Sunday, January 10, 2016

rosemary roasted garlic focaccia

In these early weeks of the new year, blog posts webwide begin by paying homage to the New Year, or New Year’s resolutions, or some variation along those lines. So—in being unique—I won’t mention the New Year at all. Here at Chow Creations, we pride ourselves in being independent…wait a second. By acknowledging that other food bloggers acknowledge the New Year, haven’t I inadvertently began this post with an homage to the New Year. This column is beginning to sound a lot like the subpar metaphysical food blogging I confused readers with last year. AH HA! You fell for another one of my traps. I wanted you to think I didn’t want to begin this post by mentioning the New Year, when in fact I've been in control of this rambling the entire time. So how exactly does this all relate to focaccia? The receptionist at my asylum hands me focaccia to get me to stop talking to her. Ohhhhh New Year’s resolution is to see a psychiatrist.

Despite the exotic-sounding name, focaccia is deceptively simply to make. You won't even need a stand mixer to make this recipe. Although I've written the directions for the do-it-by-hand gal, if you’re not as strong as I am (cue the picture of my saggy biceps), follow along with the stand mixer’s specifications. Focaccia gets most of its flavor from the taste and quality of the olive oil you use. In addition to using the finest olive oil allowance-money can buy, I fry the rosemary and garlic in the olive oil (a quick and dirty trick to getting the most out of your most pungent ingredients) to amp up the flavornoids in focaccia flavor town. The result is a soft and crispy bread, packed with warm flavors of roasted rosemary and garlic. Beginning and advanced bread bakers will be delighted at this wonderfully easy and delicious treat!

(yields 9-16 slices depending on thickness)
4 cups of all-purpose flour
1 cup and 2 tablespoons of warm water, at about 110 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal yeast activation
2 ¼ teaspoons or 1 packet of dry-active yeast
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 cup of olive oil, the good stuff
2 whole bulbs of garlic
1 three inch sprig of rosemary
1 tablespoon of salt
extra salt and coarsely ground black pepper to sprinkle over the top

1. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry-active yeast, sugar, and water. Let the mixture hang out for 15 minutes while you make the rosemary and roasted garlic infused olive oil. You should see a thick foam begin to form on the top of the yeast mixture, which tells you the yeast is alive. If no foam is present, you should probably start over. The yeast may not have been activated because the water was too cold, or you may have killed the yeast by using scalding water, or the yeast may have been deactivated years ago…if you know what I mean. In any case, making sure the yeast is alive is the most important step of this recipe. 

2. Into a medium saucepan, cut the heads off of two bulbs of garlic and add the rosemary and olive oil. Keep the rosemary still on the sprig and the garlic in its skin because those will add additional flavor to the oil. Simmer the mixture on the stove for about 15 minutes or until the garlic and rosemary have browned. Strain the olive oil and reserve the garlic cloves. You can discard the rosemary sprig and any rosemary needles that have fallen off. Divide the oil in half.

3. Slowly add the flour, salt, and half of the infused oil to the yeast mixture. Once the dough comes together, turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 15 minutes or until smooth and elastic. If the dough feels tacky or wet, do not be afraid to add more flour. You might get tired or discouraged, but keep going. Once the dough smooth, form the dough into a ball and place into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel and place in the warmest place in your kitchen. Wait for an hour or until the dough has doubled in size.

4. This recipe is very versatile. You can bake the focaccia in any sized pan you want. In retrospect, I would have baked mine in a 9x9 inch pan; however, the size of baking vessel you choose depends on how thick you want the focaccia to be. Smaller pans yield thicker focaccias, which are fluffier; wider pans yield thinner focaccias which are crispier. The pan you see in the picture is a 9x13 inch cookie pan. Pour the rest of the infused olive oil into the bottom of the pan and press the focaccia into the pan making sure to coat all of the dough. Make punctures within the dough by digging your fingers into the dough. Nestle the remaining roasted garlic cloves into the holes. The clove-less punctures will help the bottom crisp up in the oven. The amount of oil may be startling. It’s completely normal. Cover with a tea towel and let rest for a minimum of 20 minutes. Preheat the oven to 400F.

5. Bake for 20-35 minutes depending on how thin/thick your bread is. Mine took just under 20 minutes. Let the focaccia cool completely before transferring to a cooling rack and slicing. The wait will be tough, but it is definitely worth it. If you cut into the bread too early, the focaccia might deflate (kind of like mine). Serve with love and a smile. 

In a world where bread baking is a lost art and Donald Trump might be the republican nominee, homemade focaccia may be the only thing that can save this generation. If focaccia can cure the sanity of food blogging lunatic, it can sure as hell cure the cavils in your life. Have a blessed 2016 everybody. And as always,


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