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With picnic season just around the corner, Iíve found myself thinking about a hot summer day, wind sighing overhead, butterflies dipping and twirling in a nearby meadowÖ I unpack sandwiches and a cooler of icy lemonade, settle down on a soft, mossy patch in the shade of tall trees. Of course, there are no ants crawling onto my blanket, no bees lighting on the lip of the lemonade jug, no flies buzzing around my head--when youíre taking an imaginary journey, youíre allowed to make everything just perfect!
With a foot of snow still on the ground as I write this, itíll be many weeks before something even approaching the images Iíve conjured up becomes reality. While I wait for summer to arrive--oh, along about July 1 or so--Iíll sift through my recipes, pulling out some old picnic favorites, making a pile of new outdoor-friendly dishes to try. The following recipe is one I developed after seeing two different stuffed focaccia recipes, in two different sources, on the same day. Clearly, this is a recipe that needed to be written. While I enjoyed the delicate, almost ascetic filling detailed below, feel free to stuff this sandwich with the quantity of meats and cheeses you desire. A couple of hints: Donít use anything too moist (e.g., raw vegetables, ricotta cheese) in the filling; the bread will become soggy. Better to stick with cheese and cured meats, maybe some hot oil-packed peppers or sun-dried tomatoes. Also, when constructing the filling, start and end with a layer of cheese; this helps keep the sandwich ďgluedĒ together.
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup (8 ounces) water
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl, cover the bowl, and let the mixture rest, at room temperature, for about 12 hours, or overnight.
3 cups (12 3/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon Pizza Dough Flavor (optional, but good)
3/4 cup (6 ounces) water
1/4 cup (1 7/8 ounces) olive oil
3 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) King Arthur Easy-Roll Dough Improver (optional, but helpful)
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/4 pound thin-sliced salami
1/2 pound thin-sliced provolone
4 ounces (1 cup grated) Parmesan or Asiago cheese
2 ounces (1/2 cup grated) Parmesan or Asiago cheese
MANUAL/MIXER METHOD: In a large bowl, or the bowl of a mixer, combine the biga with all of the dough ingredients, stirring to mix well. Mix until the dough becomes cohesive, then knead, by hand or machine, till itís springy, about 5 minutes (or a bit longer by hand). Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it, and allow it to rise for about 60 minutes; it should just about double in bulk.
BREAD MACHINE METHOD: Place the biga and all of the dough ingredients into the pan of your bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer, program the machine for manual or dough, and press Start. About 7 minutes before the end of the final kneading cycle, check the doughís consistency; it should have formed a smooth ball. Adjust its consistency with additional flour or water, as necessary. Allow the machine to complete its cycle.
ASSEMBLY AND BAKING: Gently deflate the dough, divide it in half, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Cover it, and let it rest for 15 minutes; this gives the gluten a chance to relax, making it easier to roll out.
Working with half the dough at a time, roll it into an 18 x 13-inch rectangle. Donít worry; if itís not exactly 18 x 13 inches, you can stretch it once itís in the pan. Transfer the dough to an olive-oiled half-sheet (18 x 13-inch) pan. If you donít have this size pan, use a cookie sheet, or whatever size pan you have thatís comparable. Cover the pan (a proof cover is ideal here), and let the dough rest for 10 minutes. After its rest, stretch the dough with your fingers to the edges of the pan; this will take some doing, but keep gently working it until it covers (or is close to covering) the bottom of the pan.
Put a layer of provolone atop the crust, then a layer of salami; alternatively, use mozzarella, or fontina; pepperoni, capocollo, or prosciutto, or the cheese or meat of your choice. Top the meat with the cup of grated Parmesan or Asiago; freshly grated is far, far superior to the stuff in a can, and itís actually fairly easy to purchase freshly grated cheese at the supermarket these days, so go for it.
Roll the other half of the dough into a rectangle large enough to cover the filled crust. Drape it over the filling, and seal it to the bottom crust all the way around. Cut a small hole in the center, to allow any steam to escape. Cover the focaccia, and let it rise for 30 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake the focaccia for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, sprinkle it with the half cup of Asiago or Parmesan, and return it to the oven. Bake for an additional 15 minutes, or until the focaccia is golden brown, and the cheese is melted. Remove it from the oven, and as soon as possible use a large spatula to transfer it to a rack to cool; this will prevent its bottom from becoming soggy. Slice into generous rectangles to serve. Yield: 8 servings.
Nutrition information per serving (1 slice, 167g): 484 cal, 25g fat, 25g protein, 37g complex carbohydrates, 2g dietary fiber, 51mg cholesterol, 1447mg sodium, 239mg potassium, 125RE vitamin A, 3mg iron, 545 mg calcium, 421mg phosphorus.
April 15, 2003