Thursday, June 18, 2009

Peter Reinhart's Focaccia - Day 1

So a little bit of procrastination on my somewhat ambitious plans for focaccia making... I did make my herb oil on Tuesday, but I didn't realize how much work you had to do on the first evening of the non-poolish version of Reinhart's focaccia. It's not intense work by any means... mostly waiting around... but since I was already cooking up some pasta sauce, I decided to delay the first part of focaccia making until last night.

Regarding the herb oil: I wish I could give exact proportions, but... I don't have any... and being that I haven't tasted the focaccia yet, I don't even know if my choices were good ones... however I can tell you that the ratio called for in the recipe was 1/2 cup fresh herbs to 1 cup oil. I just trimmed as much as I could from our herb garden without (hopefully) crippling our plants... basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, and oregano were all thrown in there (roughly in descending order of proportion). I also threw in 3 cloves of garlic, pressed, 1/2 a tablespoon coarse sea salt, 1/2 tablespoon ground pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon paprika.

I don't have Bread Baker's Apprentice handy for the exact formula, but I do remember the weights... you mix 22.5 oz of bread flour with 0.5 oz of instant yeast and 0.5 oz of salt. Then you add in 6 tablespoons of olive oil and 16 oz of room temperature water. Next up is the kneading, which you do by rotating the bowl and using your hand "like a dough hook" (not having a stand mixer, I don't know exactly what that means, but I just make a claw and squish the dough around as best I can). You'll want a bowl of water nearby so that you can dip your hand in it when the dough gets uber sticky (see above). You do this for 3-5 minutes, switching the direction of how you are rotating the bowl a few times.

Next you turn it out on a floured workspace with either a wet hand or wet dough scraper (we just got one and it kicks ass). Dust the top with lots of flour, shape it into a rectangle, and then let it rest for five minutes. After that you're in the "fold it like a letter" stage... where you take the ends of your rectangle and stretch them to double length and fold them back over themselves in a tri-fold, so you are back in rectangle form (see above). Spray it with some oil, dust with some flour, and cover it with plastic wrap. Let it rest for 30 minutes before repeating the folding/spray/dust/cover step. After another 30 minute rest you do it again... except let it proof on the counter top for a full hour.

After that hour of proofing, it'll be pretty ginourmous, but not necessarily doubled in size. Get out your half sheet pan (i.e. cookie sheet) and a piece of parchment paper to fit. Take about a 1/3 cup of olive oil and oil down the parchment paper and pan. Then you use your dough scraper (or hand) to help gather up the dough and transfer it to the pan... trying to keep the shape intact and avoid degassing. Next spoon out 1/4 of your herb oil and you should have something like what's pictured above.

In the final step of the evening's work, you use your fingertips (and fingertips only) to dimple the dough. You're trying to push it out towards the edges, work in the oil and herbs, and simultaneously degas little sections while leaving others nice and poofy. You want the overall thickness to be pretty uniform, but you don't have to worry if you can't get the dough into the corners. The dough still has some relaxing and proofing to do, so it will fill those corners right in.

Cover it in plastic and stick it in the fridge overnight, or up to three days.

One thing to consider for the next day(or whenever you plan to bake it), is that it needs to sit on the counter for 3 hours before you stick it in the oven... Anna will be home to take it out in the late afternoon so we're not eating it at 9 pm... but that's something to consider for making it on a weeknight.

Day 2 of chimpanzee focaccia making is here. More photos are here.

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