Soft Potato Focaccia

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Soft Potato Focaccia

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Published prior to 2008

Focaccia—what, again? Aren’t there about a million focaccia recipes floating around out there? Haven’t we printed, like, 16 focaccia variations over the years right in this very newsletter? (Yes, we have; I counted.) So—what’s this, a trip down Memory Lane?

Actually focaccia, being a yeast bread, is open to all kinds of variations, and this is another one. Unlike cake or biscuits (after all, how many different kinds of chocolate cake or buttermilk biscuits can you make?), there are many side paths off the main road that’s marked Yeast Bread; and then innumerable semi-marked trails off of those side paths. If you think of white, whole wheat, rye, and whole-grain as the four main types of yeast breads, just think how many variations there are on each of those themes, ranging from white sandwich bread to crusty baguettes, light sandwich rye to raisin-pecan pumpernickel, and honey oatmeal bread to a 10-grain loaf. And what’s fascinating is, even when you’ve drilled right down to, say, Potato Dill Onion Bread, there’s still not just one "right" recipe. You can use dill weed, dill seeds, or both; cottage cheese, or not; fresh potatoes, dried potato flakes, or potato flour; fresh, raw onions, sautéed fresh onions, dried onions, or "french-fried" onions… think of all the interpretations this seemingly simple loaf is subject to!

We printed our first focaccia recipe exactly 11 years ago this month, and since then, we’ve explored Rosemary & Grape Focaccia, Focaccia with Arugula, Oat-Raisin Focaccia, Stuffed Focaccia, and Focaccia on the Grill, among others. The following recipe is very plain, but perfect for sandwiches; it’s a grownup version of the squishy white bread kids love for their pb&j. With its golden brown, just slightly crisp crust, and its soft, smooth interior, this loaf pairs well with whatever filling you want to stuff into it, from Italian cold cuts, cheese, and hot peppers, to egg salad. For a wonderful picnic loaf, simply slice the cooled focaccia lengthwise, to make two large rounds. Spread your fillings on the bottom crust, add the top crust, and wrap well. When you arrive at your destination, cut the loaf into wedges. This makes a wonderful muffaletta sandwich, that olive-laden New Orleans version of the submarine sandwich, or grinder. Or simply cut it in wedges, drizzle with your favorite olive oil, add a few shards of some really good Parmesan cheese, if you like, and enjoy one of life’s best simple pleasures.

Starter
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) Mellow Pastry Blend or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup (2 5/8 ounces) cool water
1/8 teaspoon instant yeast

Mix all of the ingredients by hand, mixer, or in the bread machine till just combined. Cover the dough and let it rest overnight (8 to 12 hours).

Dough
2 1/2 cups (10 1/4 ounces) Mellow Pastry Blend or King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose flour*
1 teaspoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar 3 tablespoons King Arthur Easy-Roll Dough Improver (optional, but helpful)
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup (4 1/4 ounces) cooked, riced potatoes* OR 1/3 cup (5/8 ounce) potato buds or flakes OR 1/4 cup (1 1/2 ounces) potato flour
3 tablespoons (1 3/8 ounces) olive oil
2/3 cup (5 3/8 ounces) lukewarm water

*If you use unbleached all-purpose flour and potato flakes or flour, increase the water to 3/4 cup.

**If you use riced potatoes, reduce the water to 1/2 cup (1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons if you'e using all-purpose flour).

Manual/Mixer Method: In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the starter with the remaining dough ingredients, mixing to form a shaggy mass. Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled work surface and knead it by hand (or knead at medium speed in a mixer equipped with a dough hook) for 8 to 10 minutes, or slightly less time in a mixer, till the dough is smooth and supple. Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 1 hour; it won’t double in bulk.

Bread Machine Method: Place all of the ingredients, including the starter, into the pan of your bread machine, program the machine for manual or dough, and press Start. Check the dough after about 10 minutes of kneading; it should be smooth and soft. Adjust its consistency with additional flour or water, as necessary, and allow the machine to complete its cycle.

Shaping and Baking: Gently deflate the dough, and pull and stretch it into a large, flat round. Transfer it to a lightly greased 14-inch round pan, or lightly greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Shape the dough into a 14-inch round, cover it, and allow it to rise for 2 hours, till it’s very puffy. Dimple the dough with your fingers (be firm, but not violent; you don’t want to deflate it); drizzle the focaccia with olive oil, and sprinkle it with herbs, coarse salt and coarse pepper (if desired). Bake the focaccia in a preheated 350°F oven for 25 minutes; it’ll be golden brown, but still pretty soft. Remove it from the oven, and turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool. Yield: 1 large focaccia.

Nutrition information per serving (1/10 of focaccia, about a 4 1/2-inch wedge, 70g): 172 cal, 4g fat, 4g protein, 28g complex carbohydrates, 1g sugar, 1g dietary fiber, 268mg sodium, 98mg potassium, 2mg vitamin C, 2mg iron, 1mg calcium, 42mg phosphorus.

This recipe reprinted from The Baking Sheet Newsletter, Vol. XIII, No. 4, Spring 2002 issue.