For dinner we’re eating freshly homemade focaccia topped with creamy danish bleu cheese, caramelized onions deglazed with balsamic vinegar, and cherry tomato halves.
T: this was some fine bread… your breads never disappoint. Did the crappy oven cause any issues?
A: just the normal problems that arise from using an oven the size of a microwave…like it cooking too quickly on the bottom and not on the top. I’ve been perfecting using the broiler to finish off the job, when it comes to making bread. I want the top to have at least some color, you know?
T: yeah, totally. You got it right on this batch, for sure. I can’t think of anything that would have improved it… except perhaps a soup of sorts to go along with it. But the bread itself was delish.
A: you know, i was going to make a roasted red pepper soup or a tomato soup to serve with it, but… i just got too damn lazy. oh well! maybe next time. I definitely enjoyed it, but i’m such a bad gf – just serving my hommies bread for dinner!
T: yeah, your skills as a girlfriend are lacking Don’t you know you should have a multi-course dinner ready for me when I walk through the door? And, you should serve it to me naked.
A: hehehe i never took “how to be a good suzy homemaker” in high school or college. geez, to think all this time i was treating you like such shit by making you dinner every night with clothes on!
T: Just seems like common knowledge that any girlfriend should have. Well, now you know
A: and knowing is half the battle… if you didn’t add those silly emoticons you would have certainly been called a P I G by now. fortunately for you…
T: yeah, emoticons are great. you can get away with saying pretty much anything as long as it’s followed by a or a or a . Let’s try it. Umm… go make dinner
A: uh… i don’t know if ” ” really works… a straight face makes me just want to kick your ass, silly.
T: ok, i’ll try again… why can’t you cook like rachael ray
A: heheh OH HELL NO, YOU DIDN’T! okay… this little “play with emoticons” game is out of control. if you want to eat another dish of mine you’re gonna start using winks and smiles in these little comments!
A: um. i think i’d like to shift the focus back to the bread right about now! i’m getting a little hot headed.
T: your getting hot headed? for real?
A: hehe no, not for real, but any more comments about rachel ray and i will be!
T: Ok, back to the food. Tell me this. What makes focaccia focaccia? Is it the flour or what?
A: no.. the dough used to make focaccia is actually very simple and quite similar to pizza dough. the difference is in technique. for focaccia you press the dough out onto an oiled pan and let it rise in that state for a little bit. you also add more oil on top. Generally, there are indentations poked into the dough during the second rise that absorb the oil. Basically it’s a bread-flour flat bread. i hate to be redundant with “bread” but that’s what it is.
T: So, it’s a bread with extra oil? Is that why it’s flat?
A: no, the oil isn’t in the bread. the oil is on the outside of the bread to make it crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
T: ahh, now it’s beginning to make sense. So, why is it flatter than other breads? Less yeast?
A: it’s not flatter than other bread because of the yeast. it still rises in the same fashion. the only difference is that focaccia dough is spread out over a the full length of a pan, not mounded into a loaf or anything.. thus making it flat.
T: ahh, cool. You certainly are knowledgeable Mandy.
A: actually i’m talking out my ass. i am by no means a bread authority. I just know what i know from making different breads and reading recipes.
T: I think that’s how “bread authorities” learned, too. You’re definitely the acting bread authority in this apartment.
A: well thank ya T! i guess that really just compares me to you, huh? you’ve made bread before though. you could be considered an amateur bread baker.
T: oh, heheh, no. I couldn’t. Although I could be considered an expert on eating your breads!
A: true dat! so since you’re an expert in the field, what do you rate this focaccia?
T: 4.59/5. Awesome texture. Awesome taste. Actually, I’m going to up that to 4.69/5. The only thing that I would possibly request for the next one would be no cherry tomatoes.
A: well, you can’t win them all! i know you’re not a huge tomato fan, but i really enjoyed them. I thought they added a refreshing burst of juicy yumminess to the bread. The caramelized onions deglazed in balsamic were rich in flavor, as was the danish bleu cheese, i thought it cut the flavors nicely. I give the focaccia a 4.5/5. I was quite pleased with the results.
T: if suddenly cherry tomatoes were found to cause e-coli or something, and you were making this bread, what else might you use to freshen up the rich flavors? (don’t say grape tomatoes, in this scenario they’ve been found to cause chicken pox).
A: hehehe roma tomatoes??? Just kidding! i would probably use roasted red peppers.
T: ooooh that sounds yummy.
A: uh.. why the long face?
T: we don’t have focaccia with roasted red peppers.
A: we have roasted red peppers…and we have focaccia. you could always take off the tomatoes and add some peppers.
T: you are a genius.
T: shut up.
1 packet dry active yeast
8 tbsp olive oil, plus extra
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt, plus extra
4 cups bread flour, plus extra for kneading
1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups of luke warm water (105-115 degrees)
2 medium yellow onions, sliced
2 tbsp good balsamic vinegar
4 oz danish bleu cheese
16 cherry tomato halves,seeded
Prepare yeast by adding 1 tbsp sugar,packet of yeast, and 1 tbsp olive oil to 1 cup luke warm water. Stir to dissolve the ingredients, then set aside and wait about five minutes for the yeast to start to work and foam up.
While waiting on the yeast, oil a large mixing bowl with 1 tbsp olive oil. Add the flour and tbsp of salt to the oiled bowl and mix to combine ingredients. Oil a wooden spoon, then add the yeast mixture and another 1/2 cup of water to the flour. Mix the ingredients with the wooden spoon until the dough pulls together. If there is excess flour, add a little bit more water. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and kneed the dough for about five minutes, or until smooth and elastic. I suggest oiling your hands during kneading process to prevent the dough from sticking. Oil the bowl again then place the dough in the bowl, turn the dough once, to coat. Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and set the bowl in a warm, draft-free area. Allow the dough to rise for 1 - 1 1/2 hours, until it doubles in size.
Preheat Oven to 400 degrees. After the dough has doubled, grease a 14x10x1 inch baking sheet with 2 tbsp of olive oil, spread evenly throughout the pan. Turn the dough out onto the baking sheet and press the dough out to the edges of the pan. Using your finger tips, poke indentations throughout the dough, then brush on 2 more tbsp of olive oil. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and clean, dry kitchen towels. Allow the focaccia to rise for another 30-45 minutes.
During the second rise, heat a skillet over medium heat. While the skillet is heating, slice the onions. Saute the onions in 2 tbsp olive oil until the onions start to caramelize, about 15-20 minutes. Once the onions have begun to caramelize, deglaze the pan by drizzling in 2 tbsp of balsamic vinegar. When balsamic vinegar has been cooked into the onions, remove them from the heat, and set them aside to cool. (the onions will cool much quicker if you spread them out on to a room-tempurature sheet or tray)
After the second rise, sprinkle the focaccia with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Then spread the onions, bleu cheese and tomatoes out evenly across the dough. Bake a 400 degrees for 23-27 minutes. Remove the bread from the oven when it is golden and the bleu cheese has melted. Immediately remove the bread from the pan, using a spatula to lift one end and slide it onto a rack to cool. Garnish with basil or chives. Serve warm or at room temperature. The focaccia is best when eaten the day it's first made. Enjoy!