Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Focaccia and then Some!

Focaccia is a flat (baked) bread from Italy that is similar to pizza dough and usually prepared with simple toppings such as rosemary and salt, sautéed onions and peppers, or fresh tomatoes and olives. The bread is spongy and chewy and can stand on it's own or feature the toppings.
We grew up on focaccia, that is, my siblings and me. My father would make it in batches of three for the restaurant as a special and while he frequently baked different breads, there was no doubt when he was preparing focaccia. He'd spend hours making the sponge and then the dough, in between his other chores. We knew we were getting close to nearly ready when we'd see the focaccia filled tins draped with rags on their final rise.
The focaccia would bake with a specific aroma... which I learned was the toppings..
Here's my father slicing the focaccia before a family meal.

And one batch of his classic focaccia just moments before being devoured.
Focaccia has a tender crust and chewy bite, but doesn't keep well. And like breads, there are many ways to eat it, although slicing a wedge and snacking is by far my favorite.
But, if you find yourself with leftover focaccia and can't stand another plain bite, try it some other ways:
  • Take a wedge and use it as a sandwich bread, but slicing it in half and filling it with meats, cheeses, and vegetables.
  • Slice a wedge into tiny squares, toast and make croutons to top your salad.
  • Slice a wedge and top with a slice of cheese and broil
  • Smear a slice with Nutella hazelnut spread for a dessert.
  • Cube a slice and add them to a salad bowl with extra vinegar, chopped onions and raw vegetables to make a quick panzanella salad.
  • Slice focaccia into long pieces and toast to make impromptu breadsticks.
  • Freeze leftover focaccia and then use to make stuffing for Thanksgiving or any poultry dish. The toppings from the focaccia will add additional flavors to your stuffing recipe.
Here's a link to Chef Nancy Silverton's basic focaccia recipe. Warning, it's not a quick recipe and it's not without work. You have to make a sponge starter, then the dough, with times to let it rise. It'll take a few days and be extraordinary, but it is work.

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