A few weeks ago on public broadcasting, 177 Milk Street aired an episode on focaccia. What is focaccia? In Italy it’s considered a street food, a flat bread made with a dough similar to pizza. Focaccia can either be sweet or savory. The version Milk Street demonstrated was savory. The focaccia was topped with green Castelvetrano and grape tomatoes. The dough has a high ratio of water to flour, which makes the focaccia light and airy.
For the recipe you will need bread flour, yeast, granulated sugar, water, olive oil, grape tomatoes, Castelvetrano olives, dried oregano, kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. You will also need an extra-large bowl in which the dough will rise.
The dough is prepared in a stand mixer with flour, yeast, sugar, and water. After mixing for five minutes, the bowl is covered with plastic wrap and the dough rests for 10 minutes. This allows the flour to absorb the water. Next you add the salt to the dough and mix for five minutes. You will see the dough is both extremely wet and soft. Into an exceptionally large bowl add two tablespoons of olive oil; then gently pour the dough into the bowl. Using your fingers, go around the edge of the soft dough and dabble oil on top to prevent the dough from drying out. The bowl is covered with plastic wrap and placed in a draft free area to rise for 5-1/2 to 6 hours. During the rise period, you will see the dough rise, collapse, and rise again.
In the meantime, you can prepare the olives and grape tomatoes. After 5-1/2 hours, the oven is preheated to 500° and either a baking steel or baking stone is placed on a rack in the middle of the oven. Add two tablespoons of olive oil to either a 9x13-inch baking pan or Pyrex. In the Milk Street episode, the focaccia was baked in an exceptionally large black cast iron skillet. If you want to use a cast iron skillet, I suggest two 10-inch.
Next add the toppings. I did not have green olives, so I used Italian oil-cured olives, which worked out fine. Use your hands to gather the smashed tomatoes, leaving behind as best as possible the seeds and juice. When done, focaccia will rest uncovered for 20 minutes. After said time, you drizzle additional olive oil over the tomatoes followed by dried oregano, salt and freshly ground black pepper.
The focaccia bakes for 20 minutes during which time it pulls away from the edges and turns a deep golden brown. Though tempting, cool in the pan for five minutes followed by an additional 30 minutes of cooling on a rack. To preserve the billowiness of the dough, use a serrated knife with a sawing motion to cut.
Grab your favorite glass of wine and dig in. Buon appetito! This focaccia was utterly fabulous! It was light, moist, crisp bottom and had wonderful flavor from the toppings. My husband and daughter loved it as well as my two-year old granddaughter!
It is the perfect party appetizer, especially for the upcoming Super Bowl game. You can create your own topping combinations too.
Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street
Secret Italian Recipes, Season 4 episode 16
December 28, 2020
For the dough:
3-2/3 cup bread flour
5 teaspoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups cool, room temperature water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 dry pint Grape tomatoes, mashed to release seeds and juice
Castelvetrano green olives, halved
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
Instructions for dough: In a stand mixer, add dry ingredients; mix on low. Slowly add water then increase to medium; mix 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes. This allows the flour to absorb the water and the gluten to develop. Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt; mix on medium speed for 5 minutes.
Using a very large bowl, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Using a rubber spatula, gently pour in the dough. Using your fingers, go around the edge of the soft dough and dabble some of the oil on top of the dough. Rise time is 5-1/2 to 6 hours. Cover tightly with plastic wrap.
Preheat oven to 500°, position rack in middle and baking steel or baking stone on the rack. Using a 9x13-inch baking pan or Pyrex, mist with cooking spray. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pan. Gently scrap the sides and slowly scrap into prepared pan.
Place olives on dough. Place mashed tomatoes on top, leaving seeds and juice in bowl; rest uncovered for 20 minutes. Pour 4 tablespoons of olive oil over tomatoes. Season with oregano, salt and black pepper. Bake for 20 minutes. Focaccia should be golden on the top and sides should pull away from the edges. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Remove and cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes. To serve, use a serrated knife and sawing motion to cut into pieces.
A former teacher, shop-a-holic, empty-nester redefining quick, family approved dinners.