All this talk of me not being a baker and my last couple posts have been nothing but- (cheater) chocolate lava cake, (ultra quick) peach pie, seasonal galette and now this. Dare I say, I’m… learning? Maybe baking and I will be friends after all…
Fresh bread. Soft and warm, crispy with olive oil, bursts of salt on the tongue. I mean, I’m a carb monster but come on. Focaccia has got to be like, the most sensual of breads. It’s downright sexy. Yep, I’ll go there. It is a sexy, sensual bread. (queue me whipping out my graphics tablet and drawing some saucy fishnetted legs on my bread pictures… ah, maybe not)
Like all good Italian food, we’re not using low fat shortcuts here. Yes, a cup of olive oil. Don’t cut it down, that is the whole point of focaccia- its pure pleasure. Crispy yellow crust, the inside light as a feather. Nothing about this bread fights back, it just melts on the tongue. It begs to be made into a sandwich, piled high with roasted veggies and goat cheese or dipped in yet more olive oil and some balsamic vinegar.
Or, better yet, given a spoon or two of fresh olive tapenade.
Growing up in Victoria, BC, my favourite restaurant was Il Terrazzo. Aside from the beautiful exposed brick terrace and generally amazing Italian food, I loved the complimentary starter: fresh focaccia and olive tapenade. Their lovely tapenade has become an icon for those who frequent the Victoria food scene, so I decided it was high time I attempted my own.
I have my own spreadable tapenade recipe, but I wanted something chunkier for a side to my focaccia. I wanted something just like Il Terrazzo made. With that in mind, in a moment of boldness, I emailed the restaurant about their recipe. I was clearly not the first person to do so as the manager emailed me back almost immediately with an itemized list of what they include. Amazing! No proportions, that was for me to work out, but I have to thank wonderful Rob at wonderful Il Terrazzo for being, well, wonderful.
So I went to work, like a scientist in a lab. Taste, taste, bit more of this- oof, less of that. If high school science had been more like this, I might not have dropped it the second I was allowed to (to be fair, I did do AP Environmental Science- disasters! waste! and Geology 12- also known as ‘rocks for jocks’… except I am the complete opposite of a jock).
I am hosting family Christmas this year and let me tell you… Imma save a lot of money serving this as nibblies to all my extended family. (whoa. WHOA. Did you just bring up Christmas?!?! Dude, it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, hold yer horses, woman)
It’s decadent, delicious and I can make it all in advance. I get brownie points for making it all from scratch aaaaaand making all this myself means I have more money to spend on things like goat cheese and wine. And… presents? Nah, cheese and wine. (we don’t have any nieces, nephews or grandchildren yet in my family so we’re in that nevernever zone of an all-adult Christmastime. It’s somewhat less exciting and magical and generally involves a lot more booze and poncy food.)
|Rosemary Rock Salt Focaccia with Coarse Olive Tapenade|| |
- 1¾ 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
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives
- 1 cup pimento stuffed Manzanilla olives
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tbsp sundried tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 Tbsp capers
- 1 chipotle pepper in adobo
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Combine 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, ½ 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 large baking sheet with the remaining ½ cup olive oil. (trust me, don't skimp the oil, this is what makes focaccia as delicious as it is)
- Put the dough onto the baking sheet and press 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. (Yes, this is weird, but when the dough rises again it will create the characteristic craggy looking focaccia.)
- 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.
- To make the tapenade: place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until chopped into a coarse paste. Taste and adjust for seasoning as needed.