Saturday, October 24, 2009
Herb Layered Foccacia
I collect cookbooks. I read cookbooks in bed before going to sleep at night. There is something comforting and relaxing about reading cookbooks. A favorite genre is baking. Nick gave me this book, Rose Levy Berenbaum's "The Bread Bible". It is one of those cookbooks that tells you now just 'how', but 'why'. It reads almost like an illustrated textbook.
Yesterday, I had the chance to bake some bread. Why I haven't featured that particular activity yet here, I have no idea. Well, it's time to correct that oversight! I cook bread because I like to eat bread. Same as sewing. I like clothes, so I sew.
For me, and I guess for most cooks - there are two types of cooking and baking. There is 'craft' cooking, and there is "utilitarian" cooking. The craft type is when I immerse myself in the process, enjoying the journey as well as the finished result. The utilitarian type is what I do most of the time. It's "get it on the table" cooking. The satisfaction of whipping something decent (and, at my best...great...) out of what we have - and doing it in 20 minutes - that's satisfying! But that said, what I did here was what I would call craft cooking. I had to pay attention to the deliberate process.
I used Berenbaum's focaccia recipe, but I tweaked her method. Her method uses a hand mixing and kneading. But I used my KitchenAid mixer. The one I have is the "professional" model. I had the artisan model, with a smaller motor, but I burned that one out a year ago, when I was using it to knead some sturdy whole wheat bread. So I bought a big boy model.
This dough is very very wet, and when making foccacia, the hardest thing for me is to let it be wet. Because it should be wet. The proportion of flour to water in this bread is 2 cups flour to 1 cup water. That's 1/3 wetter than my normal 'knock it together' pizza dough! But I was disciplined and did not add too much flour.
After a series of rises and gentle punch downs, my dough was velvety soft, full of air, and tender. So I rolled it out, so that a third of the dough was thin, and the rest was thick. In the middle, between the dough layers, before sealing it for the final rise, I put fresh herbs. Our garden still has some herbs growing in it, despite the recent frost here where I live, on the east coast of the US. The only herb that is pretty much decimated is the green basil. My purple basil, for some reason, is hardier. So, after letting my bread rise, in went the herbs.
I had an appointment, so when I came back, two hours later, this is what I had. I punched dimples in the bread, drizzled it with olive oil and salt, then baked at 400 degrees....
Bread with a hearty red wine. A classic and 'can't go wrong' combo. In this case, it was a Spanish wine. Spanish wines are a favorite of mine, because they deliver some good complexity for a reasonable price, in many cases. This bread was s0000 good that we almost finished the loaf - just the two of us, at dinner last night. And after that, I had some as a snack.