Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'd swim in that stuff..........

I had been thinking about focaccia bread for a while but a great looking recipe didn't come to me until about a week ago. A large majority of my TV watching is consumed by of course the food network, so when i saw this on "Secrets of a Restaurant Chef" I had to give it a try. Fairly easy and absolutely drown in olive oil, this bread is a real winner. After taking a few bites my own father gave it his bread lovers seal of approval by saying, "I'd swim in that stuff." If that's not the best compliment to give about a piece bread, then I don't know what is.

  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus coarse sea salt, for sprinkling
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided


Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm, not hot or cool, place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic, at least 15 minutes.

In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 1/2 cup olive oil and the yeast mixture on low speed. Once the dough has come together, continue to knead for 5 to 6 minutes on a medium speed until it becomes smooth and soft. Give it a sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.

Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface, then knead it by hand 1 or 2 times. Again, give it another sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.

Coat the inside of the mixer bowl lightly with olive oil and return the dough to the bowl. Cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, at least 1 hour.

Coat a jelly roll pan with the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil. (Chef's Note: This may seem excessive, but focaccia is an oily crusted bread. This is why it is soooooooooo delicious!).

Put the dough onto the jelly roll pan and begin pressing it out to fit the size of the pan. Turn the dough over to coat the other side with the olive oil. Continue to stretch the dough to fit the pan. As you are doing so, spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough. (Chef's Note: Yes, this is strange. But when the dough rises again it will create the characteristic craggy looking focaccia. If you do not make the actual holes in the dough, the finished product will be very smooth.)

Put the dough in the warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. While the dough is rising a second time, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with some coarse sea salt and lightly drizzle a little oil on top. Bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

It Hit the Spot......

The past weeks I had expressed to my Mother that I would love to make a fruit tart. I had never made one before and it sounded particularly delicious at the time. Valentine's Day approached and after an outing with my sister, my parents came home from lunch with some treats. Not expecting much other than candy, I ignored the Williams-Sonoma bag that sat on the counter. A few minutes later my mom brought the bag to me saying "This is for you too!". A smile spread widely across my face because I knew, if it is from Williams-Sonoma it has to be good! There I sat with a perfectly new tart pan in my lap. Only a few moments later did I begin to make the tart that would definitely hit the spot.

Vanilla tart with Nutmeg crust and Berries

  • 7 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1. Position rack in lower third of oven. Preheat to 350 F. In medium bowl combine butter, sugar, vanilla, salt, and nutmeg. Add flour; mix just until well blended. If dough is too soft, let stand a few minutes to firm up.

2. Evenly press dough on bottom and sides of a 9-to 9 1/2 inch square or round tart pan in a thin layer. (This takes patience, as there is just enough dough.) Refrigerate 30 minutes to firm the dough.

3.Place pan on baking sheet. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until crust is a deep golden brown, checking after 15 minutes. If dough has puffed from bottom of pan, prick a few times and gently press down with back of a fork. Cool pan on wire rack.

Vanilla Filling:

  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 cups half and half
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Any berries of your choice
In heavy medium saucepan whisk sugar, cornstarch, and salt to blend. Add 3 Tbsp half and half and whisk to form a smooth paste. Whisk in remaining half and half. Using a wooden spoon, stir constantly over medium heat, scraping bottom, sides, and corners until filling thickens and begins to bubble. Cook and stir 1 minute more to fully cook cornstarch. Stir in vanilla extract. Immediately pour into crust and spread evenly. Cool 1 hour, uncovered, at room temperature. Refrigerate in covered container to cool completely.

After cooling, place berries on top and enjoy.

Recipe Adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens