The Best of Everything
FOCACCIA: BASIC DOUGH FOR LOAVES OR FLATBREADS
Yield: For loaves: 1 large or small loaves
For focaccia: 1 large or 2 small focacce
(You can shape this dough into the shape of a cat if you wish!)
This user-friendly dough is about as basic as you can get. It was the dough that inspired mama to start her bakery in Los Angeles long ago and was the dough that everyone seems to like. One morning at the Farmer’s Market in Santa Monica, when she was setting up her bread concession, she dropped a focaccetta (sandwich sized) in the street and watched with horror (as did several others) as a pickup truck, Mercedes, and large van rolled over the just-baked loaf. She could actually see its shape spring back, resilient and just as fresh as ever, much like the Samsonite luggage which, dropped from 30 stories, bounces back without a scratch! This is very hardy dough.
With it you can make loaves of bread, flat breads, crisp breads, little rolls (focaccette), the French ladder bread fougasse, exotic hamburger buns, breadsticks, and more. You can also forget it in the refrigerator or leave it to rise a little too long and it will bounce back very easily with very little help-like a good sailboat in a storm, it is very forgiving. She has witnesses to prove it.
2 cups lukewarm water (85 to 95 degrees F.)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 cups unbleached bread flour
2 to 3 teaspoons salt
2 to 3 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
Measure the water into a large bowl. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and stir until dissolved. Stir in 2 cups of the flour and the salt and stir briskly until smooth, about 2 minutes. With a strong wooden spoon or one of those rare mixing spoons with a big hole in the middle, stir in the remaining 2 cups of flour for about 2 minutes longer, just until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and the flour is incorporated. The dough will be fairly wet and tacky (sticky), but when it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a loose ball, you’ll know the dough has been stirred sufficiently. If necessary, stir in an additional 1/4 to 1/2 cup of flour.
Same Day Method: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 30 to 40 minutes. Proceed with the shaping instructions.
Overnight Method: Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight. The dough will rise in the refrigerator and acquire flavor from the slower yeast action. Remove the dough 2 hours before shaping and let stand, covered, in a warm place. The dough will rise for the second time. Proceed with the shaping instructions.
To shape into loaves: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Oil 1 seasoned non-stick, oven-proof 9-inch skillet or two 5-inch skillets.
Pour the dough into the large pan or divide it between the smaller pans by loosening the dough with a spatula and then carefully scraping it from the sides of the bowl, keeping the dough as inflated as possible. With the spatula, cut the dough off at the edge of the bowl as it falls into the pan. The shape that the dough takes on as it falls into the pan is fine. Brush the tops of loaves with olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary and sea salt and set aside to rise until doubled, about 15 to 20 minutes.
To bake loaves: Place the bread in the preheated oven and reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until nicely browned and loaf sounds hollow when tapped with your finger. Remove loaf from pan and cool on a rack.
To shape into focaccia: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Oil 1 or 2 non-stick 17-by13-inch baking sheets.
Pour the dough onto the sheet(s), carefully scraping it from the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Brush the dough with 2 teaspoons of olive oil. To make the traditional focaccia with indentations, dip your fingers into cold water and insert them straight down into the dough. Make holes in the dough by pulling it to the sides about 1 inch at a time. Pull the holes at random to form little craters all over with the pan showing through where you have put your fingers. As you work, stretch the dough into a 1-inch thick oval. (If you are using just 1 baking sheet, the focaccia will cover almost the entire sheet.) Brush the loaf with another teaspoon of olive oil and sprinkle with the rosemary and sea salt. Focaccia does not need to rise, but if you forget it for a few minutes, don’t worry. It will bake beautifully despite a little neglect.
To shape into dinner rolls: This is the easiest way to make rolls with any dough. Follow the instructions for the Overnight Method. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F. Spray a French bread pan with non-stick spray or rub with olive oil. A 3-section pan will yield 9 or 12 rolls, depending on the size you choose to cut off.
Take a good handful of the chilled dough and gently stretch it out into a rectangle approximately 2 inches wide and 8 inches long. Snip off 2-inch pieces of dough and drop them into the grooves in the pan, using 3 to a groove. You may shape them after cutting if you like, but I prefer the free-form look of the unshaped rolls. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with fresh rosemary. Let rise until doubled in volume. (If you wish to make rolls from room-temperature dough, pour the dough into the grooves of the pan, cutting off the dough with a scraper after a 3-inch of dough has “fallen” into the groove. Proceed again down the groove, letting the dough fall into its roll shape (see illustration). Rolls made like this need only to rise for about 15 minutes before baking. They will have a good spring and be very tender with crisp crust.
To bake the focaccia and rolls: Place the pan(s) in the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the focaccia has a nice, golden brown color mixed with a little darker brown around the indented area. Bake the rolls for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Cool on a wire rack. Cut focaccia into wedges or rectangles and serve warm.
Baker’s note: For a breakfast focaccia, mix 1 teaspoon cinnamon with 1 cup coarse brown sugar and sprinkle over focaccia in place of rosemary.
ROTELLE WITH TUNA SAUCE (naturally, one of my favorites!)
1 package rotelle
2 jars tuna in olive oil, drained slightly
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion
3 tablespoons capers
1 ripe avocado
1 small stalk celery heart, chopped coarse
2 tablespoons toasted almonds (optional)
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
A few fresh mint and basil leaves
Juice of a large lemon
Pinch of cayenne
Salt and fresh pepper to taste
In a large pot, boil salted water for the rotelle.
In the bowl of a food processor, put all of the ingredients (except the rotelle) and process until fairly smooth.
When the pasta water boils, cook the rotelle for about 9 minutes until al dente, as rotelle cook faster than some other paste.
Drain the rotelle, leaving about 3 tablespoons of pasta water in the bottom of the pot.
Return the rotelle to the pot and toss with the sauce.
This may be served tepid or cold in the summer.
ROASTED WHOLE FISH WITH ROUILLE
1 31/2 – 4 lb. fish, salmon is best, or halibut, pike, bluefish or seabass, scaled
1/2 C. olive oil
6 cloves garlic
6 – 8 White Rose potatoes or new potatoes, cut into 1/2″ slices
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 400. Chop the rosemary and garlic together. Put the fish in a large baking pan, make 3 diagonal slits across the body from heat to tail with a sharp knife, then pour the olive oil over the fish and push some of the garlic/rosemary mixture into the slits. Sprinkle the rest over the fish. Bake for 10 minutes at 400, then lower the heat to 350.
Meanwhile, sauté the potato slices in olive oil until just browned. Add them to the fish and cook both together for about 30 minutes. My brother who lived in Monterey and cooked fresh salmon all the time tells me that about 10 minutes to an inch of thickness is the way to time a fish. I check after about 7 minutes to the inch to see if the center is done.
Baste the potatoes once during the cooking. If you would like a bit more juice, slosh in a cup of white wine during the cooking.
You will know when a fish is done when you begin to smell it roasting. At least you know you should check it soon after.
Serve with ROUILLE:
1 egg yolk
1/2 teas. salt
1 small jar roasted pimientos
1 small very hot pepper
1 C. olive oil
1 clove garlic
1/2 C. fine bread crumbs
Make rouille as you would mayonnaise: Put the egg yolk in a food processor, add the salt, then add the oil, drop by drop at first, to begin the emulsion. When the sauce thickens, add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.
Pasta, Rice and Potatoes
After dinner drinks (I get milk, no booze)
THIS PAGE BEING PREPARED – meanwhile visit www.rome-at-home.com for easy, delicious recipes that I love!