Thursday, April 14, 2011

Focaccia Ripiena and Shaved Fennel Lemon Salad


Bread in all it's many forms is one of my enduring passions.  I am so completely fascinated by the fact there are so few ingredients and yet endless possibilities. I generally keep  a back up of bread dough in the fridge for unexpected times when the need arises to have fresh bread on the table. As a general rule, the longer a dough ferments, the tastier the bread is as it has time for al the natural sugars and proteins to break down and develop flavor. That is not to say that bread doughs will last indefinitely, but most people don't realize that you can hold a variety of bread doughs in the fridge and bring it out and bake fresh bread a lot m ore easily and frequently than you would think.  It can be challenging at times with refrigerator space and varying room temperatures, but eating the results are so worth it. If you are new to making bread or the concept of holding dough in the refrigerator to use as needed, I would recommend the very delicious book, "Artisan Bread in Five minutes a Day", by Jeffery Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. The premise being that you mix up a batch of dough, usually two loaves, and bake them off on the day you want to eat them after arriving home from work and have them ready to consume in time for dinner. The recipes work beautifully and there are enough basic dough formulas that can be easily varied, that it really is a good starting point for busy people that appreciate fresh quality bread. Your bread is a good as the ingredients that you use. I have made quite a few recipes out the book and find them accurate and  delicious. They scale up well if you are cooking for a crowd and have the refrigerator space to hold the dough.  I do however have two personal cautions as a general rule for all the recipes. The salt content is way beyond my taste and I systematically cut the amount by about half and the amount of yeast for me is excessive as well. You are able to bring the dough from the refrigerator to the oven in about 20 minutes, so they have boosted the amount of yeast that, for me, it has a too yeasty of a flavor to it. I consistently either cut way back on the amount of yeast, use a combination of my natural sourdough starter and commercial yeast or leave it out completely and  use my sour dough starter only. I am not usually in that big of a hurry that I need to use that amount of yeast and the result, with less yeast, is full flavor bread without  the delicate notes of the bread being overwhelmed by the yeast.  
I didn't start out to do a book review here, but I do think this is a solid starter bread book worth adding to your library and helping novice and more experienced bakers get into the routine of making your own daily loaf.  I see that they have a new book out called "Healthy Breads in Five Minutes a Day" with 100 new recipes, whole grain and  some non gluten ones as well. I imagine it is an excellent one as well.  I found their recipes to be tried, true and delicious, noting my aforementioned personal preferences in regards to adjusting the yeast and salt.  I vary most of these recipes with whole grains and variations as the spirit moves me. I would encourage you to do the same after making their basic formula a few times to get a feel for them.
I said all of that to get to my filled focaccia recipe.  I adapted the "Olive Oil Bread" recipe from "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day? for this focaccia as a starting point. I had already made the dough a few days previous for rosemary focaccia for an impromptu dinner with friends and knew I need to get this dough out of the refrigerator and on to our table. I rummaged around and found that we had some Cima di Rapa, also known as broccoli rabe, and some fresh pecorina ricotta that was begging to be used. It didn't take long to have this greens and ricotta filled focaccia on the table rising and baked off in time for  lunch. I added an incredibly easy shaved fennel and lemon salad that I found over at Val's "More than Burnt Toast" blog and we were feasting like royals in nothing flat. Ok, maybe more like the royals contadini (farmers), but very happy contadini.

For the
Focaccia
This is the original amount for 4- 1 pound loaves. (4 - 500g loaves, more or less)
I used a little less than half of the dough for a 25cm/10" round, with a removable ring.
It will work  with just about any kind of pan.
Oil your pan generously. I use olive oil.
I have adjusted the salt and yeast. I used instant granulated Saf yeast

6 c flour, bread or all purpose variety
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1T yeast, dry instant, a light tablespoon, 1 package
2 tsp sugar
1T salt
1/4 c olive oil
 2 3/4 c tepid water

Mix the flours, yeast, sugar, salt together in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and water, mixing till a a rough dough is formed. Knead lightly till smooth and return to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
I mix by hand, but you could use a stand mixer with the dough hook or a food processor. Mix till it just comes together ad finish with a few light kneads till smooth.  Don't over mix or knead the dough too vigorously.  A light hand is good.  Let rise in a warmish spot for a couple of hours  or until the dough has risen to about double and begins to flatten or collapse on itself.
You can use the dough immediately or refrigerate in a lidded container. It is easier to handle when cold. I tend to use some immediately and then use the rest of the dough a few days later. I made this from the dough after several days in the refrigerator.
Use half of the dough, making sure that comes to room temperature. After the initial rise, I usually try not to handle it too much and don't knead it again. I cut the dough in half again with  one half being slightly larger than the other. The larger half I use for the bottom. I flour the table and gently coax the dough in to a circle to fit the bottom going up on the sides slightly. I flatten the top part the same using my fingertips to dimple the dough and stretching it to the right diameter to cover the bottom half.

For the filling

1/2 onion, sliced in to lengths
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1# (400-500g) cima di rapa, washed and chopped into 1 inch lengths
You can use whatever greens or combination that you prefer. Broccoli rabe, is similar to mustard greens in that they have a bit of a bite, so consider using them or a mix of your favorite combo of greens.
Olive oil to saute the vegetables
200 g ricotta, a pecorino with a bit more flavor is good, you could use cottage cheese too
100 g parmesan or ricotta salata
These are the cheeses I had on hand. A combination of a soft mild cheese with a more potent salty style cheese is what you are looking for.
Salt and Pepper
pinch of peperoncino or hot pepper

Saute the onions in a small amount of oil till the soft. Add the garlic and  continue to cook adding your clean chopped greens. Add some water after the greens have wilted, cover and cook until the greens are soft but not all the way cooked. Season with salt and pepper.  let cool enough to handle.
Prepare your baking pan with oil and stretching your dough to cover and up the sides.
Spread your cooled greens around on the dough. Sprinkle with a pinch of hot pepper.
Distribute the ricotta cheese around the disk of greens and generously sprinkle your grated parmesan cheese over all.
Cover the top with the other piece of dough.
I let it rise about 1/2 hour, more if it seems like the dough hasn't really risen enough. You want the dough to be light, so let it rise as long as you think is necessary.
Drizzle some olive oil on top  of the dough.
Bake in the bottom shelf of a preheated 350*F/180- 190*C oven till the dough reaches a golden brown.
I have a convection oven so it only takes about 25-30 minutes.
In a conventional oven I think it will take 40- 50 minutes to get the bottom of the crust done.
Cool slightly, remove ring around the dough or flip out of your pan and serve warm.

I served it with this simple

Shaved Fennel Lemon salad

2 bulbs of fennel, the rounder bulb variety are less stringy and good for salads
1 lemon, organic is good as you will be eating the peel. Plump and firm, not one that is tired from languishing around waiting to be used.
4 tsp lemon juice, optional for me. I found it didn't really need it as my shaved lemon made it zippy enough, your call
Olive oil 
Salt 
Pepper if you like, I didn't bother

Use a mandoline or slicer on the thinnest setting that you can.
Shave the fennel and then the lemon into a bowl big enough to be able to toss the salad
Sprinkle a bit of good sea salt to season
Dress with enough olive to lightly coat the salad but not drown it.
Serve immediately.
You could shave the fennel and lemon and refrigerate until just before serving and then dress with oil and serve.
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