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

Sun-Dried Tomato Bread

As I may have mentioned before I have quite a few cookbooks that I normally mark recipes from but more often than not don’t get around to trying out. Recently I started going through some of these cookbooks to refresh my memory on those marked recipes and also to see if I can make room on my bookshelf for other cookbooks that I will get more use out of. In doing so I came across a Sun-Dried Tomato Bread recipe in Marcus Samuelsson’s New American Table cookbook which I immediately decided I wanted to try. This is one cookbook that I didn’t purchase myself but instead received as part of a prize package I got a few years back and probably haven’t looked at it since. This also marks the first time I attempted to make bread, yes, I have made banana bread and such in the past but, I guess I should clarify that it’s the first time I am making a yeast bread. I’ve only baked with yeast once before, just this past holiday actually, and it was disastrous. I tried to make cinnamon rolls from scratch but my yeast never properly dissolved and reacted with the water so the rolls were a mess, but, they did smell good. Luckily this time my results were a complete 180. I can’t even tell you how happy I was when my loaves actually expanded while they rested prior to me putting them in the oven… Sometimes it really is the little things in life.

I began by preparing the sun-dried tomato – kalamata olive – garlic paste that I ultimately kneaded into the dough. I soaked chopped sun-dried tomatoes in water for ten minutes and after patting them dry I combined them with chopped kalamata olives. To prepare the garlic I cooked four unpeeled cloves in olive oil for about twenty minutes until they were softened and then squeezed the pulp from the cloves into the mixture. I then mashed all three items together with a spoon to form the paste.

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Next I combined the yeast, salt and water in a bowl and let it sit in a warm area until the yeast activated. While the recipe called for fresh yeast I used dry yeast instead. I was able to find the dry equivalent after doing a quick Google search. At first nothing happened with my water, but, after reading the back of the yeast packet I learned that I needed to add a bit of sugar to get the process going. It wasn’t long after that the yeast was ready.

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I poured that into the center of the two flours – unbleached all-purpose and wheat flour – the recipe called for.

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After some kneading the dough was ready to be incorporated with the tomato-olive-garlic paste.

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After some more kneading I formed the dough into two loaves which I placed in prepared (sprayed with non-stick cooking spray) loaf pans.

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I covered them and let them rest for one hour in a warm area so they could double in size. My warm area ended up being right on top of my stove while the oven was on. And boy did they double…

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I then brushed the tops of the loaves with olive oil – I used the same olive oil that I cooked the garlic in to add a little extra flavor – and sprinkled some salt and freshly chopped marjoram on top.

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I baked them in a 375 degree preheated oven for 30 minutes uncovered and then another 25 minutes covered with aluminum foil. After letting the loaves rest in the pan on the wire rack for ten minutes I then removed them so they could cool completely.

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After cooling overnight I sliced them up and am happy to say that baking with yeast this time was a success for me! This bread is delicious!

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Sun-Dried Tomato Bread Recipe

Servings: 2 Loaves

Ingredients

1/2 cup roughly chopped sun-dried tomatoes

2 tbsp olive oil

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled

1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and roughly chopped

2 oz fresh yeast (approximately 7 tsp. dry yeast)

2 1/2 tsp salt

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 cups whole-wheat flour

2 marjoram sprigs, chopped

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

2. Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in cold water for 10 minutes. Rinse and pat dry.

3. Heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over low heat. Add the garlic cloves and cook until softened, shaking the pan occasionally, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly, then squeeze the pulp from the cloves into a bowl and mix with the olives and sun-dried tomatoes to form a paste.

4. Combine the yeast, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and 2 cups lukewarm water in a mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve, then let sit in a warm place until the yeast begins to bubble, 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Place the all-purpose flour and whole wheat flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center. Pour the yeast liquid into the well. Slowly combine the liquid with the flour. Using your hands, work the flour and liquid together to form a dough. On a lightly floured work surface, knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato-olive mixture and knead until fully incorporated, about 5 minutes.

6. Divide the dough in half and form into 2 loaves. Transfer to two greased 81/2 x 41/2-inch loaf pans. Cover and let rest in a warm spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

7. Brush the tops of the loaves with olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and the marjoram. Place the loaf pans in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Cover the pans with aluminum foil and bake for another 30 minutes.

8. Remove the loaves from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pans and let cool completely on the racks.