Friday, January 11, 2013

Focaccia as an Antipasto - Focaccia Tutti I Giorni


 I'm cookin now!!!  The other night I cooked for my first 5 course authentic Italian Dinner.  Antipasto, Primo, Secondo, Contorno and Dolce... Dolce is dessert, Contorno is the Vegetable, Secondo is the main course or meat course, Primo is the pasta or soup course and the Antipasto is the Pre-APPETIZER course.

The goal of an antipasto course is to establish a relaxed non rushed plan for the meal.  The antipasto should be portable (suitable for a quick grab, not served on plates, although plates and forks can be made available, like a buffet line).  Ideally an antipasto is not served at the same table as the rest of the meal.  Grab a piece of something, move about, talk to the rest of the folks at the party... relax.  Perfect time to make sure guests have a drink in their hand and know where the bottles are.  Ideally, think Tuscan sunset, row of twinkle lights and the antipasto on the patio...

Or, in my case, we have a bar between the kitchen and dining room.  Perfect place for me to work on the pasta course, have everyone gather around their bar stools and talk Italian cooking!  This way I can continue to prep and cook the meal and still e a part of the party.

Like these little bread sticks I made for the Antipasto... Herbs and Sea Salt, Caramelized Onion and the star of the course was the sweet Blueberry Focaccia Bread!


In the spirit of the evening, I just mounded them up on a decorative pizza peel, served some wine and water (one of the guests was 9 months pregnant, January 24 is her scheduled delivery date).  We ate a bit, visited a bit, talked babies for a bit and the whole while I got to prep the fresh pasta and still be a part of the fun.  Not many formal dining rooms in Italy, all rooms seem to link to the kitchen.

Focaccia - A soft flatbread, related to a pizza.  A yeast dough recipe, hand pressed flat, dimpled and covered in Olive Oil and toppings.  the ingredients are basically the same as pizza dough, but LOTS more Olive Oil is used in focaccia dough.  Focaccia is thicker and chewier, almost spongy.  After the dough is pressed into a jelly roll pan, the bread is dimpled with your fingertips, leaving more holes for oil to collect.

This stuff is GREAT!

 All three bread used the same formula, just different toppings.  The first, the Herb and Sea Salt is the classic Focaccia Bread suitable for Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar dipping.  But really, with so much baked oil in the bread, best to just serve and enjoy as is...  Remember, portable.


Here's what I did...


Basic FOCACCIA Bread with Herbs and Sea Salt
(Focaccia Tutti I Giorni)


Ingredients
  • 2-1/2 tsp Yeast
  • 1-1/4 Cups Warm Water
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • 3-3/4 Cups Flour
  • 1 Large Pinch of Salt
  • 1 Cup, divided, Olive Oil
  • 4 Large Basil Leaves cut into ribbons Chiffonade style
  • 2 TBS Coarse grain Sea Salt
Cooking Directions
  1. In the Mixing bowl of a stand mixer, with the dough hook attachment, mix yeast water and sugar. Mix on low for 3 minutes.
  2. Add 1/2 Cup of Olive Oil, 3-1/4 Cups Flour and a pinch of salt. Use the stand mixer on low for about five minutes to mix and knead the dough until it forms a smooth dough ball. If after 5 minutes, the dough is too sticky (it should be a little tacky, but not sticky), add more flour until you get the consistency needed).
  3. Remove from the stand mixer and place in a bowl that has been greased with a bit of Olive Oil.
  4. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and set in a warm spot of the kitchen for 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
  5. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  6. Punch the dough down and move to a jelly roll pan that has been lined with a sheet of parchment paper. Flatten out the dough.
  7. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Flour around the top of the bread and start tapping like you are on a typewriter. all around, leaving dimples.
  8. Cover with a damp dishtowel for 1 hour for the final rise.
  9. One more time, poke with your fingertips to dimple the bread...Pour 1/2 cup of Olive Oil. Sprinkle with the course sea salt and the herbs.
  10. Bake for 5 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 and bake for an additional 20 minutes, until golden brown and delicious.
  11. Rest the bread for 10 minutes before cutting.
  12. Serve warm and ENJOY!

But wait... As good as this is (and it indeed is GOOD), a single style of bread would be a sad Antipasto.

So, let's make choices...

Oh, but easy choices, only a slight bit of chopping and a slight it of sauteing and a slight bit of mixing and I have three choices...

I made the bread same is in the recipe above. But instead of one big bread, I divided the dough into thirds before I started dimpling.

I prepped the first to make the herb/sea salt focaccia.  The second, I sauteed some sliced red onions for only about 5 minutes.  just enough to soften (they finish caramelizing in the oven).

In place of sea salt and herbs, I just spread out the onions into the dimples and then added the Olive Oil.

Bake the same as the basic focaccia.

So I have an herbal salty bread
and
a savory onion-y bread...

Two choices, but I had another idea to try...


And my third became the star of the show...

BEAUTIFUL dramatic colors as the blueberries burst during cooking, spreading their sweetened tangy goodness throughout the dough!

Again, from the basic recipe above, I divided the dough into thirds (Sea Salt/Herb and Caramelized Onion) and now I made a sweet almost (could be) dessert bread which everyone wanted to grab a bite and became the talk of the Antipasto (after all, the antipasto is a place for attitudes to be set... talking and looking forward to the tastes).

So, again, very simple.

1/4 Cup of fresh Blueberries
2 TBS Olive Oil
2 TBS Sugar

Mix well and allow to marinade for 1 hour

And again, prepare the dough as in the basic recipe.  After the second dimpling, add the berries, spreading them into the dimples.

Bake as directed and...

As always... ENJOY!


You will be hearing more about the night... Pasta with a lemon cream sauce, Brick oven Chicken, a terrible vegetable dish (4 out of 5 courses were a success) and a simple Peaches and Cream dessert.

But for the Antipasto course, this was perfect!  Great tasting and certainly set the tone for a fun evening.

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So,  I am pleased to list this as one of my Growing list of  "52 Authentic Italian Recipes"!!!

Well over 52 recipes actually as I just can't stop. The world's most popular cuisine, authentic, natural, organic, Farm to Table... the Italians started, perfected or embraced it before it became a fad. This page is a guide to Italian Cooking... For the home cook!  So, Cin Cin (toast) and Buon Appetito (Enjoy your Meal) to you all and let's Cook authentic Italian!

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