Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fennel, Oregano & Onion Focaccia


When I bake bread, it's hard not to think of my Mom.

I have so many memories of her standing up at the kitchen table with a big red tub of dough for what seemed like hours, working it patiently with her hands.

When my mom made bread...she made bread! She would make it in huge batches - it would be enough to make about 5 pizzas and 2 loaves of bread.

We were a family of 4 but we could easily take out 2 or 3 homemade pizzas. And the leftovers were never disregarded. Pizza the next day is a blessing.

I can remember sitting on the couch watching the food network. Mom's rings sat in a little dish on the counter and her bare hands were covered in tacky dough. She took her time and I could tell she enjoyed it - maybe that's why it always tasted so good.

She is also celebrating her birthday in a week, so Happy early Birthday Mamacita! I love you to infinity xo

I love making dough by hand, but stand mixers just do such a good job of it too. Once in a while I like to give it workout and let it knead my dough.




Focaccia is Jonathan's favourite bread so if I make it when he's around you can pretty much bet it will be gone soon after it comes out of the oven. This one is filled with flavours of crushed fennel seeds, onion and oregano that will perfume your home like no other.


It is also easy and quick to make because of the use of instant dry yeast.

There are several kinds of yeast....I know it can get confusing. The most commonly used today at home are the dried versions.


Instant dry yeast, also known as rapid-rise yeast, has a fine granulation so that it dissolves readily and absorbs moisture faster. It does not need to be pre-hydrated or bloomed by dissolving it in water before adding it to the dough.


Instead it can be mixed directly with the dry ingredients before lukewarm water is added and the dough is kneaded. During kneading, the yeast will become hydrated evenly.

Active dry yeast has a coarse texture and needs to be re-hydrated, that is, dissolved in water, before introducing it to flour. Not only does it need to be hydrated, but it needs to be proofed. This refers to dissolving the yeast in a mixture of sugar and water. Sugar feeds the yeast so that it can multiply and grow, and growth is evident by visible bubbles, foam or froth at the top of the liquid - that's how you know it is alive or how viable those yeast cells are.

Active dry yeast typically contains a lot more dead cells compared to instant dry yeast, which is why it always needs to be proofed before using it. Instant dry yeast is made using a process that results in many more viable cells to ensure you of sufficient rising.


After a good 10 minutes of kneading, the slightly sticky dough gets a nice sheen of olive oil and some resting time in a covered bowl until it looks like this...


It is huge!! So soft and so pillowy.


You can actually see all of the bubbles in the dough. This is going to be so good.


Now it's time to form our flat breads. Gently punch down the dough to let the big air cells deflate. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Shape each half into an oval on a generously oiled baking sheet. Use some good olive oil here!


Cover it loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise again until it is nice and puffy.


Drizzle olive oil all over it. Use your fingertips to poke up the dough and create these beautiful dimples. Sprinkle flaked sea salt from a height. Just let it rain.


Store yeast in the fridge or freezer where they will become dormant, to maintain their viability.



Fennel, Oregano & Sea Salt Focaccia
Makes two 10-inch ovals

500 g (3 ½ cups) all-purpose flour, plus extra as needed
7 g (1 tsp) fine sea salt
1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle
½ tsp freshly cracked black pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
¾ tsp onion powder
16 g (4 tsp) instant dry yeast 
1 cup tepid water, no hotter than 110 degrees F
½ cup milk
3 tbsp olive oil plus extra for drizzling and greasing
flaked sea salt for sprinkling

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together flour, salt, fennel, oregano, onion powder, black pepper and yeast.

In a volumetric measuring cup or small bowl, combine water and milk; set aside.

Make a well in the center and pour in the olive oil. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add half of the water/milk mixture and stir on low speed (not higher than speed 2) for about 20 seconds. As the flour begins to take up the water, continue pouring in the remaining milk mixture. Mix on low speed for 8 minutes.

After 8 minutes of mixing, the ball of dough should clean the sides of the bowl but should be, soft, moist and sticky.

Lightly grease a large bowl with olive oil. Roll the dough in the bowl to coat it with a thin layer of oil. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel and allow to rest in a warm place until nearly tripled in size, about 2 hours.

Generously brush two 13x9-inch baking sheets with olive oil and set aside.

When nearly tripled in size, turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough in half. Shape each half into an oval about 10 inches long on the prepared baking sheets, pressing it out and pushing out the air. If it springs back too much, let it rest for about 10 minutes before pushing it out again. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise again for another hour.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Liberally drizzle olive oil over each oval and make dimples in it with your fingertips. Sprinkle generously with flaked sea salt and bake until golden and crisp, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and slide it off onto a wire rack to cool.  

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7 comments:

  1. Lovely memories you have! The focaccia looks delicious!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks pooch. Love you. mom

    ReplyDelete
  3. Christina....just made it today and it turned out fabulous!

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  4. Focaccia is one of my favorite breads. i find the herb-y and flavorful dough irresistible. I'd love to one day try this and i am sure my kitchen will really smell heavenly. Yum!

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  5. Love foccacia bread. We put all sorts of toppings on ours. It seems, for me, to be my most no-fail bread to go to. Yours looks delicious and I appreciate the info about yeast. Oh, and happy birthday to your mamacita!!

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