While I like toying with bread making, I must confess I rarely do. It takes too long, it never comes out perfect, the dog days of Summer…I have plenty of excuses, chief among them is the spotty results of a home oven (and the fact that making bread requires more time than I have).
But I am the queen of quick breads, be they loaves, focaccia or challah. They all need few ingredients, some twirls in the mixer and then it’s all about hurrying up and waiting for the yeast to work its magic, about an hour or so. And they look impressive, always a good thing if, say, you are entertaining. Nobody needs to know it took you ten minutes of active time.
To come up with a suitable Summer menu for my birthday lunch, I consulted a bunch of magazines, besides relying on my imagination, and the picture I found in Sweet Paul did inspire me to add tomatoes to my basic focaccia, pretty heirloom ones in different shades of red and yellow.
The basic recipe can be prettified with anything you like. Some of my favorite toppings are caramelized onions, olives, cheese or just plain rosemary that, growing out of control in my garden, gets added to my dishes more than it probably should. The trick is not to crowd the focaccia with too much topping that will soak the bread and make it soggy.
The particular focaccia I made last week was pretty thin but the same dough can bake higher if not stretched as much. I mostly use all purpose flour which results in a fluffier finished product but you can experiment with a mixture of all purpose and bread flours for a chewier effect.
2 ts dry yeast (7 g)
1/3 C water, lukewarm (300 ml)
1 T honey
1 ts salt (+ more for topping)
2 T olive oil (+ more for topping)
4 1/2 C flour (576 g)
3 or 4 tomatoes, sliced fairly thin
- Place the water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment. Sprinkle the yeast over it and let sit for a few minutes. Stir.
- Add honey, oil, salt and flour. Mix on medium speed. Once the dough comes together and pulls away from he bowl, let the mixer run for another couple of minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky but it should pull away from the sides of the bowl easily – add flour or water as needed to achieve this consistency.
- Lightly oil a bowl, place the dough in it, cover with plastic wrap and let rest for an hour or so in a warm spot. The dough should double in size.
- Lightly oil a baking sheet (or two if you don’t own a 13”x11” one). Punch the dough down, transfer it to the baking sheet and, using your fingers, stretch it until it covers the entire surface.
- Arrange the tomato slices on top, generously sprinkle sea salt and drizzle with olive oil. Scatter some dry oregano on top of the tomatoes. Bake at 400F (220C) for about 25 to 30 minutes, until the edges are golden brown.