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Posts Tagged ‘Focaccia’

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My sweet, sweet gluten-free baker buddy, Antonella Zangheri, recently asked me to visit her kitchen at Krumville Bake Shop (www.krumvillebakeshop.com) to help her come up with a great gluten-free stuffing to puff up the coming holiday birds.  When I got there, she had made a big tray of croutons from her gluten-free focaccia which were to be the base of the stuffing.
(For those of you who don’t know it, focaccia, usually made with a high-gluten flour, is similar to pizza dough in texture and flavor.  Like pizza dough, it is quite simple – a combination of nothing more than flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, and water.  A thick slab of dough is generally fitted into a baking pan with a rim and then, using fingertips, poked in random spots all over the top to “dimple” it.  This keeps the dough from rising up and bubbling on the surface when it is baked.  The focaccia is often flavored by brushing with olive oil and then sprinkling the top with fresh herbs (often rosemary), aromatics such as garlic or olive, or shredded or grated cheeses prior to baking.  Antonella frequently makes her dough with add-ins, such as pitted olives or bits of soft cheese like feta – a slab of which fed us while we made the stuffing.)
Anto had made a large pot of rich broth the night before so my job was really quite simple.   She helped me chop a large onion, 3 stalks of celery, some fresh sage, marjoram, and thyme and we sautéed this mix in a bit of olive oil.  I took about 6 breakfast sausage from their casing and pulled the meat into chunks.  We added the sausage to the pot and continued to cook until the meat was beginning to color and the aromatics were soft.  I added a few sliced, dried apricots to the mix along with about 2 cups of the broth.
We put the focaccia croutons in a large mixing bowl and then added the hot sausage mixture, stirring to combine.  Some of the focaccia turned into mush and some stayed quite firm, a perfect combination for all-round great stuffing.  We oiled a baking dish and spooned the stuffing into it.  Into a 350ºF oven it went for about 25 minutes.  Crisp and golden brown – out it came.  We each had a plate of it and unanimously gave it 4 stars.  Antonella is now trying to figure out how to create a version to package to make a gluten-free stuffed turkey possible for her many devoted customers.  My suggestion – everybody should buy a few loaves of Krumville Bake Shop focaccia and turn it into croutons or crumbs and then follow our steps to make a terrifically satisfying holiday side dish.

 

Krumville

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Traditional Italian focaccia is based on a centuries old Roman flat bread.  It is usually flavored with olive oil and frequently has herbs either in the dough or sprinkled on top.  It can also be topped with cheese, anything from the onion family, dried meats, or vegetables – in fact, anything the baker likes`.  It is, however, classically done with only olive oil, rosemary, and a sprinkling of coarse salt over the top.

However, for some time I have had in my mind that I had to make fruit focaccia.  I love the dried fruit focaccia at Balthazar Bakery on Spring Street in Manhattan

(www.balthazarbakery.com) but I had in mind to do a fresh fruit one, a soft, spongy slightly salty bread studded with sweet luscious Bing cherries or tiny juicy plums that grow wild in upstate New York.  I was psyched.

So, I made the dough – my first try – but in my excitement I forgot to buy the necessary fruit at the farmers market and since we were in the country I didn’t feel like making the 45 minute trip to the supermarket so instead of fruit focaccia, I made a traditional one.  (This will go down in the recipe log like my Chicken Fried Rice Without Chicken!)  Using cherry tomatoes we had on hand and some rosemary from the pots outside the kitchen door, my first attempt came out so well that it was all eaten before Steve could photograph it.  So, instead we give you our in-house artist Steve Kolyer’s rendition.

9 cups sifted bread flour

Two ¼ ounce packets active-dry yeast

1 tablespoon salt

3 ¾ cups water

¾ cup extra virgin olive oil

Olive oil for greasing pans

 

Combine the bread flour with the yeast and salt in the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the hook.  Add the water and mix on low speed until blended.

Raise the speed to medium and continue to mix until the dough is smooth and shiny. Mix in the olive oil and beat until fully incorporated.

Line 2 half sheet pans with parchment paper.  Lightly coat both sides of the paper with olive oil. Lightly flour a clean, flat work surface.

Scrape the dough onto the floured surface and then divide it into two equal pieces. Place a piece of dough into the center of each of the prepared sheet pans, gently rounding the edges. Cover with plastic film and set aside to ferment for 3 hours.

Working with one piece at a time, uncover and carefully stretch the dough out to cover the entire pan. Using your fingertips, gently dot the top of the dough with shallow holes (In professional bread making this is called dimpling and it serves to create little pockets to hold the olive oil and keep the bread moist and soft).  Drizzle the top with extra virgin olive oil, coarse salt, herbs, or any thing you like, such as whole cherry tomatoes, anchovies, chopped onions, or garlic.  Cover with plastic film and let rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Uncover the dough and transfer the pans to the preheated oven.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the crust is golden-brown.

Remove from the oven and transfer to wire racks to cool.

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