Friday, May 13, 2005

Sage Focaccia

I mentioned that yesterday, in class, we made focaccia in addition to our tortillas. I'm fairly certain that I had never before had sage focaccia. Now I am not sure that I want focaccia without it. The flavor was subtle and the taste was fabulous. This was a soft, light bread that I turned into some great grilled sandwiches for dinner.
Focaccia is a yeasted, flat italian bread that is brushed (or doused) with oil before it is baked until golden. Unlike many breads, this bread is intended to develop a soft, thin crust. The best way to do this is to bake it on a sheet pan and allow it to cool on the pan before removing it to a rack. When you lift the bread, you will notice that the bottom of the pan is wet from condensation; the bread will dry on the rack, preventing sogginess, but this condensation keeps the crust from becoming hard, crispy or dry. I wish I had thought to take a photo of the lovely, dimpled bottom of the bread. But make it yourself and see what I mean.
This recipe makes a big batch - one 11x15 inch rectangle or 3 9-inch circles. You might want to halve it. You could also use rosemary instead of the sage if sage is unavailable to you. Wrap it in plastic wrap when completely cooled to keep it soft.

Sage Focaccia
4 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm (110F) water

2 1/2 cups room temperature water
2 tbsp olive oil
6-7 cups ap flour
1 tbsp salt
24-30 chopped fresh sage leaves, plus extra whole leaves for garnish

1/4 - 1/2 cup olive oil
salt (coarse or flake is preferable)
24-30 chopped fresh sage leaves

Combine yeast and warm water in a large bowl and leave until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes.
Stir 2 1/2 cups water, 2 tbsp olive oil, 2 cups flour and 1 tbsp salt into the yeast mixture. Add in the remaining flour, one cup at a time, until dough comes away from the sides of the bowl into a ball. Add the sage halfway through the flour additions. Move dough to flat surface and knead dough for 5-8 minutes, until the ball is smooth and elastic. Place in an oiled bowl, covered with plastic wrap, until doubled - about 1 1/2 hours.
For a rectangular focaccia: Gently lift the dough onto an oiled 11x16 jelly-roll pan(or cut in half and use two smaller baking sheets with sides), stretching it out slightly as you transfer it.
For a round focaccia: Cut the dough in three pieces and gently lift the dough into three oiled pie pans.
Splay your fingers and press into dough, indenting it and pushing it out towards the sides of the pan, much like a cat kneading a blanket, until the pan is full. This keeps the air bubbles in the dough. Cover with a damp towel and let rise for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Dimple dough again with your fingertips, brush with 1/4-1/2 cup olive oil, sprinkle liberally with salt and garnish with sage leaves. Let dough rest until the oven is fully preheated.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until bread is golden brown. Let cool in pan for 20-25 minutes before removing it to a wire rack to cool completely.