Tomato Focaccia

Hi, Friends.
I was feeling a little uninspired and stressed this week, thinking I didn't have time to make anything fun; thinking: What can possibly follow up the lovely/horrible aspic and irreverent/delicious crack pie anyway? But working on an essay for another endeavor, I came across the following lines about making bread from M.F.K. Fisher's How to Cook a Wolf, and though I know that much has been said on the beauty of the bread-making process, I think Fisher really nailed it all the way back in 1942:

It does not cost much... It is pleasant: one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with peace, and the house filled with one of the world's sweetest smells. But it takes a lot of time. If you can find that, the rest is easy. And if you cannot rightly find it, make it, for probably there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel, that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread.

I decided on focaccia as my medium into this bread-making promised land where no bad thoughts live, and this recipe from Gourmet as I've had it bookmarked for a couple of years now.

our version:
It should be noted that boiling a lone potato emits a delicious, savory smell. I ought to do this more often.
As always, nothing quite compares to the way the scent of freshly baked bread fills the apartment.
Gourmet says that this particular recipe for focaccia is "so light it's almost cakelike," and I would almost agree except that I substituted the called-for 00 flour with regular all-purpose flour. From what I've gathered, 00 flour is typically an Italian flour that has less protein and behaves in a friendlier, lighter, and airier way. Next time, I'll have to try it. This time, however, all purpose flour worked and the resulting focaccia was still very delicious if not lighter than most focaccias I've had.

Now, I know I don't normally use this forum to share events beyond my adventures in food and sometimes, as these adventures relate to my mom and grandma, but while we're talking about inspiration, can I tell you about Freelance Whales? They are my new Loney DearI know I never told you all about Loney Dear, but let's just say that I like Loney Dear very much, particularly live. So this was a week I needed a little extra nudging, a little extra hopefulness from literature, food and music. So thank you, M.F.K. Fisher, Gourmet, Mr. Tomato Focaccia, and Freelance Whales. You've all pitched in to make this post happen.





This also happened.

RECIPE via Gourmet
Adapted from Lucia Eriquez Castellana

1 (1/2-lb) Yukon Gold potato, peeled and quartered
1 cup warm water (105-115°F)
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 teaspoons active dry yeast (from two 1/4-oz packages)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 1/2 cups “00” flour, divided
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
1/2 lb plum tomatoes, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

a stand mixer with paddle and dough-hook attachments

Generously cover potato with salted cold water (1 teaspoon salt for 3 cups water) in a small heavy saucepan and simmer, uncovered, until just tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and cool slightly, then mash until smooth.

Stir together warm water and sugar in bowl of mixer. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.)

Add potato and 1/4 cup oil to yeast and beat with paddle attachment at medium speed until combined, about 2 minutes. Remove paddle attachment and attach dough hook, then beat in 4 cups flour and 1 tablespoon sea salt at medium-high speed until combined well, about 3 minutes. (Dough will be very soft and sticky.)

Transfer to a well-floured surface and knead in remaining 1/4 cup flour with lightly floured hands until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. (Dough will still be very soft and sticky.)

Scrape dough into a lightly oiled large bowl and cover bowl with oiled plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Generously oil a 15- by 10- by 1-inch baking pan.

Punch down dough (do not knead) and transfer to baking pan, then gently stretch to cover as much of bottom as possible (dough may not fit exactly).

Cover dough with oiled plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in lower third.

Arrange tomatoes on focaccia (do not overlap), then sprinkle with oregano and remaining 1/4 teaspoon sea salt and drizzle with remaining 1/4 cup oil.

Bake until center is firm, top is pale golden, and underside is golden (lift to check), 20 to 25 minutes.

Loosen focaccia from pan with a spatula and slide onto a rack to cool slightly. Cut into pieces and serve warm or at room temperature.

Cooks’ note: Focaccia is best eaten the day it is made but can be baked 1 day ahead and kept, wrapped in foil, in a sealed bag at room temperature. If desired, reheat, uncovered, in a 350°F oven until just heated through, about 10 minutes.
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Rachel said...

yours looks better than Gourmets! way to go!

Ana Degenaar said...

I love focaccia and I love tomatoes... Making this TODAY! thanks so much for sharing!

abby said...

You make bread seem so easy! I've had those little yeast packets sitting in my cupboard for far too long, this recipe makes me think now is as good a time as any.

amelia said...

Thanks, ladies! & abby: it really is easy. Maybe I've had beginners luck, but those little yeast packets have always "foamed" for me even though recipes make it sound like they often don't.

Matthew said...

This was sooooo good! I had no idea until you told me that there was a potato involved??

sara said...

that looks delicious, and i too am curious about the potato?

surfas carries 00 flour and we have found it makes quite a difference in the homemade pasta endeavor. next time, come over and borrow a cup.

Mark and Marsha said...

Love the M.F.K. Fisher quote; love the Tomato Focaccia; and it looks like you have a mean left hook.

seesaw designs said...

as always, looks delicious. love the animated gif ;)

Mary Anne said...

amerz, i forgot to tell you that I've made about 6 loaves of bread over the last two weeks! crazy, huh? we've been into bread at the same time. i'll have to tell you more about it... THIS WEEKEND IN SEATTLE!! YAAAAYYYY!!

Your foccacia looks gorgeous. Almost as pretty as you.

Adam H. '