Since I have been given the responsibility of baking bread at work, I have become quite enamored by the process. From the smell of blooming yeast to the lugging of industrial-size mixing bowls to the feel of the dough as you roll and shape it–bread baking has become a welcome part of the day. This, coming from someone who abhorred scales and measuring cups, is quite the transformation. I realize that, though baking–especially breads–is a science, there is a lot more wiggle room and opportunity for creativity than I had always believed.
That being said, I made whole wheat focaccia using this recipe from Anne Burrell on Food Network. I followed it almost exactly, except I substituted one cup of whole wheat flour for one cup of all-purpose.
1 3/4 cups warm water
2 1/4 tsp (1 package) active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for coating and drizzling
2 Tbsp fresh herbs, chopped (I used oregano, rosemary, and thyme)
Combine the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm 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, 1/2 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.
Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface, then knead it by hand a few times.
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 sheet pan with the remaining 1/2 cup olive oil.
Put the dough onto the sheet pan and press 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.
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 flaky sea salt and lightly drizzle a little oil. Scatter herbs on top and bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 20-30 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving.
Notes: this recipe actually made for better croutons than they did bread. Though it wasn’t bad, there was a lack of depth of flavor that I probably could have achieved had I let it ferment for longer (or used a different recipe). All in all, it was a fun weekend project, and I still have a bunch left over in the freezer for whenever the need for croutons arises.