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cornmeal focaccia (almost direct method)

July 17, 2011

I’m not sure what makes for an authentic focaccia.  In her book “The Italian Baker”, Carol Field writes, “Foccacce can be soft or crisp, thick or thin, light and almost plain, or topped with any number of condiments, but they are always rustic, a convivial treat eaten as a snack.”    Cornmeal, corn, and olive oil  in this simple recipe make for a nice combination of flavor and texture.

Soaker:

1 cup coarse cornmeal

1 cup water

Dough:

Soaker

3 cups bread flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup water

2 cups frozen corn (thawed to room temperature)

Extra virgin olive oil for brushing on dough.

Kosher or sea salt for sprinkling on dough.

On the day before you plan to make the focaccia, mix together the soaker ingrediants in a small bowl. Cover with plastic and leave at room temperature.

On the day of baking,  place the soaker, bread flour, yeast, salt , and olive oil in your mixer bowl. Stir well together the ingrediants.  With the paddle attachment and low speed ,  add the water and mix until you have a coarse ball.  Using the dough hook, knead on medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic (about 5-6 minutes) .  Change to slow speed and gradually add the corn.  You will probably have to add more flour as the corn releases moisture into the dough.  You may also add and mix the corn by hand.  The final dough will be wet but not very sticky.  It should be easily manageble to shape.

Place the dough on a 10 x 15 inch size or so baking pan that  has been lightly oiled with extra virgin olive oil.  Push and prod carefully the dough into a rectangular shape.  It will be about 3/4 of an  inch thick and will not completely cover the pan. Cover with plastic and let rest and ferment for 30-45  minutes.  Pre-heat your oven to 475 and place your baking stone if you wish to use it. After the first rise, dimple the dough with your fingers  and keep the fermentation and resting going for another 30 minutes covered again with plastic.   The dough should rise to about 1 1/2 to almost 2 times depending on the conditions of your kitchen.

Now generously but carefully brush the dough with EV olive oil so as not to disturb the rise.  Sprinkle the kosher or coarse sea salt on top. Place the dough in the oven on your pre-heated baking stone if using and then turn down oven to 425.  Bake for about 30 minutes until lightly brown.  Remove it from the baking pan and put on a cooling rack to completely .

Try  topping the focaccia with chopped cilantro or your favorite herb mixed with a little EV olive oil after removing from oven.  This focaccia lends itself to a wide variety of toppings like queso fresco or Monterrey Jack cheese,  roasted bell peppers and or onions,  fresh basil,  pine nuts, serrano or jalapeno peppers, roasted and chopped, and so on.

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