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An urge, a craving, and, ultimately, sweet satisfaction

17.July 2009

Yesterday I found myself with the urge to do something in the kitchen. These moods tend to strike at the least opportune times – as far as possible from mealtimes, when I have a ton of work to do, when the kitchen is dangerously low on supplies (which, admittedly, forces creativity, but usually ends with less than ideal results), and so forth. This was combined with a craving for bread, which – tragedy! – we did not have in the house.

And so I pulled out the book that is quickly becoming a Bible for me – The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook and started to read recipes. I quickly decided against rolls, sandwich bread, and a variety of sweet options. I landed on their quick, easy recipe for Rosemary Focaccia (my rosemary needed a little pruning, after all).

The result, with a little fiddling and a lot of shameful ignoring (How long is it supposed to rise again?), was a crispy, yet soft, chewy focaccia with the tang of good olive oil and the bite of good, crunchy sea salt. In short, it hit the spot.
Rosemary Focaccia – The Book also provides suggestions for substituting parmesan, sage, or olive and thyme. They all sound delicious.

Note: don’t use dried rosemary for fear of burning.

1 russet potato (I used Yukon Gold) – be sure you’ll have enough for about 1 1/3 cups grated potato (for me, this meant two small ones)
3 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t. instant yeast
1 1/4 t. salt
1 c. warm water
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil, plus some for the baking sheet and rising bowl (I didn’t measure very carefully, which resulted in a rather too-oily bread. But it’s good oil, so it tastes fine anyway.)
2 T. fresh rosemary (Again, I did not measure, but instead just liberally plopped the rosemary down on the top of the dough)
3/4 t. coarse sea salt (I used too much.)

  1. Cook the potato until it’s easily pierced with a knife (~10 minutes). Allow to cool until it’s comfortable to handle. Grate it on the large holes of a box grater. The recipe initially asks you to cut the potato into 1-inch chunks, but in the future (for the sake of grating it more easily) I would leave it in halves or quarters. The small chunks were rather unwieldy and quite messy to grate. Reserve 1 1/3 c. grated potato.
  2. Mix 3 1/4 c. of the flour with the other dry ingredients (yeast, table salt). On low, add potato, water and 2 T. olive oil until the dough comes together.
  3. Ratchet up the speed (medium-low) and knead until dough is smooth and elastic (~10 minutes). If the dough is too wet (sticking to sides of the bowl), add flour. I needed all of the extra flour, perhaps because of the massive humidity in Boston yesterday?
  4. Turn the dough out onto the counter and knead it to form a smooth ball (~1 minute).
  5. Put the dough-ball into an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. I would also suggest oiling the plastic wrap, lest the plastic wrap stick to the dough, which mine did (tragedy!). Let rise for about an hour, or until it’s doubled in size.
  6. Finagle the dough into a 12×18 rimmed baking sheet – just try to get it to stay in the corners – with WET HANDS. This part is very important. It calms down the dough a little and keeps your hands from sticking without drastically changing the flour/oil/water balance in the dough.
  7. Cover and let it rise for another 45-60 minutes. It should just about double in size and will slowly return to its original shape when prodded.
  8. Preheat oven to 425. Dimple the dough with your fingers in a more or less regular pattern. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and toss on the rosemary.
  9. Bake 20-25 minutes (25 for me) until the bocaccia bottom is golden and crisp. (I found a normal spatula very very helpful in lifting up the focaccia to check the bottom.)
  10. Try to wait until it’s cooled a little before slicing. You won’t be able to.

**Another prop for this book – they have EXCELLENT descriptions and photos of how to know when the dough is too wet. Very useful for those who are uncertain about these sorts of things. It’s a SERIOUSLY good cookbook for cooks at any level. Also, they provide rationales for a lot of their recipe and ingredient choices, which is reassuring.

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