Greetings, baking fans. Today comes to you with a pounding migraine that is just now at 11pm beginning to subside. I used to get them 3-5 times per week, and thankfully through lots of heavy preventative medication (Topamax, for those who are interested) and much, much cleaner living I only get them every few months. But they are Not a Lot of Fun (when a Lot of Fun is defined as a sharp stick in the eye . . this is Less Fun Than That). I’ve taken literally every medication that was available to try around 2005, and the only thing that actually works for me these days is resting in a dark room, an ice pack, and an Aleve.
Therefore, in the interests of not staying on the computer for extended periods of time, I won’t be blogging too heavily about tonight’s activities. I just haven’t eaten much today, and thought that some bread covered in olive oil and salt would be just what the doctor ordered. I was also antsy to try a focaccia again after my last batch turned out hard as a rock.
I’m using a recipe from my Whole Foods Recipe iPhone App, and instead of my usual bloggity-flair where I talk extensively about what I’m doing and how I do it, I’ll just repost the recipe (here’s the link) and add some comments.
1 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 pounds sweet yellow onions, cut into eighths, then thickly sliced
In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup warm (105 to 115°F) water with honey or maple syrup. Sprinkle with yeast and set aside to let stand for 5 minutes, or until foamy. Stir in flour, 1 1/2 teaspoons of the salt, 1/4 cup of the oil, and 1 cup warm water, then transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic,
[Ed: This is so intensely soothing. I push the dough away from me with the heel of my hand, turn the dough 45 degrees clockwise, fold the dough towards me, then push it away with the heel of my hand again. The dough reaches a point where it just “turns”, and becomes elastic and smooth rather than Play Dough-y] then transfer dough to a lightly oiled large bowl, turning the dough to coat. Cover and let stand in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. [Ed: I used a method I found online this time, which worked very well. I covered the bowl with plastic wrap, and then put the bowl in a large pan. I poured some boiling water into the pan, then put the bowl/pan combo into the oven. Do all this BEFORE you pre-heat. For serious. ]
Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add onions and remaining 1 teaspoon salt and reduce heat to low. Cook, stirring frequently, for 1 hour or until onions are very soft and golden brown. Set aside to let cool. [Ed: It’s important to actually keep the heat on LOW when doing this. I got greedy, and burned them a bit. This isn’t really a problem if you like the taste of burnt onions, which frankly I do.]
Punch down dough, [Ed: So satisfying.] then transfer to a lightly oiled jelly roll pan or large baking sheet and pat dough out into a 15-inch x 11-inch rectangle. Cover and let stand 45 minutes, or until puffed and well risen. Spread onions over dough, then cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425°F. Uncover dough and bake on the lowest oven rack for 25 minutes, [Ed: This smells absolutely unbelievable.] or until crust is golden brown and crisp. Cut into pieces and serve.
This is easily the best loaf of bread I have ever made, and totally painless too. There’s a great taste of olive oil in the crust (I like an olive oil with a strong, earthy taste– if you don’t . . then nuts to you), the onions are all caramelized and salty, and the dough is really springy.
So, apparently an awful day of crushing pain can yield a really delicious loaf of focaccia. Thank goodness for small favors.