Delicious recipes for the curious cook!
For the latest installment of the “date night in Venice” series, I’m highlighting one of the favorite dishes made in our Venetian nights cooking class: focaccia with herbs and olives. First, let me clarify that I don’t like baking with dough. I don’t love baking in general as much as I love cooking because it requires such precision and attention to detail, which I’ve learned the hard way can’t be forgone. But I really don’t love baking with dough for a number of other reasons. Cooking with yeast has often freaked me out and intimidated me, I’m not that patient so I don’t like waiting for the dough to rise and I just have never been able to get it right.
Boy did this class prove me wrong and I’m so glad it did because I truly loved this flavorful dish. The yeast was not as intimidating as I thought and thanks to the wonderful chefs guiding the class, it was helpful to understand the science behind working with it (the key is to buy packs of yeast, keep it in your freezer or fridge and when using, wait for it to take on a scum-like appearance before proceeding). Plus, once the yeast is added and the dough is made, there’s little left to the dish so it’s easy to prepare other parts of your meal while you wait for the dough to do it’s thing, which is what we did in class. The simple but powerful flavor combo of herbs and olives was light and tasty and the perfect addition to any Italian meal.
If you’ve been curious about working with dough but are intimidated, I highly recommend you give this a try!
Focaccia with Olives and Herbs
Yield: 4-6 servings as an appetizer or side
Active time: 25 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Focaccia Dough (recipe follows)
1/2 cup assorted pitted Italian olives, halved
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano, rough chopped
Maldon sea salt to taste
- Rub a quarter sheet tray, including the sides, generously with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
- Punch down the focaccia dough gently to deflate. Transfer the dough to the sheet tray. Use your fingertips to stretch the dough until it is an even thickness of about 1/4 inch. (It may not stretch all the way to the edges of the pan.)
- Gently press the olives, rosemary and oregano into the dough. Cover it with plastic wrap, and allow to rise about 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 400°.
- Remove the plastic, and dimple the dough all over with your fingertips. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the focaccia, and sprinkle with salt. Bake until light golden brown, about 25 minutes.
- Allow to cool, and then cut into squares to serve.
Yield: One quarter sheet tray
Active time: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups water, 110o to 120o
Pinch of granulated sugar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/3 cups bread flour
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Sprinkle the yeast on top of water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar, and stir gently until dissolved.
- Allow to proof until slightly foamy and aromatic to ensure the yeast is alive, about 5 minutes.
- Add oil, half of each flour and salt. Mix on medium-low speed with a dough hook until incorporated, scraping down the sides as necessary.
- Add most of the remaining flour, and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 6 minutes. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in flour as needed. It’s better to have a dough that’s a bit too wet than dry.
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead a few turns by hand, and then shape into a ball.
- Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap on top of the bowl, not touching the dough.
- Let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled, 60 to 75 minutes, or in the refrigerator overnight.
Recipe courtesy of The Chopping Block.