Olive Focaccia

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Well, this hasn’t been the most relaxing Spring Break I’ve ever experienced. For some reason, our program decided the rough drafts of our Master’s Projects were due this week and then I had to grade a bunch of undergraduate policy memos. Luckily, I did find some time to bake!

I’ve been kind of obsessed with kalamata olives lately. Growing up, I only ever had the canned California black olives (which are fine), but I really like the briny bitterness of kalamatas. So, I decided to try an olive focaccia, which is really just plain old focaccia with a bunch of olives stuck on top.

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I used to make my bread doughs in the food processor to save time and effort kneading them by hand. However, I made the pita bread dough last week and this focaccia dough by hand, and I actually think I like it better. It does take a little longer to knead the dough by hand, but it’s somehow more satisfying and even calming. I seem to get better results this way, too.

I used half all-purpose flour and half bread flour for this recipe, but it would be delicious if you only used on or the other as well.

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Anyway, this recipe turned out a huge loaf of focaccia, so I know what I’ll be eating for the next several days (lots of great sandwiches!). Next time I think I’ll add some chopped rosemary into the dough.

Olive Focaccia
Adapted from A Spicy Perspective

Ingredients

1 3/4 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)

2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

2 teaspoons honey

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups bread flour

2/3 cup pitted kalamata olives

Salt and pepper

Instructions

In a large bowl, combine the yeast and the warm water and let set for 5-10 minutes until the yeast is dissolved. Mix in the honey and the olive oil.

Add in the flour and salt. Mix until combined, then turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead from 5-10 minutes, or until your dough is smooth and elastic. Coat a bowl with olive oil, and place the ball of dough in the bowl, making sure to coat it with the olive oil in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

Punch down your dough and press the dough into a rectangle. Depending on how thick you want the final product, you can press it all the way to the edges of a rimmed cookie sheet or just freestyle like I did. Press dimples into the dough with your fingers. Place an olive in each dimple, pressing down as far as you can so that the olives don’t pop out while it’s baking. Cover the dough with a clean damp towel and let rise for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. When the dough is done rising, drizzle more olive oil over the top and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

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Link Roundup – March 15, 2013

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Happy Friday! I just sent in the rough draft of my master’s project to my advisor, so I’m feeling a bit less stressed. Here are a few great posts I came across over the past week or two:

Lindsay at Love and Olive Oil challenges herself (and us!) to attempt croissants.

Christina Marsigliese shares a recipe for Brown Butter Banana Bread–banana, brown butter, and chocolate? Yes please!

Mark Bittman and Mario Batali explain how to make good gnocchi, including a basic recipe and three flavor variations.

Joy the Baker featured toast this week, with lots of delectable-looking photos, especially the bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese.

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Pita Bread

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The first time I made pita bread, I was sixteen and had never really made any kind of bread before. I have to admit, I was somewhat skeptical that the flat disks of dough that I dutifully rolled out would end up with pockets in them. And yet, despite my lack of knowledge and my skepticism, many of the pitas turned out beautifully (and with pockets no less!).

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I’ve made pita several times since then, always baking them in the oven. This time around, I decided to go with the stovetop method. While both methods turn out delicious pitas (let’s face it, it’s hard to go wrong with bread), I like the stove method better. The stovetop pitas seem to turn out softer and more flexible than the oven ones, plus you get the great toasty flavor from the browned spots.

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A cast iron skillet is essential to make pitas on the stove—cast iron can hold the heat you need to create the steam that makes the pitas puff up. To be honest, I’m still amazed when the disks magically fill with air. Not all of my pitas fully puffed up, but they’re delicious without the pockets too. I like to eat them folded up with hummus, kalamata olives, and cherry tomatoes.

pitas-4I like to eat these folded up with hummus, kalamata olives, and cherry tomatoes. Next time I think I’ll substitute whole wheat flour for some of the all-purpose.

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Pita Bread
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest
Makes 8 pitas

Ingredients

1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

Place the water and yeast in a large bowl. Let stand for about 5 minutes or until the yeast has dissolved. Add the flour, salt, and olive oil and combine.

Sprinkle some flour across a clean surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead until smooth and elastic, 5-7 minutes, adding flour as necessary to prevent sticking.

Coat the inside of a large bowl with olive oil. Turn your ball of dough around in the bowl until it’s coated, then cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and place in a warm place to rise.

Let the dough rise until it has doubled (it usually takes mine about an hour and a half). Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces and form into balls. Roll out each ball into a thin disk, about 1/4 of an inch, adding a little flour if it starts to stick.

While you’re rolling out the pitas, preheat a cast iron skillet on the stove over medium-high heat. The pan should be pretty hot so that the pitas will puff up nicely. Coat the pan with a thin coat of olive oil.

Place a rolled-out pita in the pan and let cook for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until bubbles start to form. Flip over and cook the other side until toasted spots start to appear on the bottom. The pita should start puffing up. Flip the pita once more and cook for 1-2 minutes.

Remove the pita from the skillet and repeat with the remaining pitas.

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