the bowl and rotate the dough to coat it with oil.
Hold the bowl with one hand. Wet the other hand with water, grab the dough and stretch it to twice the length. Fold the stretched section back over the dough. Rotate the bowl 45 degrees clockwise. Repeat the process until you make a full 360 degrees. Drizzle 1 tsp of olive oil over the top of the dough and flip it over. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
On a baking tray, lay with parchment paper and grease it with olive oil.
Drizzle 1 tsp of olive it on the dough. Place the dough in the center of the baking tray. Using fingers, gently create hollows and push the dough down and out towards the edges. Keep the dough about 1/2 inch thick. Sprinkle the sliced olives over the dough and push them into the dough. Let the dough rest for 20 minutes.
Drizzle another 1 tsp of olive oil over the dough. Using fingers, dimple the dough again and push the dough outwards to achieve a thickness of 1/4 inch. Cover the dough with greased plastic wrap. Let it rise for 3 hours at room temperature. It will rise to almost double the size.
Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Put the bread to bake at the middle rack. Lower the temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 7 minutes.
Sprinkle grated cheese on top of the bread and bake for another 3 minutes.
Remove from oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before serving.