Chapter 27 of the book is focused on the importance of daily bread in village life in San Gusme. Each day, the ladies (and Vezio) would wait for the delivery of fresh bread from a local forno (or bakery) that created the most delicious wood-fired and rustic bread. As the little white van pulled in through the door of the village, everyone was planning (in their head) their first and second choice of bread for the day. It was never certain what bread might be available when it was your turn to peek into the back of the van and decide what you needed for the day.
One of my favorite breads was (and still is) focaccia. I've been experimenting with different ways to make focaccia now that we are back in Minnesota. The recipe for this is featured on page 329 of the book.
The classic way to make focaccia is described in the recipe. With a crisp, salty crust and moist interior, focaccia is the perfect bread for a panino or sandwich. Vincenzo loves to layer Swiss cheese and mortadella inside focaccia for his favorite panino. I love to put a drizzle of olive oil with fresh cut tomato and mozzarella.
A few weeks ago, I made focaccia as a white pizza topped with grated pecorino cheese and thin slices of pear. For a fun twist, I added the zest of one lemon over the top of the pears and finished it with a drizzle of olive oil and Gardenaire's Love in a Tuscan Kitchen herb blend. The blend is a mixture containing rosemary, sea salt, lemon peel, sage, thyme, lavender, oregano, and basil. All of my favorite herbs! The pears with the pecorino cheese is a beautiful combination and the lemon zest added a nice fresh flavor to the cheese. Before serving, I love to add freshly chopped pistachios.
I'd love to hear from you if you have made the recipe. I've noticed a couple of photos on the Facebook page, so I can see that others are trying the recipes in the book. Please share here on the blog as well!
Here is the recipe as it is written in the book...
3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 cup warm water
1 packet active dry yeast (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tsp. sea salt (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
In a large mixing bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Next place the warm (not too hot) water in a small bowl and sprinkle the yeast, followed by the sugar. Let this sit for 5-7 minutes (or longer if needed) to allow the yeast to bloom. Add the olive oil to the water, yeast, sugar mixture and then mix into the flour with a spoon. You can also use a mixer with a hook attachment, but I keep it simple and stir for 5 minutes with a spoon.
The dough should be a bit wet, so keep adding water if the dough has too much flour. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let sit in a warm place for 2-3 hours.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Next, place the dough in an oiled round or rectangular baking pan (or two, depending on how thin you press it out and your toppings). Form into the shape and size you want with oiled fingers.
I would sometimes leave it quite thick (about an inch or so high), and it would create a bread that you can use for sandwiches. A thinner pressed dough (about ¼ inch high) was pefect as a main dish, like a pizza. Cover and let rise again for about 45 minutes.
For a traditional focaccia, push indentations throughout the dough with your fingers (wet them first). Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the dough and sprinkle sea salt and chopped fresh rosemary.
Bake in oven at 425 degrees for 25 minutes or until bottom crust is crisp and top is golden brown.
I usually put a pan of water on the very lowest part of the oven to create a steam oven, which makes the bread moist inside and crisp outside. This recipe also adapts well to toppings to make a white pizza, such as sliced pears and pecorino cheese, topped with pistachios and honey, zucchini flowers and mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and oregano. Experiment with your favorite toppings.