If bread baking is an activity you feel uncomfortable tackling, or if you have had failed attempts in your past, I strongly encourage you to reconsider your position by baking focaccia. It is so easy and it tastes so much better than anything you can buy at the store, even focaccia from specialized bakeries doesn’t compare. Once you master a basic recipe the possibilities are seemingly endless, you can add to the dough and experiment with the toppings until you have found your own perfect combination. This particular combination is my idea of perfection in bread form. I love cornmeal in anything but especially in focaccia, it gives a certain heft to the bread that I find lacking sometimes in other recipes. I used marinated roasted red peppers from a jar because I didn’t have any fresh peppers to char in the oven by hand. I have also used fresh basil instead of rosemary, in fact I actually prefer it, but I didn’t have any in stock (see? this is why focaccia is so great – you can improvise!) Today was a typical rainy January day in Vancouver and rainy days are the absolute best times to tinker around the kitchen and listen to something quiet and pretty. I served this focaccia with a French-style lentil soup (I will post the recipe tomorrow.)
roasted red pepper cornmeal focaccia:
2 tsp. quick rise yeast
1 cup of warm water
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 1/4 cups of all purpose flour
1/2 cup of cornmeal
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 cup of olive oil
Roasted red peppers, cut into slivers (either homemade or marinated from a jar)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped roughly
Kosher salt (to taste)
1/4 tsp. of red chili flakes
1. Proof the yeast with the warm water and sugar for 10 minutes, when doing this step I avoid stirring and just let the yeast do its thing. Another useful tip is to pre-warm the bowl you are proofing the yeast in by filling it up with hot water and letting it sit for a minute before emptying it and refilling with the warm water. The mixture should be foamy by the time it’s ready to use.
2. Stir together the flour, cornmeal, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast and sugar mixture and the olive oil to the bowl and mix until a dough starts to form. Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic either in the bowl or on a lightly floured surface, this will take about ten full kneads.
3. Put the kneaded dough in a clean bowl and coat lightly with olive oil so that it won’t stick once it has expanded. Place the bowl in a warm, draft-free area for an hour or until it has doubled in size. I like to allow my oven to reach 200 degrees and then turn it off and put the dough inside to rise; you can also put it on top of your fridge with a dish towel to cover.
4. Take the dough out of the oven if that’s where it has been rising and set the oven to 400 degrees. Punch the dough down and give it a few quick kneads. Working directly on a baking tray roll or stretch out the dough until it is about 1/2 an inch thick. Allow to rest for twenty minutes.
5. Arrange the roasted red peppers and rosemary on top of the focaccia and distribute the salt and chili flakes. Bake for 2o minutes and allow to rest for 5 minutes before cutting into triangular pieces.
If you live in a rainy climate then Low is your friend. They are known for their sparse musical composition and almost eerily perfect harmonizations and lyrics. Secret Name is my favourite album and demonstrates the subtlety of their song-writing beautifully. If you are having a dark day, maybe just outside or maybe as a mood, then listen to this album and slowly warm up from the inside.
Low – Immune