A Real Dream and Faux Focaccia

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I’ve always dreamed of being the kind of person who can toss off a batch of fresh bread like it was nothing. It always seemed a kind of herculean feat to make your own bread. So much time, so much could go wrong, etc. Then the questioner in me was always like “I want to be that kind of person, but is making your own bread really worth it?” I would start a new segment every week called “Is it Really Worth It” (like the coconut debacle), but someone already wrote a book covering this matter, and, as the title of it suggests, making one’s own bread is recommended. There are also many, many ways to make a loaf of bread these days that shorten the amount of time you need to do it, the amount of effort (aka kneading), and risk of screwing everything up (hello instant yeast). Emma Chistensen, whose blog The Kitchn I love to read, recommends the no-knead (but 12+ hour) recipe that is apparently sweeping the nation by storm.

I myself am not intimidated by a 12 hour time requirement on a recipe if it is something I can forget about and which doesn’t require any appliances to be turned on for more than a couple hours. Homemade bread is also a tiny fraction of the cost of store-bought and healthier because it isn’t designed to last forever on the shelf. However, as Christensen points out, the real inconvenience is planning ahead. Her recipe is not something you can whip up at noon if you want bread to go with your dinner. That is why I settled on this recipe from Alexandra Cooks. I did not end up using the main recipe, although it sounds awesome, but rather the version of it way down at the bottom of her comprehensive post which says “Faux Focaccia” – this was mostly because I only have one 9×13 pan (not two oven proof bowls), but also because I LOVE fococcia. It was the first bread I ever made owing to its simplicity and flavor.

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This version appealed to me because of the very short amount of time involved in the whole process and the limited amount of ingredients (no heaps of olive oil like in real focaccia). The first rise is only ONE hour, the second is 30 minutes (!) and then it is just a 30 minute bake in the oven. It is an easy recipe to remember – 2 tsp each of instant yeast, sugar, and salt, 4 cups of flour, 2 cups lukewarm water (the instant yeast saves you time bc you don’t need to let it soak first). Having an easy-to-remember recipe is half the battle when becoming the kind of person who can “toss off” a bread recipe as my heart so earnestly desires. Two tablespoons of butter to grease the pan, two tablespoons oil for the bread, a sprinkle of salt and dried rosemary – et voila! A remarkably tasty “faux” version of focaccia. Note to the wise, this is not a “light” “healthy” type of bread owing mainly to the butter/oil and the lack of the nuts, grains, and/or wheat which would lend more nutritional value to the thing. However it makes a great base for a caprese sandwich.

For your convenience I’ve copied out the bread recipe below and our additions to make the delicious sandwich.

Faux Focaccia (by Alexandra Cooks)

2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

4 Cups flour

2 Cups lukewarm water

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Mix the first five ingredients together until well blended. Set aside in warm place covered with plastic wrap or tea towel for at least one hour. Using a plastic spatula, scrape the sides and “punch” down the dough by folding it in on itself. Butter a 9×13 baking dish. Pour the bread into the buttered dish and press it into the pan evenly (oil or butter your fingers so it won’t stick – unlike real focaccia it is a sticky dough). Spread olive oil over top of dough and sprinkle salt and dried or fresh chopped rosemary on top. Let rise again for 30 min. Preheat oven to 425. Bake after second rise for 15 minutes, then lower heat to 375 and bake another 17 minutes or so. Turn out on wire rack to cool.

To make a Caprese Sandwich, slice fresh mozzarella into discs, slice tomatoes of choice into discs (or diced sun-dried tomatoes for a different take), and layer on on half of the focaccia (or on top of one whole slice as Italians do). Add a little aioli or olive oil and chiffonade basil leaves (or pest works well too). This is perhaps my favorite sandwich of all time – the creamy salty mozzarella and buttery, herby bread go so well together. The tomato and pesto (which is my favorite version) add a freshness that cuts the salt and reminds me of summer.

This bread is really great for all kinds of things, even as a snack all by itself! Do you have a favorite bread recipe? We’d love to hear about it.

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