I haven’t made bread in AGES! Last year, my New Year’s Resolution was to make a loaf every week – then I got a new job and that resolution went right out the window. We do the occasional pizza night with fresh homemade dough, but making loaves of bread just hasn’t happened as much as I would like.
So, I thought last night would be a good time to make a big batch of focaccia and put together a nice “picnic” dinner for the mister – focaccia, hummus, stuffed cherry peppers, falafel, cold roast turkey. It’s a great way to crash out on a Saturday night with a good show or DVD (we caught up on one of my new favorite shows, “Suits”) – you’ve baked something nice, but without a lot of effort.
And I also decided to make one other change – since focaccia dough is a little on the sticky side, I decided to throw on the dough hook and make it with my mixer instead of by hand. WHAT a difference! Because I wasn’t wrestling with it on the counter, I didn’t add too much extra flour and ruin the texture. So, pull out that KitchenAid, put it on the first setting and get going! As usual, I measure the flour in metric weight as it’s the most accurate way to make bread – it’s a good habit to get into – and digital scales are cheap!
- 600 g bread flour
- 1 heaping Tbsp instant / fast-acting yeast
- 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup + 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup + 2 Tbsp warm water
- 5 medium red onions, trimmed, peeled and sliced to 1/8″ thickness
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp sugar
- 3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper
Put the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook and start it going on the lowest settings. Use a two-cup measuring jug to first measure out the olive oil, then add the warm water, then slowly drizzle into flour mixture, letting the dough come together. Keeping the mixer on low, knead the bread for 10-12 minutes – every three minutes or so, pull the dough off the hook and restart it to make sure the bread is getting a really good knead. The dough should spring back when you press it and feel soft and pillow-y, with only a little bit of tackiness. Lightly oil a big bowl then add the bread, turning to coat in the oil, cover with plastic wrap and let the bread rise for 45 minutes to an hour, until doubled.
Now then. While the dough is rising, make the onion topping. Heat the widest pan you have over a low heat and pour in a good couple of glugs of oil. Add the sliced onions, thyme, sugar and balsamic vinegar and stir well to combine. Use a piece of foil to mostly cover the pan (there should be a few vents on the side to release only some of the steam). Basically, what you want to do is get the onions gorgeous, soft and velvety – NOT brown them. So, cook them slowly to develop the sugars and make them nice and nearly jam-like, then taste for seasoning. This should take about a half hour.
When the bread has finished its first rise, knock it back. Oil a rimmed baking sheet and press out the dough into a large rectangle that’s about 3/4″ thick, cover with plastic and let it rise for another 30 minutes while the onions are cooling.
Heat the oven to 425. Now that the bread has done a second rise, use your finger tips to create dimples all over the dough, then spread out the onions on top. Drizzle with a final bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pop into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. With most breads you want to cool before cutting – focaccia isn’t one of them. Pull it off the pan, cut it up and DIVE IN!!