Focaccia. Why Rob decided to do this this week, I’ll never know. He and I are going on a cruise in a little under 12 weeks to witness some friends of ours getting married, and so we’re both suddenly very conscious of what we’re eating. (Why? Two words: bathing suits.) And so OF COURSE he decides to bake homemade bread. And OF COURSE I decide it needs to be a DIY or Buy project, and then, of course, we have to go buy a focaccia that’s baked by someone else, for the whole comparison aspect. And now we’re both trying to resist the two giant hunks of flavorful, fragrant bread that are sitting around the kitchen but we’re also simultaneously conflicted about NOT eating the bread, because then all that delicious bread goes to waste. But the cruise! Bathing suits! Love handles!
There are Twilight levels of angst in Casa Glazebrook. I fully expect myself turn all glittery and fang-y and marble-cold by the end of the week.
Anyway, this week, my Husband of Awesome decided to make focaccia. I decided to photograph and get in the way and sample the breads. And because that wasn’t challenge enough, I present to you:
The store-bought Big Sky Bakery Garlic Focaccia contains unbleached wheat flour, water, honey, corn syrup, yeast, salt, olive oil and garlic.
The homemade, Food-Network-recipe-with-minor-tweaks focaccia contains:
2 tsp. rapid-rising dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 Tbsp. sugar
3 ½ to 4 cups flour
¼ cup olive oil
a dusting of cornmeal
And it’s topped with:
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 diced onion
2 minced garlic cloves
A handful of green olives
¼ cup Parmesan
1 Tbsp. coarse salt
2 Tbsp. rosemary
Also, it should be noted that if you don’t have either a stand mixer with a dough hook OR bionic arms, you should probably pass on this recipe. It requires ample amounts of kneading and mixing.
Okay, to get rolling: Mix the warm water and sugar and yeast in your stand mixer bowl, stir it until everything dissolves and then let it hang out until you start to see foam. Yum.
Now, start up your mixer on low and start adding flour, slowly. You’ll get a dry-ish dough. Now, dissolve the salt in 2 Tbsp. of water, and add it, and go ahead and toss in that ¼ cup of olive oil too. Now crank it up to medium speed. For the next 10 or so minutes, all you have to do is stand back and behold the wonder of the dough hook. If you feel like the stand mixer is getting the better workout, feel free to grab a few cans of chickpeas or something and do a few bicep curls. But not too many — you only have 10-ish minutes. If the dough is a little sticky, toss in a bit of extra flour. Once that dough is all smooth and elastic, stop the mixer, turn your focaccia-to-be out to a floured surface and give it a few quick, firm fold-and-kneads. See? You get a workout too.
toss gently lay the dough in an oiled bowl, turn it around so everything gets oily, then cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap and let it hang out on the stove above the pilot light or in a warm spot for about 45 minutes. When it’s done rising, it’ll look like this:
Okay! Now, get a baking sheet out —sorry for all the dishes — and spray it with some cooking spray, then dust it with cornmeal. Grab your giant dough ball and roll/stretch it out to a ½-in.-thick rectangle-ish shape. This doesn’t require a rolling pin or anything. It’s SUPER easy. Put the dough on the baking sheet and let it rest for 15 minutes. While it does that, toss your chopped onion in a pan with a bit of oil and caramelize it up. Chop up the garlic and olives. Crush the rosemary with a mortar and pestle. (One of my favorite kitchen gadgets, even though I rarely have reason to use it.)
Almost done! After the 15 minutes are up, dimple the dough with your fingertips, so it has little craters that the toppings can settle into. Then brush it with olive oil, and sprinkle on the onions, garlic, olives, Parmesan, salt, pepper and rosemary. Or, you know, whatever toppings you happen to like. Sun-dried tomatoes? Mmmm. Sharp cheddar cheese? OK! Dried apricots and cranberries and walnuts? Whatever makes you happy. Stick that bad boy in the oven (preheated to 400 degrees) and bake it for 15 to 20 minutes.
Congratulations. You have made focaccia.
Time and Cost Comparison
I found the store-bought focaccia in the bakery section of our local grocery store. There were actually several options, but all of them had just garlic as a topping, so I chose the one that looked the most delicious. It cost $3.99.
The homemade focaccia took about 1 hr., 45 minutes to prepare, but more than an hour of that was letting it rise and bake — in other words, I read my book and Rob watched football. The total cost comes out to $3.07.
Both of these products have ingredients that I know, can pronounce and can identify in a lineup. That’s pretty impressive.
Well, both are white breads, so there’s that. The store-bought, because it came from the bakery, didn’t have any nutritional information. The homemade, cut into 16 pieces, has 166 calories, 6 grams of fat, 922 mg sodium, 24 grams carbs and 4 grams protein per piece.
A two-person taste test was conclusive: homemade takes the cake, so to speak. The store-bought foccacia is definitely tasty; the deciding factor was texture. Store-bought was soft and squishy, mile-high, and the top crust, with its layer of chopped, cooked garlic, was a bit soggy. Whereas the homemade was slimmer, drier, with a soft bit of bread between a toasty crust on the top and a little cornmeal crunch along the bottom. Mmmmmmmm. However, the store-bought could probably be salvaged with a quick stint below the broiler.
3. It’s easy, but you can’t wander far from the kitchen for a couple of hours. Bring a book. Turn on the tube. You’ll get through.
DIY or Buy
A definitive DIY. Wait for a spare afternoon (after all, it’s not like you need fococcia every day) and then make yourself up a batch. It’s relaxing, it makes your kitchen smell awesome, you can totally customize it with your toppings of choice and you get to play with dough. Plus, you know, it tastes good. Go do it. Then come back here and tell me how it turned out.