No.22: Asparagus Cheddar Focaccia
I’ve been trying to perfect my bread baking skills for a few months. I still am not satisfied with sandwich breads, but I think I finally am able to say that I got the basics covered now. For me, baking with the yeast was really intimidating. I’ve done breads on and off, and they were great as they were “home-made” but an attractive magic word of “home-made” did not make me feel any better than how they came out. Mad Scientist’s been honest with the outcome and kindly called some of my previous creations “Rocks.” He was right. I think I never was eager enough to get good at it.
But let me show you the reason why I wanted to perfect my bread baking. (below)
I don’t see that often. and I hope I don’t, ever, unless it’s a Black Friday or something. The photo was taken at one of the supermarkets by us, right before the Hurricane Sandy hit last October. I managed to get a loaf for the sake of it and served pretty fancy (?) peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch during the long power outage. I cook & freeze foods when I hear flood & storm warnings and had no problem with everything other than breads, but this was a bit shocking. That’s when I decided that I’d bake my own when things settled down. I might be exaggerating or even having a leftover post-disaster trauma moment… Until I saw what was happening, it was hard to accept that it could be a survival. We have great neighbors and kind people around, thankfully, and we were all well-fed. And without our friends & family, I know it would’ve been tougher.
So I’m posting one of my focaccias, dedicating to people who still are in the middle of rebuilding what they call “home.”
It’s a play on an Asparagus & Gruyère Tart on Martha Stewart website. Dough is a combination on bread & semolina flours, sprinkled with extra sharp cheddar, and baked with care. I added bacon bits as a topping; inspired by a prosciutto wrapped asparagus. It reminds you of fluffy pizza. (I’m sure there’s a correct word for it…)
Be kind to people around you. You never know if they need help, or you might need help from them.
I’ve lost words for yesterday’s (4/15) tragedy at the Boston Marathon. Our thoughts are with Boston and everyone including friends & families of those who were affected.
Savory focaccia with asparagus and cheddar. Almost like pizza.
- 300g Bread Flour
- 270g Semolina Flour
- 1 teaspoon Instant Yeast
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 2 cups Water and more for adjustment and steam pan
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil for oiling the surface
- 1 tablespoon Herb Oil (the recipe is on my popover page)
- 8 Asparagus, ends trimmed
- 1/2 to 1 cup Shredded Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- Garlic Powder & White Pepper to Taste
- Bacon bits optional
In a large bowl, combine bread flour, semolina flour and salt. Mix with a large spoon or rubber spatula until they are combined. Add yeast, then water. Mix well with spoon/spatula until flour in a bowl is gathered. Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time IF there still are flour at the bottom of the bowl. The dough should be somewhat smooth but sticky.
Rub some olive oil on the clean surface; transfer the dough on it. Knead the dough gently by using the palms of your hands pushed forward. until it is smooth, about 5 minutes. The dough still will be very sticky. (on a runny side)
*If you are using the stand mixer, you can gather all ingredients and mix for 5 minutes with medium speed.
Transfer the dough in large oiled bowl and turn it once to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator overnight. The dough will rise to about the double the size.
Line the half sheet pan with a parchment. Sprinkle some semolina flour and set aside.
Take the dough out of the refrigerator. On oiled surface, turn the dough over gently and cut in it half. Try not to punch down as you'll want to keep air bubbles in the dough intact. Shape 1 half of the dough on a prepared pan. Dimple the surface of the dough and drizzle herb oil. Dimple again if necessary so that the herb oil is covering the dimpled surface. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let it rest for 2-3 hours at the room temperature. The dough should be about 1 1/2 times the original size.
Preheat the oven to 475F with a baking stone (or a cookie sheet) in the middle rack. If you have an extra sheet pan or cast iron pan (or some other oven proof pan that can take high temperature), place it on the bottom shelf as a steam pan.
Meanwhile, remove plastic wrap off the dough, sprinkle cheddar cheese, then place asparagus. If you prefer, you can drizzle extra herb oil at this time. Top with extra cheddar cheese.
Gently transfer the dough with parchment onto the cookie sheet in the middle rack in the oven. Pour 1/2-1 cup of water in a steam pan. Close the oven door immediately, and bake at 475F for 5 minutes.
Reduce the temperature to 425F and bake for another 20-25 minutes. To test the doneness, the bread should sound hollow when tapped gently. Careful not to burn your fingers.
Remove the bread out of the oven with a parchment. Cool on the cooling rack at the room temperature for 10 minutes or longer. Serve warm.
Adapted from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day
If you have 00 Flour , you could use it in place of bread flour. You may need more/less water.
I bought the semolina flour from the local Italian Market in bulk instead of buying a bag.
Do not over knead. You can also "stretch and fold" instead.
If the dough is not cooperating, let it rest for 5 minutes and try again. Don't force.
Alternatively, you can divide the dough in half before resting in the refrigerator overnight. One half can be covered in a plastic wrap and place it in the freezer bag. Stored in freezer for a couple of weeks. When you want to use the dough, thaw in the refrigerator overnight before using.