Tuesday, September 26, 2017

give it a go: the very best focaccia

Well, now that I dusted off this situation let's see what else has been lingering in draft form.  Here's a great tragedy, you could have been baking this ridiculously good focaccia for the last few years.  But unless you also own the excellent cookbook from Flour in Boston,  well, you have been missing this recipe for easy and amazing focaccia.  We are here today to remedy the situation.  Homemade focaccia should be started mid day for serving for dinner.  It will take you about 20 minutes to make the dough followed by at least an hour and a half to rise and less than half an hour to bake.  It can be on your table in just under 3 hours.  So worth the small effort and short wait.

You really need to be comfortable with olive oil as an ingredient.  So much information out there about cooking oils.  Oh, and flour, because you know this is bread so it is mainly flour.  Clearly I am not afraid of either.  Anyway, you use a half-cup of olive oil here which I guarantee is the reason this recipe is so good.  Find yourself an olive oil that you really enjoy because it's flavor will be front and center here.  Try some smaller producers.  Maybe shop around where they let you taste test.  Make a pilgrimage to Zingerman's in Ann Arbor where you can truly try anything.  And you should.  Trust me.  Try all the foods.  Go hungry.  For my Australian friends, Harris Farm offers an olive oil from the Hunter Valley, Rosto, which is not too dear but is a workhorse in my kitchen.  I usually buy the "mellow" variety.  This is the same olive oil I use for my olive oil cake.  Well, it's the same one I use to dip my fresh bread in, the one I toss in my pasta and the one I usually use for salads (we never ever have bottled salad dressing, it's just a thing for me).  I stock up within reason when it is on sale, but it's not wine and does not benefit from resting, so keep that in mind.

What I like about this recipe is the tender crumb.  It's very soft when baked, but you can easily slice or tear it.  You can even slice it horizontally to use for sandwiches or paninis.  I love to make it and then serve it with a super easy warm dish of marinara/pasta sauce topped with rounds of goat cheese and maybe a few matching fresh herbs and baked until bubbly.  It will last a couple of days at room temperature, but freeze or refrigerate it after that if by some strange occurrence it has not all been consumed.  I made this batch mainly for photos for this blog and half of it is in the freezer because I could easily finish it off and no amount of ocean swimming and headland hikes can balance out an entire focaccia for one person.

A note on the flour:  I use all-purpose flour, but look for one with a fairly high protein content.  Here in Australia, Healthy Baker all-purpose flour has about 10 grams of protein which is a similar protein profile to bread flour.  The original recipe calls for 3 cups all-purpose flour and 1cup bread flour which I have used to good results in the states.  But I just don't keep bread flour here.  We battle things like small pantries and the dreaded pantry moths, so keeping all-purpose and whole-wheat flours is enough for me.  (the little nuisance pests here are more worrisome than all the ones that can kill you, I know you've seen the Buzzfeeds about how everything in Australia will kill you.  Maybe, but your more likely to be annoyed by the ones that are not lethal).  Now, I do buy a lower protein flour if I'm baking fine layer cakes that do not need the structure high protein flours bring to bread recipes.  In Australia, White Wings flours are generally low protein (around 3-4 grams).  A little science for you.   Also note:  don't let me fool you into thinking our small pantry isn't really half-full of baking things, it totally is even without the bread flour.

You can make this using a stand mixer, but I don't have mine (it is being well-loved in the kitchen of a dear friend while I am away) with me and have turned out lovely ones with just stirring and kneading by hand.  Not hard.  Just take off your rings (and please put them somewhere safe that you will remember where you put them, not saying this is a problem for me or you but....).  Depending on the weather (really, the heat and humidity have a whole lot to say about yeast breads), it takes about 5 minutes or less to knead the dough by hand in the bowl until it feels even and smooth and a little sticky.

Give it a go.  You'll make it all the time.  Feel free to top it with herbs or cheese or knead some in if you like.  I like it plain, but that's just me.  Well, not really.  I'm hardly plain.  But this recipe is very nice in it's simple form.

The Very Best Focaccia

1 tsp active dry yeast
5 tsp sugar (caster sugar), divided
4 C all-purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt (sea salt)
1/2 C olive oil (120 ml)
small handful of fine cornmeal or semolina for dusting the baking paper/sheet

Measure 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) tepid water (very warm, just hot, not boiling) and stir in the yeast and 2 teaspoons of the sugar.  Let rest for a couple of minutes until it starts to build bubbles and foam.  If this does not happen, you may need fresher yeast or a little water temperature adjustment.

In a large bowl, measure out the 3 cups of the flour, remaining 3 teaspoons sugar and salt.  Stir or whisk to combine.  Add in the bubbly water mixture and stir (or use that stand mixer) until mostly worked in and shaggy.  Slowly add in olive oil and stir (or mix).  Don't worry, you will knead it all together.  Add in maybe half of the remaining cup of flour and start kneading.  Just grab that dough and pull it around and push it down and do it again.  If the dough gets too sticky, add the remaining flour in a little at time.  I like my dough just a little sticky, workable but not dry.  I do not always use all of the flour (really depends on a lot of things like heat and humidity).  This dough seems super forgiving.  I don't think you can do it wrong.  I usually work it around for 5 minutes give or take until it's smooth.  If you don't generally knead bread, keep going.  Look at the dough and feel it.  It really does smooth out as you go along.

Lift up the ball of dough and pour a little olive oil on your hands and grease the side and bottom of the bowl a bit so the dough does not stick when it rises.   Place the dough ball in the oiled bowl.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (not essential if you are opposed to single-use plastics and you should be, take it from someone who swims in the ocean every day) and/or a tea towel.  Place covered dough in a warm draft-free place to double in size (at least an hour and a half).  Here's a little hint, our house herein be very cold with early spring and no heat (that's right, no heat and let me tell you how many times you wake up and think, turn up the thermostat, hahahahaha) so I usually turn the oven on to a low heat for just a couple of minutes (really maybe 3 minutes enough to take the chill off, don't get it hot so you cook the dough), turn off the heat and place the covered dough in the very slightly warm oven to rise.

When the dough is doubled in size, uncover it and punch it down in the middle.  Line a baking sheet with parchment/baking paper.  Lightly sprinkle the paper with a little flour, fine corn meal or semolina (which, as far as I can tell is another name for fine corn meal).  Lightly flour your hands to and press the dough into a rectangle about 8 x10 inches/20 x 25 cm.  Fold the top edge down to the center of the square and bring up the bottom edge to meet in the center.  Press and seal the seam a bit. Now fold in the left side to the center and the right side to meet it.  Press the seam again.  Flip the folded dough over and shape it into a big rectangle about 12 x 18 inches/ 30 x 45 cm or really however you would like it.  Make it into an oval, a circle, two squares or whatever.  Let it rest and rise again covered loosely with plastic wrap and or a tea towel for about an hour.  (Note: if you are in a hurry or have run out of time you can bake it now without a second rise).

Preheat your oven to 400 F/ 200C.  When the dough has risen nicely (it really will look like a pillow), use your ringers to press and poke the top of the dough for a pebbly texture.  Bake for 30 min (up to 45, check it first around 25 min and if it's browning too fast on the top loosely cover it with foil) until the top and bottom are completely golden brown (it's easy to pick up a corner and check the bottom, just use a hot pad or something to protect your fingers).  Cool on the pan on a wire rack for a bit before slicing.  The focaccia will keep in a closed paper bag on your counter for 2-3 days or it can be tightly wrapped and frozen for a couple of weeks.  It's good toasted to refresh it if you have leftovers.

really poor photo of yeast and sugar bubbling in the tepid water
proofing yeast just like it is supposed to look, only a little blurry
see, the dough is even and smooth now at the end of kneading
covered bowl with rising dough
risen dough (it is sticky, flour your hands to dump it out and to shape it)
folding in the sides
folding down the top 

bottom folded up, that's just about as sealed as the seams need to be
after poking with all of my fingertips 
golden brown 

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Look, I remember how to do this: apple galette


Time for a little post (ha, well past time) because this one has been sitting in draft stage for literally two years and every time I bake it I have to click my way through my working blog pages slightly annoyed at myself for not ever finishing the recipe for a fairly easy and really delicious apple galette.  For the record, galettes and crostatas are the same thing as least to me, rustic fold-over one crust vehicles for cooked fruit and possibly savory things.  The fastest way to pie and just the right amount for 4 to 6 people, well 8 people,  if your people are the "just a little slice" type.  No judgement on those people, but they'll probably want more if they take just take a little slice.   I recently served this after a big dinner and cleverly had enough leftover for a breakfast/coffee treat.  I have my ways.

You can make your own pie/galette dough and it is completely worth the small effort required.  This galette dough recipe is really about the technique.  Alice Waters of Chez Panisse surely knows her pastry so I have not adapted it really at all.  I usually make half a recipe because I have a small freezer m my small refrigerator, but if you have the room go ahead and make the full recipe and freeze one half of the dough for another galette of whatever flavor whenever you  feel like it.  Buy nice unsalted butter, I find a big difference in taste here in Australia.   My go to brand here is Devondale.  Quite nice.  You can see from my photos that I still have large bits of butter as I roll out the pastry.  Big bits of butter make for the flakiest pastry, and under-worked is much more tender than over-worked pastry.   I have dough ready for chilling in maybe ten minutes.  Give it a go.    

