I pondered why a few times and I think it came partly because we lost our dad in his mid-fifties to colon cancer which has strong ties to diet, followed by the loss of a serious girlfriend to cancer. Plus he is dedicated 100 percent to his kids. Cooking food they wanted to eat was one way he showed how very much he cared.
Every time we went down to LA for a visit, the food he cooked for us was a treat. He explored recipes from a wide range of countries and introduced me to easy things - like sliced baguette brushed with olive oil and broiled to a crispy brown - that are still mainstays of my cooking today.
A memory of him talking about this recipe while making it bubbled up for me the other day and I've decided this is the week I will give it a go. The last visit we made a trip south, he made us focaccia. It lasted I think 30 minutes after he set it out warm on the counter - never had a chance to make it to the dinner table. YUM!
What he shared was that the America's Test Kitchen tried all kinds of techniques to make focaccia and crowned this as the best. And it's the easiest. There is no kneading. You just mix it up and gently fold in the edges several times. WOW! He ended up skipping the Rosemary, just sprinkling the coarse salt on the pan so it crusted on the bottom of the loaf. And he somehow made a big rectangle instead of 2 small rounds. Not sure what size pan he used.
I truly love bread and used to make it from scratch when my kids were little. Watching everyone jump into bread making while self-isolating had been inspiring. So this week I will be trying this recipe myself. I may skip the herbs as well and just go with the salt the first time as I still dream of his version.
We'll see if I can create as amazing an end result as my talented younger brother. Enjoy!
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Rosemary Focaccia Bread from America’s Test Kitchen
From their “100 Hundred Recipes” The Absolute Best Ways to Make the True Essentials
Makes Two 9-inch round loaves
½ C All-purpose flour (2-1/2 oz)
⅓ C Warm water (110 degrees)
¼ tsp Instant or rapid-rise yeast
2 ½ C All-purpose flour (12 ½ oz)
1 ¼ C Warm water (110 degrees)
1 tsp Instant or rapid-rise yeast
¼ C Extra-virgin olive oil
2 T Minced fresh rosemary (Fresh, not dried is much better but you could use dry)
For the sponge:
Combine flour, water, and yeast in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains about 1 minute. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temp for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (let stand to room temp for 30 minutes before proceeding with the recipe).
America's Test Kitchen Note (don't think my brother let it sit for days) - I always do this ahead of time because I’ve found the flavor of the bread is so much better after sitting out for 24 hours and 3 more days in the fridge!!!
For the Dough:
Stir flour, water, and yeast into the sponge with a wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains about 1 minute. Cover with plastic and let rise at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of salt over dough; stir into dough until thoroughly incorporated, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes. Spray a rubber spatula or bowl scraper with vegetable oil spray. Fold partially risen dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl and repeat turning and folding for a total of eight folds. Cover with plastic and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat folding, turning and rising 2 more times for a total of three 30-minute rises.
One hour before baking, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, place a baking stone on the rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees. Gently transfer the dough to lightly floured counter or board. Lightly dust the top of the dough with flour and divide it in half. Shape each piece of dough into a 5-inch round by gently tucking under edges. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans (I use dark non-stick ones) with 2 tablespoons oil each. Sprinkle each pan with ½ teaspoon of kosher salt. (Use all the oil it does some magic on the bread). Place round of dough in 1 pan, top side down; slide dough around pan to coat bottom and sides with oil, then flip the dough over. Repeat with the second piece of dough. Cover pans with plastic and let rest for 5 minutes.
Using your fingertips, press dough out toward edges of the pan, taking care not to tear it and creating indentations with your fingers. (If dough resists stretching, let it relax for 5 to 10 minutes before trying to stretch it again). Using a dinner fork, poke the entire surface of the dough 25 to 30 times, popping any large bubbles, Sprinkle with fresh rosemary evening over top of the dough. Let dough rest in pans until slightly bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes.
Place pans on baking stone and lower oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake until tops are golden brown, 25 to 28 minutes, rotating pans halfway through baking. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool for 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pans and return to rack. Optionally you can brush tops with any remaining oil in pans. Let cool for 30 minutes before serving. (Leftover bread can be wrapped in a double layer of plastic and stored at room temp for up to 2 days. Wrapped with additional aluminum foil you can freeze for up to 1 month