opinions on food and travels

Grape Foccacia: The Joy of Artisan Olive Oil Dough

I love bread.  It doesn't really matter which type of bread — I love it.  There are some kinds I enjoy more than others, but when it comes to the hypnotic smell of yeast and the contrast of a chewy crumb encased in a crunchy dark golden crust, I'm hopeless.

Nothing compares to home made bread.  Most of my adult life has been so busy, that as much as I've always made time to cook, baking was pushed aside.  The time to knead and proof a lovely loaf never fit into my plans.  To be honest, it's also because I have no patience for much of anything, and what I do have, I've learned over years of practice.  When you spend hours each day in front of energetic middle school kids who'd rather be anywhere than sitting in an English class, having a window to gaze out and the will to slowly count until your class is focused builds one's abilities in the patience department.  Trust me.  Invariably, one of my students would shush the rest in high dramatic fashion and hiss, "She's counting…"  Calm would materialize and the lesson would resume.  Ahhh….some very good memories there.

So what does all of this have to do with today?  Well, considering that the Internet was effectively saturated with Peter Rinehart's pizza dough yesterday due to the very fine Daring Bakers, I thought I'd share what I've been working with lately.

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Not too long ago, I purchased Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day after finding Zoe Bakes, an excellent site that is not only lovely visually, but packed with information and Zoe's cheerful personality.  The idea that I could make a batch of dough without getting my Kitchen Aid out of my cupboard and without a lot of mixing or kneading was definitely tempting.

Just mixed dough...

When the book arrived, I did something I rarely do:  I sat and read the information preceeding the master recipe knowing that if this was going to change the way I thought about how bread should be made, I'd have to do a bit of homework.  It was very helpful because it pointed out what I may be unfamiliar with or hesitant about and what I would expect.

So far, I've made only two batches of dough:  the master recipe and the olive oil recipe.  When I say batches, that means I have a large container of dough in my refrigerator that I take dough from over many days each time I want fresh bread for dinner.  There's enough for the three of us at dinner without having to wrap up and be tempted by a second piece when nobody's looking.

After the dough sits for a while...

Although I've got much practice to do in shaping my loaves, which usually resemble a traditional boule (no patience, remember?), the appearance of them does nothing to detract from their tastiness.  The next recipe to try is brioche in a loaf — with patience.

But I did make a foccacia using the Artesian olive oil recipe and my adaptation of one of Michael Chiarello's foccacia topping combinations.

Grapes, pine nuts, rosemary and lemon zest warmed in olive oil...

Foccacia with Concord Grapes & Pinenuts

1 qty. of Artesian Bread in Five Minutes a Day Olive Oil Dough

1 c. concord grapes, halved

2 T. toasted pine nuts

1 tsp. orange zest

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Gently shape the dough and let sit while the oven heats.  If you have a pizza stone, put that in the oven to heat as well. 

Tear off a piece of parchment and place it on the bottom of a baking sheet, then place the dough on it.  Gently shape into a disk about 8" in diameter. 

In a skillet, toast the pine nuts until just beginning to brown.  Pour into a bowl.  Put the olive oil in the still warm skillet and add the rosemary and orange zest, heating gently until aromatic.  Add the grapes and gently stir to barely mix ingredients.

Sprinkle the contents of the skillet onto the dough and scatter the pine nuts over.

Slide the parchment with the dough onto the pizza stone and bake until the crust is well browned, about 10-15 minutes depending on how thick the dough is.

Remove from oven and let cool on the pizza stone until ready to enjoy.  Drizzle on more olive oil before serving if you wish.

The grapes are sweet and the pine nuts lend a pleasant crunch...

Notes:

  • I don't do cookbook reviews, and don't consider this one even though I'd be hard pressed to avoid telling you outright to get this book.  I just wanted to share my enthusiasm for a new technique I'm really learning quite a bit with and whose results for me have been so pleasing, I can see having a container of dough in my fridge on a regular basis.
  • I'd seen Chiarello's foccacia recipe for years in one of my cookbooks and was never sure about baking grapes.  Who knew?  I've seen so many amazing recipes this fall containing grapes — everything from pies to seafood, and I can now say I've enjoyed quite a few of them.
  • Concord grapes have seeds.  I know.  But I've never minded them and they're so worth the flavor you get from the grape.  The original calls for red grapes, which are seedless.
  • If I'd thought about the toppings a bit longer (patience?) I'd have artfully placed them on the dough, then drizzled the oil over.  I'd definitely have had a much less rustic looking foccacia.  But I like rustic.
  • The olive oil dough from Zoe's book is very good, and the batch lasts quite a long time in the fridge so you can have all kinds of fun with it over the course of days a little at a time.  The flavor develops marvellously in that time which makes it all the better.
  • If you have questions about the method used in the book, or the dough in general, they are all graciously answered

Enjoy a slice with some fresh ricotta and a drizzle of good olive oil...