The apple filling is based on a recipe from Ina Garten.  That woman knows her desserts, so who am I to change the recipe much at all?  Sometimes I slice the apples thinly, but cutting them in chunks is a nice switch.  Australian markets offer fewer apple varieties (they are completely missing out)  and it's almost spring so not actually apple season down under.  But in America, you are all ready for the abundance of Autumn harvest and will be spoilt for choice,  as they say here.  So mix up your apples.  Go pick some and or buy some that are marked good for baking. Use a couple of each variety.  Here I used all Granny Smith (told you the varieties were lacking).  The apples are tossed with orange zest (oranges are in season here and so I used a nice big blood orange) and then sprinkled with a streusel.  Quite nice.

Serve your galette warm.  Make it early and leave it on your baking sheet to easily reheat it before serving or slide it in the oven before you sit down to dinner and have it ready and waiting for a little scoop of vanilla ice cream, frozen yogurt or gelato.  Australians might serve it with double cream which goes on in a dollop.  Also quite nice.

Writer's note, after almost three years here in The Lucky Country, I feel the need to make some notes and conversions.  I also say things like "quite nice" and "give it a go" which are delightfully Australian to me.  I am well and truly at home here, but still switch very easily to whatever variety of the English language is spoken around me.  If only the math (maths as they say) conversions were as natural.

Apple Galette

Galette dough (yields two 12-inch galettes)
2 C all-purpose flour
3/4 tsp granulated sugar (caster sugar)
1/4 tsp kosher salt (sea salt)
1/2 C ice water
10 T cold unsalted butter, cut in 1/2 inch pieces (160 g)

Again, this makes enough for two, so make a half batch or use one half and freeze the other.
Let the cold butter pieces soften just a bit (just minutes).  Test by pressing your finger on one of the pieces and if it presses easily but still remains cold and does not leave butter on your finger you are good to go.  If it's too soft, put it back in the refrigerator for a few minutes.  This is all for flakiness, but don't get too worked up about it.
Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.  Add the butter to the flour mixture and toss to coat the pieces.  Press the butter pieces with your thumb and forefinger one by one to flatten them.  When all the pieces are flattened, drizzle in half the water, mixing all the while with your fingers spread and curved a bit, raking the dry mix from the bottom to the top to evenly incorporate the water.  Continue this way until the dough starts to come together, breaking apart any large lumps of butter as you go.  try not to squeeze the dough together, as this activates the gluten in the flour and can make the dough tough.  Drizzle water over one tablespoon at a time and keep drizzling and raking until the dough looks moist and ropey with very little dry flour.  It will be forming a good ball by now.
Divide the dough in half (unless you halved the ingredients), shape into a ball and flatten into a disc pressing in any random lumps of butter.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate at least an hour and up to a day.  Extra dough can be stored in the freezer for a month or two.  Thaw frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using.

Apple Filling (for one galette)
1 1/2 pounds (750 g) pie apples (Granny Smith, Macintosh, Empire, Jonathon, Honeycrisp, etc)
1/2 tsp freshly grated orange zest (lemon would work too)
1/4 C all-purpose flour
1/4 C granulated, superfine or light brown sugar (caster sugar or light brown sugar in koala land)
1/4 tsp kosher salt (sea salt)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground allspice
4 T cold unsalted butter, diced (56 grams)
1egg white and a couple of T of milk along with a good sprinkle of sugar (coarse is pretty) for an optional egg wash and sugar sprinkle

Preheat oven to 425 F/ 200 C.

Peel, core and cut the apples in small chunks (cut each apple into maybe 4 wedges and chop each wedge into about 12 pieces, the number being unimportant what you want is relatively uniform chunk size.  Toss the apple chunks with the zest and set aside.  In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon and allspice.  Toss the butter into the mix and use your hands to work the butter into the mixture until you form little clumps about the size of peas.  Easily done in a food processor, but I make this in a low-tech, easy clean-up way.

Line a baking sheet with parchment/baking paper.  Lightly dust the paper with flour and lightly dust the disc of dough too.  Roll out your pastry into a circle about 14-inches in diameter.  Top the pastry with the apple chunks leaving a few inches around the edges (you will be folding up the crust to cover at least half the apples).  Top the apples with the streusel mixture  Work your way around the circle, gathering as you go and fold up the crust around the apples covering at leas half of them.  Use a fork to beat an egg white with a couple of tablespoons of milk and then brush the pastry with the egg wash.  Sprinkle the egg wash with some sugar.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until crust is golden and apples are tender (if the crust is browning too quickly, loosely cover with foil and continue baking).

rolled galette dough topped with apples

topped with streusel
see how it's not perfectly shaped?  that's what's perfect about it

sides folded up and gathered

egg washed and sprinkled with coarse sugar