Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Ask Lauren is Back!

Wow this "Ask Lauren" is so far overdue it's not even funny...well, maybe a little bit funny.  Ok, not really.  Anyway, a friend and colleague of mine (Hi Jennifer!) gave me a recipe for focaccia months ago...so long ago that I can't even remember when it was anymore.  Her problem:  baking with yeast.  It can be tricky, and I've definitely had my flops (literally) with it in the past, but there is a secret to making sure your bread recipes will turn out everytime. 

First secret...don't use a packet of yeast that has been sitting in your pantry forever.  Yes, it can go bad.  Not sure if your yeast is good?  Proof it!  (see below)

Second secret...water temperature while "proofing" the yeast.  Proofing is when you "prove" that the yeast is still active before you prove it with a loaf of bread that refuses to rise.  Follow your recipe (most call for proofing but don't call it proofing...did you follow that?) but basically you will be using very warm (usually between 100 and 120 degrees) water and sugar (amounts vary by recipe) which you will mix together and then pour the yeast on top.  Wait 10 minutes and see if your yeast bubbles.  Bubbles=good yeast, continue with your recipe.  No bubbles=bad yeast, try again with a fresh packet.  No bubbles could also indicate that your water was too hot (killed the yeast) or too cool (didn't activate it) so use a candy thermometer to test your water temp if you think that might be the problem.  (Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the proofing process...this is what happens when I get excited while baking...sigh.)

So...here we go...focaccia!!  (The recipe just called it focaccia (low-fat) but I'm jazzin' it up a bit...)

Rosemary Parmesan Focaccia

2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose or bread flour
2 Tbls. chopped fresh or 1 Tbls. dried rosemary leaves, crumbled
1 Tbls. sugar
1 tsp. salt1 pkg. regular or quick active dry yeast (I used Hodgson Mill fast rise active dry yeast packets)
3 Tbls. olive or vegetable oil (I used EVOO)
1 cup very warm water (120 degrees)
2 Tbls. olive or vegetable oil (I used EVOO)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Step 1:  Break out your sweet candy apple red Kitchen Aid mixer (don't have one? a hand mixer works too) and mix 1 cup of the flour, rosemary, sugar, salt, and yeast in a large bowl.  Add 3 Tbls of oil and warm water.  (This is when you could choose to proof your yeast.  Instead of putting all ingredients together, mix water and sugar in a separate bowl and pour yeast over top, let stand 10 minutes, when bubbly you know it's good and can pour the whole mixture in with the other ingredients.)

Step 2:  Beat with electric mixer on medium speed (I used dough hook on speed 2) for 3 minutes, scraping bowl frequently.  Stir in enough remaining flour until dough is soft and leaves sides of bowl.

Step 3:  Place dough on lightly floured surface.  Knead 5-8 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy.  Or, if you're lazy like me, using the dough hook again, leave it in your mixer for another 5 minutes, adding just a touch of flour.  Place dough in large bowl greased with shortening (I used cooking spray), turning dough to grease all sides.  Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise in warm place about 30 minutes or until almost double.  Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.

Note:  Great trick for rising dough...turn your oven on set to 400 degrees for 1 minute.  Turn oven off, place bowl with dough (covered) in oven and close the door.  This is a perfect environment for rising.  Just don't forget to turn the oven off after just one minute!!

Step 4:  Grease 2 cookie sheets or 12-inch pizza pans with small amount of oil (or cooking spray in my case).  Gently push fist into dough to deflate.  Divide dough in half.  Shape each half into a flattened 10-inch round on a cookie sheet. 

Cover loosely with plastic wrap lightly sprayed with cooking spray and let rise in warm place about 30 minutes or until double.

Step 6:  Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Gently make depressions about 2 inches apart in dough with fingers.

Carefully brush with 2 Tbls. oil; sprinkle with parmesan cheese. 

Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. 

Serve warm or cool.

Look at that beautiful focaccia!  Mmmmm...we had some that night with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper and parmesan cheese for dipping. 

I also gave a loaf to my sister (I called it Birthday Focaccia for her...haha!) and she made a sandwich with it.  Tomato, cucumber, and a little garden veggie cream cheese...oh yumm.

Give it a shot folks...baking with yeast really can be very rewarding! :)  Happy baking!

1 comment:

  1. Sounds yummy! And do not forget how important it is to eat Focaccia with the appropriate bread dipping plates!