Rosemary & Tomato Focaccia Bread

I decided to plant some veggies and herbs again this year. I passed on planting zucchini again, which I used to make these delicious zucchini fries last year, and went with cucumbers and eggplant instead. I haven’t picked any eggplant yet, but, I have picked quite a few cucumbers. Some of which I turned into some yummy pickles. That’s another post though. I also planted tomatoes again this year, but instead of beefsteak one’s I went with cherry tomatoes. And for the herbs, I went with rosemary, basil, sage and lemon thyme. I mainly planted the herbs in hopes of repelling mosquitoes. While they have been around I will say that it hasn’t been as bad as past years. Initially I wasn’t planning on picking any of the herbs, but, they grew so well that I decided it would be a shame not to use them. So, I decided to use the rosemary and some of the tomatoes to make homemade focaccia bread.

Now, I am always leery of working with yeast. I am apprehensive that it won’t proof well enough, that my final product will be tough and not flaky and whatever else can go wrong. Believe it or not, the weather also plays a factor. While you may think that a humid day will help your bread rise quicker, that’s not always the case and a very cool day can make your bread take even longer to rise. I baked this focaccia on a rainy unseasonably cool summer day that had very low humidity and it came out perfect.

I completely relied on my stand mixer to knead the dough using the dough attachment. And for the first rise I preheated my oven to 200 F, turned it off and then put my dough, that I had placed in a greased bowl, in there for about an hour so it could rise. It’s a good trick I learned and have done it every time I need dough to rise. When I removed it from the oven it had doubled in size. And for the second rise I rolled the dough out on my counter that I dusted with flour and let it rise for a few more minutes.

Once the dough was ready, I transferred it to a 9 x 13 – inch baking pan that I lined with parchment paper. I stretched the dough to fill the pan and then poked deep holes into the dough. Next, I sprinkled the dough with minced fresh rosemary and sliced cherry tomatoes. I drizzled a few tablespoons of olive oil over everything and then sprinkled it with salt.

I then baked it in a 400 F preheated oven for about 25 minutes, until it was lightly golden on top and the bread had cooked through.

I let it rest for a few minutes before removing it from the pan using the parchment paper and slicing off a piece to enjoy! The texture was spot on. It was firm with just enough chew. You can definitely customize this focaccia to your liking by using different herbs, vegetables and so forth. One thing I would avoid using though is sun-dried tomatoes. That’s what I was initially thinking of using instead of the fresh ones, but, I thought that the sun-dried tomatoes would burn while they were in the oven. The fresh tomatoes do get a nice sweetness to them while baking.

Rosemary & Tomato Focaccia Bread

Ingredients:

1 1/3 cup warm water (about 110F)

1 teaspoons sugar

1 package of active-dry yeast (0.25 ounces)

3 1/2 cups flour

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped

1/4 cup cherry/grape tomatoes, sliced

Directions:

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough attachment add the water and sugar and stir combine. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and give it a quick stir to mix it into the water. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until it becomes foamy.

With the mixer on low speed gradually add in the flour, olive oil and salt. Once everything has been added increase the speed to medium-low and continue mixing the dough for 5 minutes. The dough should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl. If it isn’t, this means that the dough is too sticky and you should add in additional flour, about 1/4 cup. Add it gradually until the dough is the right consistency.

Remove the dough from the bowl and use your hands to shape it into ball. Grease the mixing bowl, or another bowl, with olive oil and place the dough inside of it and coat it with the oil. Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel and place in a warm spot for 45-60 minutes so it can rise. It should just about double in size. To ensure a warm spot, preheat your oven to 200 F and then turn it off and place the bowl inside of the oven with the door closed for the allotted time.

Once the dough has risen turn it out on a floured surface and roll it into a rectangle that’s about a 1/2 inch thick. Cover the dough again with a damp paper towel (you will probably need two) and let the dough rise for 20 minutes.

