Focaccia bread is a cinch to prepare, on your plate in less than two hours and the toppings are whatever makes your heart sing. For those days when I do not plan to make fresh bread but suddenly have a craving, I can throw flour, yeast and water together, let it rise for 30-60 minutes, punch it down, top it and bake.
I decided on a a “pesto-topping.” Kowalski’s had some basil – still in its root ball and wonderfully fresh for $3.99. Whatever basil I didn’t use could easily be maintained by watering the root ball. I still have some. It’s a nice change from the little plastic containers which I never seem to use up before they go dry. Dried basil does not add as much flavor – it seems a mere shadow of itself but fresh basil proclaims its presence.
- 1 package active dry yeast (I used regular, not quick rise)
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 cups flour (I used bread flour)
Focaccia Bread Topping
I used: 1/4 cup pine nuts, 6 slivered basil leaves, 1/2 cup of freshly-shredded Parmesan cheese and a few sun-dried tomatoes.
Other possible ingredients: sliced olives with goat cheese, pepperoni and mozzarella, roasted red peppers and fontina, salami with provolone, walnuts, gorgonzola and spinach and of course the classic rosemary with olives.
Dissolve your yeast and sugar into lukewarm water. Let it get foamy and sit for ten minutes. Add your flour. If it is too dry, keeping adding water 1 tbl at a time until the dough becomes shiny and elastic. (My house is very dry and it took almost an additional 1/2 cup of water). Put in oiled large bowl and cover. Let it sit in a warm place for 30-60 minutes – until the dough is doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet. Pound down your dough and put it on prepared baking sheet. Top with sliced basil, pignoli nuts and Parmesan for a pesto focaccia. I had a few sun-dried tomatoes sitting around, so I threw them on top also. Or simply cover with your favorite toppings. Any assortment of olives, cheeses, prepared meats, nuts and herbs works.
At Kowalski’s, fresh foccacia sells for $4.59 and up. They’re quite tasty but I derive satisfaction from knowing this recipe was made for 1/2 the price plus I had the enjoyment of filling the home with the aroma of freshly-baked bread. Do look for basil in its root ball. It’s easy to maintain and you get your $3.99/worth. I get my pignoli nuts fresh at Kowalski’s. Yes – they’re pricey but I only buy 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup at a time. And I know they are fresh when I buy them. I’m never sure how long the jarred ones have been sitting around. When I do not have pignoli nuts, I often substitute walnuts. They are not as sweet as those tiny pine nuts but they work in a pinch and are cost-effective.
If you have any bread recipes you would like to share, feel free to e-mail me. I prepare five Italian recipes per week – from soup to nuts, so if you would like them delivered to your home, please hit the subscribe button at the top of the page. It couldn’t be easier.
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