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Journey into the Lives of Women, One Story at a Time

CHUsday: Old Blogs, Old Faithful Recipes

Summertime and the living is, well, BUSY!!  I just taught two classes and need to focus on my next book, so this week, just like on your TV set, you’ll be getting re-runs.  Today and Friday I’m featuring blogs from spring of 2009, when many of you weren’t reading here.  In the spirit of CHUsday, here’s an old recipe, and looking back, I can’t remember making it in the past six months.  So obviously the time has come again.  Rosemary focaccia is an old friend if not a new discovery.  This is a great end of summer bread because it’s quick and easy and you have many wonderful things to do besides stand at the stove.  Just don’t tell your family how easy it is. 

Thumbnail image for Fresh Focaccia with dipping sauce.jpg

I first “noticed” focaccia while having dinner at a friend’s house.  Jim had baked his own, and I was instantly hooked.  I’m sure I’d had it outside of Italy, but never right out of the oven.  At home I found a recipe and tried it.  Okay, but not as good as Jim’s.  The next time I saw him I asked for his secret.  “Make sure the dough is sticky,” he told me.  “Don’t add too much flour.  As sticky as you can get away with is just right.”  

With that in mind I began to work with a recipe I downloaded from Epicurious, a wonderful online source for recipes.  I particularly love the reviews and  suggestions, and usually pay close attention to them.   

The Epicurious version of Rosemary Focaccia had its fans, but some reviewers complained the ratio of flour and water wasn’t correct.  After trying it, and taking Jim’s advice to heart, I had to agree.  So here’s my revised version.  This is a basic recipe, so feel free to experiment with a little whole wheat, ground flax seed, or any number of other additions.

Emilie’s Rosemary (and Garlic) Focaccia

  • 1 package of yeast 
  • 4 cups unbleached white flour (plus additional as needed)
  • 1/4 cup good quality olive oil
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 Tablespoon rosemary softened in 3 additional Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves pressed garlic (optional)
  • 1 t Kosher or coarse sea salt

In the bowl of a standing mixer, add yeast to 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.  Let stand until creamy.  (If you’re using Rapid Rise yeast, you can proceed without waiting.)

Add 4 cups of flour, 1/4 cup of oil, and table salt.  Using the dough hook, beat until smooth and best of all, sticky for 4-5 minutes.  The dough should just barely stick to your mixing bowl.  If it’s too sticky, add additional flour one Tablespoon at a time. Stop the mixer and poke with your finger.  If it’s not damp enough, turn the mixer back on and add water one Tablespoon at a time until dough is moist to the touch.

Transfer dough to an oiled bowl.  I let mine rise in my oven, but I preheat it for a minute first to warm the interior–make sure you turn it back off!  Cover dough with plastic wrap or a towel, and let it rise for an hour to an hour and fifteen minutes–until doubled.

While it’s rising, add the rosemary to the 3 Ts of oil and give the rosemary time to infuse the oil with flavor.  Press the optional garlic cloves and add to the oil, as well.

When the dough has doubled, generously spray or oil a jelly roll pan (15″ by 10″ by 2″) and gently stretch and press down the dough to fit.  Allow this to rise another hour until just even or a bit above the lip of your pan.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees, and as it preheats, make gentle indentations in your dough with your thumb.  Fifteen or so.  Don’t worry, it won’t deflate unless you’re in a REALLY bad mood and you’re taking it out on your bread.

Brush the rosemary/garlic oil–along with the rosemary and garlic–over the bread, allowing it to pool in the indentations.  Sprinkle with sea/Kosher salt and bake until golden for 20-25 minutes.  If you use the optional pressed garlic, the smell while baking will drive you wild.

Although focaccia is fabulous just as it is in the above photo–with a little olive oil mixed with herbs for dipping–it also makes the most wonderful sandwiches.  Slice a good-sized chunk horizontally, fill with sliced cheese (I like pepper jack for this) and chopped tomatoes.  Brush one interior side with a little light mayonnaise and grill in a panini grill.  Don’t have one?  Pull out that old George Foreman grill you haven’t used for awhile and use that instead.  That’s all I do, and I never get tired of these sandwiches.

Focaccia also makes wonderful appetizers.  Toast, lightly covered with olive oil, mozarella, tomatoes, and the fruits of your imagination.

Enjoy!

2 Comments

  1. Nancy Badertscher on August 23, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    First of all, Emilie, how are things up your way? Sounds like your area just had an earthquake!?!?

    Now to report on my CHUsday recipe. I mentioned earlier which cookbook I was going to use – of the 90+ possibilities! I selected Atlantas Natives’ Favorite Recipes, a birthday gift from one of my sisters-in-law in August,1978. She has passed now, and we are back living in the Atlanta area after 31 years away, mostly in central VA. I plan to try at least one more recipe from this book, but what I made last night was Baked Grits Souffle, p. 45 – a recipe from “Mrs. Robert H. Perkins (Lida Mell) Second Generation Native.” The original recipe calls for 1 1/2 c. Quick grits cooked about 5 minutes over low in 4 1/2 c. salted boiling water, stirring often. Mix grits with 2 cans mushroom soup and 6 well-beaten eggs. Put mixture in baking dish greased with bacon drippings. Cover with 1 c. cracker crumbs and 2 cups grated sharp New York State cheese. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes.

    I made a few alterations – cut the recipe in half since there’s only 2 of us. No bacon drippings, just used a little olive oil spread around with a paper towel. The recipe did not specify what kind of crackers. I opened a new column of saltines, but they tasted stale, so I went with Ritz crackers – which is what I wanted to use in the first place! I didn’t separate the eggs and beat the whites since the recipe didn’t call for that, but I might try that next time since it didn’t seem very souffle-y. We don’t often eat grits, but this dish was pretty good, and hubby liked it so that is a plus for sure. I’ll be interested to see how it goes over the second time, because there is plenty left. I ground up the crackers fairly fine in the blender – next time I might go for larger pieces, maybe just breaking them up with a rolling pin. As it was the crackers and cheese formed a pretty thick top and kind of separated from the grits when you cut into it.

    There are a few other recipes I want to try from this cookbook – Sally Lunn, Rich’s Pecan Pie, Coke Salad, and Octaria’s Waffles (from Ralph McGill’s great grandmother). I might get some of them done before the month is over, and if I do I will report on them as well.

    • Emilie Richards on August 24, 2011 at 8:33 am

      Great comment, Nancy. Having grown up in the south, I religiously saved bacon drippings–and others, quite often. Suffice it to say, doesn’t happen now. But this sounds like something that would be great fun to try. Might try this when my kids come to visit over Labor Day. Not sure about the in-law kids, but the ones who grew up in my house all eat grits. 🙂 Hope you try Coke Salad. We HAVE to know what this is.

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