Make this bread. And then make these sandwiches. Trust me.
This week I baked focaccia bread. It’s one of my favorite breads, it’s so crispy and slightly oily in the best way. I decided to bake it because we had a sandwich recipe that called for focaccia, and it seemed like a good enough reason to bake it! There’s also restaurant in Buffalo that has some of the best focaccia I’ve ever tasted. Actually, it has some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. Officially endorsed by this blog, go try Bistro Europa. It’s incredible, every time. So, inspired by good local bread and wanting to make the best possible sandwich, this week we made focaccia!
We used a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated. It was actually super easy – but it took a while, you definitely have to be patient to make this bread. But it’s worth it.
Here’s the recipe and directions from Cook’s Illustrated website:
- 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) warm water (100-110 degrees F)
- 1/4 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
- 2 1/2 cups (12 1/2 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour, plus extra for shaping
- 1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) warm water (100-110 degrees F)
- 1 teaspoon instant or rapid-rise yeast
- Kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1. FOR THE BIGA: Combine flour, water, and yeast in large bowl and stir with wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1 minute. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature (about 70 degrees) overnight (at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.) Use immediately or store in refrigerator for up to 3 days (allow to stand at room temperature 30 minutes before proceeding with recipe.)
Nice and bubbly.
2. FOR THE DOUGH: Stir flour, water, and yeast into biga with wooden spoon until uniform mass forms and no dry flour remains, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 15 minutes.
3. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt over dough; stir into dough until thoroughly incorporated, about 1 minute. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature 30 minutes. Spray rubber spatula or bowl scraper with nonstick cooking spray; fold partially risen dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees; fold again. Turn bowl and fold dough 6 more times (total of 8 turns). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat folding, turning, and rising 2 more times, for total of three 30-minute rises. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, place baking stone on rack, and heat oven to 500 degrees at least 30 minutes before baking.
After the three rises and folding – so easy, there’s no kneading! Mostly because the dough is too wet to knead, really.
4. Gently transfer dough to lightly floured counter. Lightly dust top of dough with flour and divide in half. Shape each piece of dough into 5-inch round by gently tucking under edges.
Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons olive oil each. Sprinkle each pan with ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Place round of dough in pan, top side down; slide dough around pan to coat bottom and sides, then flip over. Repeat with second piece of dough. Cover pans with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes.
5. Using fingertips, press dough out toward edges of pan. (If dough resists stretching, let it relax for 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.) Using dinner fork, poke surface of dough 25 to 30 times, popping any large bubbles. Sprinkle rosemary evenly over top of dough. Let dough rest until slightly bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes.
Now, we don’t have cake pans. What we have is one skillet and a square baking dish. We also didn’t have any rosemary. We had Greek oregano and garlic powder. So:
6. Place pans on baking stone and reduce oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake until tops are golden brown, 25 to 28 minutes, switching placement of pans halfway through baking. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pan and return to wire rack. Brush tops with any oil remaining in pan. Let cool 30 minutes before serving.
We also don’t have a baking stone. I put a baking sheet tray in the oven upside down, so it made a little platform, and preheated it with the oven, and placed the baking dish and skillet on top of that. It was a little crowded, but it worked.
Okay, this bread was delicious. Like, incredible. So tasty. We ate a few pieces just warmed up, it didn’t even need butter. (I know, right?!) But, as I mentioned at the beginning, the main reason for this bread was for sandwiches. Now just trust me when I say this….Roasted Eggplant and Pickled Beet Sandwiches. From Bon Appetit’s sandwich issue (obviously) this is a recipe that caught Evan’s eye.
Roasted Eggplant and Pickled Beet Sandwiches
Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Mayo
- 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 pounds sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- Kosher salt, ground pepper
- 1 garlic clove, finely grated
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons Sherry vinegar
Beet Salad and Assembly
- 4 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup mixed tender fresh herb leaves (such as flat-leaf parsley, dill, and mint), torn if large
- 1/2 cup chopped pickled beets
- 1/4 cup chopped pitted oil-cured olives
- 2 tablespoons drained capers
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 6×4-inch pieces focaccia, split
- 6 ounces feta, thinly sliced or crumbled
Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Mayo
Preheat oven to 400°. Place eggplant slices on a large rimmed baking sheet and rub both sides with oil. Season with paprika, salt, and pepper. Roast until golden and tender, 30-40 minutes.
Whisk garlic, mayonnaise, and vinegar in a small bowl; set aside.
Beet Salad and Assembly
Toss scallions, herbs, beets, olives, capers, and oil in a medium bowl to combine.
Spread cut sides of focaccia with garlic mayo. Build sandwiches with focaccia, eggplant, feta, and beet salad.
DO AHEAD: Eggplant can be roasted 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Now, we grilled our eggplant instead of roasting it. We also used parsley, mint and basil as our herbs because that’s what we had in the house. We were also out of sherry vinegar for the garlic mayo, so we used balsamic. All still so delicious. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Pics or it didn’t happen!” Well.
Make this bread. And then make these sandwiches. Thank me later.