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Ah, focaccia, the Wonder Bread of the artisan bread world! While focaccia can be dense and chewy, or thin and almost crackly in spots, this particular focaccia is thick, soft, and fine-grained, perfect for slicing into top crust/bottom crust for big sandwiches; or cutting crosswise into strips, brushing with olive oil, and baking into chewy/crunchy, fat bread sticks. Itís also a wonderful base for grilled vegetables, or for a simple shower of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
2 2/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour*
1 1/2 cups semolina*
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons King Arthur Easy-Roll Dough Improver (or substitute 2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk)
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil or garlic oil
1 1/2 cups water
*If you don't choose to use semolina, use a total of 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour.
Combine all of the ingredients--in a mixer, bowl, or bread machine--and mix and knead to form a smooth, somewhat sticky dough. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 hour, or until itís just about doubled in bulk; if it hasnít doubled after one hour, let it rise for an additional 30 minutes. Note: If youíre in a hurry, you may skip this first rise; however, the focacciaís flavor will suffer somewhat.
Lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch pan, 12-inch round pan, 14-inch round pan, or similar-sized pan. Gently place the dough in the pan, and push it out to the edges; if youíve used the dough relaxer, this will be a simple task. If you havenít, push the dough until it fights back, then let it rest for 10 minutes before pushing again. Eventually youíll get it out to the edges of the pan, and itíll stay there (though this is ever so much easier with dough relaxer). Cover the pan, and allow the dough to rise for about 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 425°F. The dough at this point will have just puffed a bit; if you like your focaccia lighter, let it rise longer.
Dimple the dough all over with your fingertips. Now, this doesnít mean poke it so hard and so thoroughly that it deflates; but it also doesnít mean to leave only the barest of marks. Poke it as if you were back in elementary school poking the shoulder of the kid sitting in front of you-- assertively, but not with enough force to hurt. Drizzle olive oil over the crust, as much or as little as you like and as your diet can stand. Sprinkle with coarse salt and pepper, if desired.
Bake the bread for about 20 to 30 minutes, or until itís golden brown.
Note: to make a kind-of-pizza using grilled vegetables, layer grilled vegetables (and any other toppings) atop the focaccia when itís a light golden brown, and cook for about another 10 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven, and slide it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.
Yield: One 9 x 13-inch loaf, about 1 3/4 inches thick; a 14-inch round loaf, about 1 1/4 inches thick; or whatever size and thickness loaf youíve chosen to create.
FOCACCIA WITH GRILLED VEGETABLES
Talk about easy living--grilling vegetables is just about the least challenging culinary endeavor you can undertake. Hereís what you do: Turn on the grill (or build your fire, if youíre using charcoal); medium heat is what youíre looking for. Decide what vegetables you want to grill. Next, decide if the vegetables should be pre-cooked in any way. If youíre in a hurry, this is an option for things like potatoes and onions, or thick pieces of squash or other dense vegetables. I usually microwave whole potatoes, in their skins, till theyíre just short of tender, then slice them lengthwise and grill the rest of the way. I also sometimes microwave fat slices of onion, if Iím in a hurry.
Cut the vegetables into pieces. The size of the pieces depends on what you plan to do with them, or how lazy or industrious youíre feeling
Next, brush (or spray) the vegetables with olive oil. Garlic oil is always tasty. Lay the vegetables in a single layer on the grill; put the tomatoes cut-side down. Iíve found, with the onions, that a small bamboo skewer threaded right across the diameter of the onion round will keep all the pieces together as you grill. Shut the lid on your grill (if it has one), get yourself a cold drink and a good book, and relax. Turn the vegetables occasionally, moving them around to keep the ones in the center from burning. I find I turn the vegetables about once every 20 minutes or so. Depending on the vegetable, how hot the heat is, and how brown you like them, theyíll be done anywhere between 40 minutes or so (peppers) and 2 hours (for caramelized onions, or thick, juicy tomatoes). Transfer the vegetables from the grill to a plate as they become the shade of brown you like.
You can either serve the finished focaccia with the vegetables on the side; or inside; or on top. Or, when youíre baking the focaccia, about 10 minutes before itís done, layer on the vegetables, sprinkle with Parmesan, mozzarella, goat cheese, or the cheese of your choice, and bake for about an additional 10 minutes, till the cheese is melted.