Sunday, September 12, 2010


Foccacia is a close relative of pizza and pissaladiere. It just sounds fancier.

This was a really expensive way to use half a can of olives and less than two cups of bread flour. I counterbalanced the expense of the pesto by buying string cheese sticks for the mozzarella. A one-ounce cheese stick is 33¢. Eight ounces of shredded mozzarella is $3.49. Do the math.

Up until now, all my recipes have called for "Flour", meaning All-Purpose Flour, which is on the softer side and adapts to many uses. Softer flours like pastry and cake flour have less gluten, meaning less chance of overmixing and getting a tough product. Self-rising flour is a waste of money because recipes hardly ever call for it, and even then you don't really need it. Just use twice as much baking powder as what the recipe calls for. Bread flour is harder, produces more gluten strands, and can therefore support the weight of pizza toppings. It is also left to rise longer than the average dough, to develop texture. Some foccacia recipes have the dough rise twice before shaping. I don't like sourdough, so I'm opting for the shorter fermentation time.

Technically, I'm calling this four portions, but if you don't have any side dishes, expect it to serve two. Or, cut into strips and serve as an appetizer.

1/2 C warm water
1 tsp yeast (1/2 packet)
1 tsp honey
1 Tb olive oil + more for brushing
*approx 1-1/2 C bread flour
1 tsp salt
*cornmeal (For a later discussion. Suffice it to say, there's a lot)

1 small eggplant
1/4 C pesto
*4 oz olives, preferably niçoise
4 oz shredded mozzarella

1. In a bowl, stir together water, yeast, honey, and olive oil. Let sit 5 minutes to activate yeast.

2. Preheat oven to 350º. Cut off top of eggplant and slice in half lengthwise. Rub lightly with a few drops of olive oil. Bake for 1-1/4 hrs, until soft.

3. While eggplant is baking, stir 1/2 C flour into yeast and water to make a batter. Beat in another 1/2 C flour and the salt to make dough. Transfer to lightly floured board and knead until smooth, adding as little flour as possible. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl and let rise, covered for 1-1/4 hrs.

4. When eggplant is mushy, remove from oven. When it's cool enough, scoop out insides with a spoon and chop coarsely.

5. When dough has at least doubled, punch down and transfer to bread board. Let rest 10 min.

6. Scatter cornmeal on a baking sheet. Don't skimp, or the foccacia will stick. Gently stretch dough into a rectangle-ish shape approx 8" by 12". It will shrink back a bit, but that's OK. Transfer to baking sheet and patch any holes. No one will see them. It's our secret. Rub lightly with a few drops of olive oil and let rise for 30 minutes.

7. Preheat oven to 425º. To top: Smear top with pesto. You can use a brush or your hands (just wash them first!). You can go all the way to the very edge, unless you want some crust. I put the cheese on last, but I think it looks better to put it on next. After that, add your chopped eggplant and the olives. I sliced my olives in half, but whole is just fine. Bake for 25 minutes, until it starts to brown and the cheese is melted and a little toasty. Serve hot.

Difficulty rating  :-0

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