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Here’s a treat that actually benefits by being squashed in the bottom of a picnic cooler! We’ve modeled this sandwich on Italian pan bagna, a stuffed sandwich made several hours before serving, then pressed under weights to meld the ingredients with one another, so that the stuffing becomes a single savory entity. The stuffing ingredients listed here are only a suggestion; feel free to use your own favorite combination of meat, cheese, and veggies.
Note: If you're not an anchovy fan, don't be turned off just yet; the anchovies provide a hint of interesting flavor, unidentifiable to anyone save a true aficionado. Much like Worcestershire sauce (one of whose ingredients is anchovies), they simply enhance the flavor of whatever other filling ingredients you choose to use.
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur 100% Organic White Whole Wheat Flour*
1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water
pinch of yeast
*Substitute regular white whole wheat flour, or unbleached all-purpose flour, if you like.
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) olive oil
1 tablespoon Pizza Dough Flavor (optional, but tasty)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup (4 ounces) lukewarm water
The night before you want to bake the focaccia, mix the starter ingredients together just till they’re combined. Cover, and let rest at room temperature overnight.
Next day, mix the starter with all of the dough ingredients and knead briefly; 5 to 6 minutes, by hand or machine, is all this dough needs (kneads). If you're using a bread machine, program for dough or manual, but hit the cancel button after 8 minutes of kneading.
Cover the dough and let it rise for 60 minutes. Remove it from the bowl, and fold it over a few times, to redistribute the growing yeast; then let it rise for another 30 to 60 minutes.
Spray a half-sheet pan (18" x 13"), or similar-sized pan, with non-stick vegetable oil spray, then spread with a thin layer of olive oil. (Yes, grease the pan first, then film it with oil. This will make the focaccia’s bottom crust crisp.) Place the dough on the pan, and pat and stretch it into an 11" x 15" rectangle (approximately; don’t be a perfectionist about it). The dough will shrink back somewhat; set your timer for 15 minutes, and stretch it out again. Repeat once more, if necessary, to make it about 11" x 15". Brush the dough with olive oil, cover, and set it in a warm place to rise for about 60 to 90 minutes, till it’s nicely puffy. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 400°F.
Bake the focaccia for 18 to 20 minutes, until it's golden brown. Remove it from the oven and place it on a rack to cool. Yield: about a dozen 4-inch squares.
one focaccia, about 12" x 16", or a similar-sized flatbread
1/2 to 2/3 cup (3 1/2 to 4 3/4 ounces) olive oil or garlic oil
1 small tin (1.75-ounces) flat anchovy fillets, drained
1 medium red or Vidalia onion, peeled and sliced thin
3 medium tomatoes (about 1 pound), sliced 1/8" to ¼" thick
1 1/2 cups (7 ounces) mixed pitted olives, chopped
1 7- to 12-ounce jar roasted red peppers in oil
8 to 12 ounces mozzarella, sliced about 1/8" thick
fresh basil leaves, optional
Slice the bread crosswise, to make two big pieces about 9" x 12" each. Then slice each piece in half to make a top and bottom half. Place the pieces, cut sides up, on a clean work surface.
Blend the olive oil and anchovies in a mini-food processor, or with a stick blender. Brush the cut side of each piece of focaccia with the oil.
Layer the onion and tomato slices on two of the focaccia pieces. In a small bowl, mix the green and black olives together, then spread atop the onions and tomatoes. Layer on the red peppers and mozzarella, then sprinkle the basil leaves over all. Top with the remaining two pieces of focaccia to make a couple of large sandwiches.
Wrap each sandwich very tightly in plastic wrap, then in foil. Pack in your cooler; set the ice packs right on top, if you like. Remember, the point is to press these sandwiches for a few hours or so, for the flavors to marry and the bread to absorb the oil and juices. To serve, unwrap and cut in sandwich-sized slices or wedges. Yield: 6 to 12 servings, depending on appetites.