Monday, 25 February 2008

Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella Focaccia Bread

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup water, warmed to manufacturer's directions
2 1/4 teaspoons instant dry yeast (one 1/4-ounce packet)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
one 8.5-ounce jar sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, julienned or sliced thin
generous pinches dried basil
1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese, loosely packed when measuring

  • Combine flour, water, yeast, oil, sugar, optional salt (remember the tomatoes are salted and so is the cheese), and knead for about 5 minutes, or until dough is soft, smooth, and has come together in a firm mass. If hand-kneading, you may need to knead a few minutes longer. 
  • Turn dough out onto bare countertop. 
  • Roll the dough into a large oval or rectangle (shape doesn't matter) so it's about 1/2-inch thick and covers about two-thirds of a standard baking sheet.
  • Place rolled dough onto a cooking-sprayed baking sheet.
  • Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 25-40 minutes.
  • While dough rises, preheat oven to 350F. Tip - keep baking sheet with rising dough on the stovetop (make sure the top's off) because the yeast will benefit from the carry-over heat from the preheating oven.
  • After 25 (or so) minutes, using your fingertips, create dimples evenly over the surface of the dough. It's okay to press almost all the way down because the dough will re-inflate quickly.
  • Evenly top with sun-dried tomatoes and excess oil. Some of the oil may run off, that's okay.
  • Evenly top with dried basil.
  • Evenly top with cheese.
  • Bake for about 25 - 40 minutes, or until bread is cooked through and the cheese is melted and golden. Baking time will vary based on how juicy or oily your tomatoes are, how much cheese was added, and oven and climate variances. Watch your bread and not the clock.
  • Garnish with more dried basil and serve immediately. If during baking your bread rose and it's quite puffed and you prefer the cosmetic look of flatter bread, use the blunt end of a wooden spoon to create dimples, thereby flattening the bread. 
  • Bread is best warm and fresh, but will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Before eating leftovers, heat for 5 seconds in microwave to soften.