Make focaccia your way

  • Article by: KIM ODE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 20, 2011 - 9:32 AM

This no-knead focaccia melds ancient bread traditions with contemporary creativity.

A change of season always brings a change in menus. Sure, people grill year-round, but there's nothing like a balmy evening on the deck. People eat soup year-round, but there's nothing like feeling it take away the chill.

So all hail the upcoming soup-and-bread season! In keeping with the easy pace of soup -- mix and simmer -- we're making focaccia.

No-knead focaccia requires little more than stirring, then a couple of stretches of time during which you need do nothing more than give it a passing glance.

Focaccia is among the more ancient of breads. Its name springs from focus, which is the Latin word for hearth.

A great focaccia is a blend of textures: Its crumb is tender, yet has a particular chewiness. The oiled crust bakes to a crisp veneer. Toppings may be nothing more than coarse salt and perhaps a few herbs, or they can veer toward focaccia's flashier cousin, pizza, with caramelized onions, olives, roasted tomatoes or cheeses.

Among the more intriguing toppings are peppadews, which are sweet piquanté peppers with just a touch of heat. First popularized in South Africa, in the early 1990s they became known as the first new fruit to hit the world market since the kiwi a quarter-century earlier. Today, they're sold in jars, and found in some grocery store olive bars.

Focaccia is best served the same day it's baked. It reheats well, but its moistness works against longer storage.

This focaccia is based on Jim Lahey's recipe in his latest book, "My Bread." Lahey is the baker who spurred the no-knead bread craze, which reinvigorated an ancient technique of letting time do the work of kneading.

For a dough as sticky as focaccia, this not only is a gift, but a necessity.

This particular recipe gets added flavor and moistness from potato water, which you make by boiling a peeled potato until soft, then mashing it with the cooking water. Once cooled, the potato water is briskly stirred into flour, salt, yeast and a little sugar, then the mixture is covered and set aside to raise, which can take 2 to 3 hours.

You can spread the dough in a rimmed sheet pan, or divide it between two round pie plates or cake pans.

There's no real right or wrong for size or thickness, and you may find yourself playing with different options.

Dimpled with olive oil and any desired toppings, the focaccia then rises for about 45 minutes, then bakes for another 30 to 45 minutes.

Sliced in wedges or sticks, warm focaccia is a great savory accompaniment to the season's soups, and a valued addition to your baking skills.

Kim Ode • 612-673-7185

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    Kim Ode walks through a no-knead recipe for great focaccia bread.

  • Recipe: No-knead focaccia

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    NO-KNEAD FOCACCIAMakes 2 (9-inch) round pans or 1 baking sheet.Note: This recipe is based on "My Bread" by Jim Lahey...

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