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Puffy, chewy-crisp and fragrant with fresh herbs, this Parmesan focaccia goes well with soups, stews and, of course, Italian-style fare. Be sure to use only fresh herbs and avoid the temptation to stir them into the dough (sprinkle them over it); many herbs, including the ones called for here, inhibit yeast growth when they're combined in the dough. The dough bakes on the lowest rack in a very hot oven to simulate the hearth baking that is traditional for focaccia. Recipe by Nancy Baggett for EatingWell.

Nancy Baggett
Source: EatingWell Magazine, January/February 2009

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total:
1 day
Servings:
12
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Ingredients

Ingredient Checklist

Directions

Instructions Checklist
  • Mix dough: Thoroughly stir 2 cups all-purpose (or bread) flour, whole-wheat flour, 3 tablespoons Parmesan, the table salt and yeast in a 4-quart (or larger) bowl. Vigorously stir in 1 1/2 cups ice water, scraping down the sides and mixing just until the dough is thoroughly blended. The dough should be barely moist and fairly stiff. If the mixture is too dry, stir in just enough additional ice water to facilitate mixing, but don't overmoisten. If the dough is too wet, stir in just enough flour to stiffen slightly. Lightly coat the top with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

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  • First rise: Let the dough rise at room temperature (about 70 degrees F) for 12 to 18 hours; if convenient, stir once partway through the rise. For convenience (and improved flavor), you may refrigerate the dough for 3 to 12 hours before starting the first rise.

  • Second rise: Coat a 9-by-13-inch (or similar) baking pan with oil, then line it with a sheet of parchment paper. Lightly coat the paper with oil. Stir the dough just until deflated. If it is soft, stir in just enough all-purpose (or bread) flour to yield a firm but moist dough (it should be fairly hard to stir). Sprinkle 1 tablespoon chopped herbs over the dough (don't stir them in), then invert the dough into the pan so the herbs are underneath. Drizzle the dough with 2 teaspoons olive oil. With well-oiled hands, lightly pat and press the dough out until it fills the pan and is evenly thick; if it springs back and is resistant, let it rest for 10 minutes, then proceed. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan and herbs, and fennel seeds (if using), and pat down. Tent the pan with foil.

  • Let rise at warm room temperature until the dough is double the deflated size, 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. (For an accelerated rise, see Tip.)

  • 20 minutes before baking: Position a rack in lowest part of oven; preheat to 500 degrees F. Lightly spritz or sprinkle the dough with water. With oiled fingertips, make deep indentations, or dimples, all over the top. Sprinkle evenly with sea salt (or other coarse salt).

  • Bake, cool, slice: Reduce oven temperature to 475 degrees . Bake on the lowest rack, turning the pan from front to back halfway through for even browning, until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 204-206 degrees , 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. Best served warm.

Tips

To make ahead: Wrap airtight and keep at room temperature for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 2 months.

Note: Milled from high-protein wheats, bread flour develops strong gluten, resulting in well-risen loaves. It helps give breads with a high percentage of whole grains better structure and a lighter texture. Find it near other flours in most supermarkets.

Tips: To prepare “ice water” for this recipe, add a heaping cup of ice cubes to cold water and stir for about 30 seconds before measuring out the water.

You can turn your microwave into a warm, moist environment to help accelerate the second rise of the bread dough. Begin by microwaving 1/2 cup water in a 1-cup glass measure just to boiling. Set the water in one corner of the microwave, place the pan of dough on the other side of the turned-off microwave and close the door. The dough will double in size in 45 minutes to 11/2 hours.

Nutrition Facts

124 calories; protein 4g; carbohydrates 23.5g; dietary fiber 1.7g; sugars 0.1g; fat 1.6g; saturated fat 0.4g; cholesterol 1.1mg; vitamin a iu 27IU; vitamin c 1.5mg; folate 65.1mcg; calcium 21.6mg; iron 1.4mg; magnesium 19.5mg; potassium 70.6mg; sodium 298.3mg; thiamin 0.3mg.
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