While the dough is rising, preheat the oven to 400 F and prep a 9 x 13-inch baking pan by lining it with parchment paper leaving a slight overhang. Transfer the dough to the pan and use your hands to stretch the dough to fit into the pan. Use your fingers to poke holes all over the dough. The holes should be deep enough that you reach the bottom of the baking pan. Drizzle two tablespoons of olive oil all over the dough and then sprinkle with the chopped rosemary, sliced tomatoes and additional sea salt.

Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until the dough is slightly golden on top and is fully cooked through. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the bread using the parchment paper and let cool for a few minutes before slicing and serving. If you are not planning on serving all of the bread at once, slice what you are going to eat and wrap the leftovers in wax paper and store in an airtight container or resealable bag.

Recipe adapted from Gimme Some Oven

Savory Focaccia Bread Pudding

As promised a second bread pudding recipe this week. This time a savory bread pudding made with focaccia bread. Once again, I had this focaccia left over after ordering Italian food. It was too much and I didn’t want it to go to waste and bread pudding is always a great way to use up left-over bread, but a typical bread pudding that is normally sweet wouldn’t work for this focaccia so I thought I could possibly make a savory version and I was right.

Here’s a look at the leftover focaccia. I let it sit for a day, so it became quite hard but that was perfect. It meant I wouldn’t have to toast it before using it.

I cut it up into cubes and added it to a large bowl.

In a large skillet I cooked mushrooms, onions, green pepper and celery that I seasoned with minced garlic, chopped thyme, salt and pepper until the vegetables were soft and most of the juices in the pan had evaporated.

While the vegetables were cooking, I made the custard by whisking together heavy whipping cream and eggs that I seasoned with salt and pepper.

Once the vegetable where ready I added them to the bowl with the focaccia cubes along with fresh parsley and gave everything a few good stirs.

I let the vegetables cool for about 10 minutes before adding in the custard mixture to the focaccia cube mixture. I then transferred it to a 9×13-inch baking dish that I sprayed with cooking spray and then topped it with shredded parmesan cheese. I let it sit for about 15 minutes so the focaccia cubes could soak in the custard.

I then baked it in a 350 F preheated oven for about an hour. After letting it sit for a few minutes it was time to slice. This was delicious. Definitely something I will make again. An added bonus, it tasted even better the next day as the flavors really had time to marry. And if you are trying to adopt a Meatless Monday diet this is ideal with a side salad and you will have leftovers for a few days. If you don’t have focaccia or want to use another type of bread, like an Italian or French loaf, I would suggest toasting the cubes before using them or letting the bread sit for a day or two so it can become stale and withstand the custard without becoming too soggy.

Savory Focaccia Bread Pudding

Ingredients:

10 cups cubed focaccia*

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 teaspoons fresh thyme, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

2 8oz. packages sliced baby portabella mushrooms

1 large onion, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

4 celery stalks, thinly sliced

1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped

3 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream

8 large eggs

1/3 cup shredded parmesan cheese

Salt

Pepper

 

*Can use a different type of bread. Just make sure it’s stale or if using fresh bread, cube and then toast in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 350 F.

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a 9×13–inch baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

Place cubed focaccia in a large bowl.

In a large skillet melt the butter over medium heat-high heat. Add the mushrooms, chopped onions, chopped green pepper and sliced celery along with the chopped thyme and minced garlic to the skillet. Season with salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are soft and most of the juices have evaporated, about 15 minutes.

Add the cooked vegetables and chopped parsley to the cubed focaccia. Give it a few good stirs and then let the vegetables cool for about 10 minutes.

While the vegetables cool make the custard. In a large bowl whisk together the heavy cream and the eggs. Season with salt and pepper.

Once the vegetables have cooled, add the custard to the bowl with the cubed focaccia and vegetables. Give it a few good stirs and then transfer to the prepared baking dish. Top with the shredded parmesan cheese.

Let the bread pudding sit for 15 minutes and then bake in the preheated oven uncovered for 50-60 minutes, until set and the top is golden. Let sit for 20 minutes before slicing.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Modified from Epicurious