Sunday, March 30, 2014


A bread by any other name... focaccia, fougasse, hogaza, schiacciata, pizza... all contain the same basic ingredients: high-gluten (strong) flour, salt, yeast/leavening, oil, water. Focaccia, the predecessor of pizza is thicker, whereas pizza is thin, almost like a flatbread. But both are great with a variety of toppings.

Focaccia is great as a snack on its own, sliced with a bit of meat, cheese, a fried egg, or vegetables inside, with soup, roasted vegetables, meats, cubed and toasted into croutons, in a breakfast strata... the ideas are endless.

The one difference between any focaccia-like bread and pizza is that focaccia has a distinct olive oil flavour thanks to the generously greased pan in which it's baked, and the drizzle of olive oil it gets before baking. Don't skimp on the quality or quantity of oil - in this recipe, I've already pared down the oil so definitely don't reduce the quantity of oil in any step otherwise you'll end up with a dry crust, bottom, and crumb - essentially a dry loaf. No fun.


Onion and Herb Focaccia
Makes: 1 loaf, 17 in. x 12 in.

- 2-1/2 cups whole wheat flour 
- 2-1/2 cups bread flour
- 2-1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (not Rapid Rise)
- 1 tbsp. salt
- 1 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for greasing the baking tray
- 2 cups warm water (not hot - or the yeast will die and the dough won't rise!)

- 1 tbsp. fennel seeds
- 1-1/2 tbsp. rosemary leaves, fresh or dried
- 1 tbsp. thyme, fresh or dried
- 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 tsp. black pepper, freshly ground
- 3 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
- 1 tbsp. flaked or coarse salt
  1. In a large bowl, make the yeast sponge: mix 1 cup warm water, 1 cup whole wheat flour, and yeast. Set aside for 15 minutes - after 15 minutes the mixture should look frothy and feel "spongy" when stirred with a spoon.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the fennel seeds, rosemary, thyme, crushed red pepper, black pepper, and the 3 tbsp. olive oil. Set aside.
  3. To the yeast sponge, add the rest of the whole wheat flour, bread flour, 2 tbsp. olive oil, lemon juice, and salt. Mix well - the dough will be dry and clumpy. Add 1/2 cup warm water and mix into a dough. If needed, add more warm water, 1/4 cup at a time, to bind the dough into a ball. Knead till smooth and supple, about 5 minutes. The dough should be soft but not wet and sticky. If it is, add flour 1 tbsp. at a time until the dough is soft but not wet or sticky.
  4. Form the dough into a ball and put into a large bowl. Cover the bowl and put it in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has risen and doubled in size, at least 1 hour.
  5. Generously grease a 17 in. x 12 in. rectangular jelly roll pan / metal baking tray with olive oil.
  6. Gently push down the risen dough. Transfer to the greased pan and using your fingers, flatten the dough to fill the pan. The dough may spring back - let it rest for a minute and continue to flatten into an even layer.
  7. Let the dough rise in the baking tray for 20 - 30 minutes.
  8. Make sure there's a middle and lower rack in the oven. Preheat the oven to 425 F / 220 C. Fill an oven-proof tray with 1 - 2 in. water.
  9. Using your finger tips, make "dimples" all over the dough.
  10. Brush on the olive oil and herb mixture all over the dough. Gently press the sliced onion and jalapeño on to the dough. Evenly sprinkle the salt, if using, on the dough.
  11. Put the pan (with the dough) on the middle rack, and the tray with water on the lower rack.
  12. Turn the temperature down to 400 F / 200 C and bake for 25 - 30 minutes until the focaccia is golden at the top and bottom (use a spatula to lift a corner and check).
  13. Remove from the oven and cool for 3-5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 day or in the fridge for up to 2 days.

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