I shared this post about one month ago but I am repeating it today in honor of my mom. She died a peaceful death yesterday at ninety-two years of age after a wonderful, full life. You can read a bit about this amazing woman below. She is survived by her six children, sixteen grandchildren and a "slew" of great-grandchildren, all who have loving, sweet and often humorous memories of "mom" and "grandma" that will carry us through the sad days without her. I will be taking the rest of the week off, but please enjoy the blog while I'm away.
Today's post is a salute to my mom, Marion Rose! She is 92 years old and raised six children, much of this on her own. You see, my dad died in an accident when I was nine. At the time, my siblings ranged in age from five to eighteen.
My mom is quite the gal! I never saw her portray self-pity which would have been understandable in her situation. I know now that there were surely many sad moments for Marion, but she chose to focus on loving us and keeping her bunch of rowdy kids in line. She taught us so many things, among them being respect for ourselves and others, a strong work ethic, and the ability to laugh and find humor, even when life was not so funny. Hats off to you, mom!
You might be wondering how my mom and focaccia bread relate to each other....
There is a funny story about my mom and this delightful Italian treat. Back in the late 90's focaccia bread's popularity was sweeping across the US. Up until this time, not many people knew what focaccia was, unless they had traveled in Italy or the Mediterranean region. Trends were especially slow in reaching our little corner of the Midwest. So when my brother, John, visited my mom one day with two loaves of focaccia bread she was a bit befuddled, being more of an old fashioned "meat and potatoes" girl. He prepared one loaf to accompany their dinner and put the other in her freezer, giving her preparation instructions. Several weeks later she called him saying, "tell me again, John, what do you do with that faklavá?". Faklava, baklava, all these foreign foods, they all kind of ran together for sweet old Marion.......
I have been making foklava, oops, I mean focaccia, for many years and have tried a variety of different recipes but this one trumps them all! I found it on the Williams Sonoma web site and did a bit of tweaking. Instead of a large sheet pan, I make mine in two round cake pans. I think the bread is so much prettier this way. I made a few other small changes as well and the first time I tried the recipe I knew I would be making it again and again!
The bread freezes well and can be used in a variety of ways. In addition to serving it in the bread basket, with a meal, it is great for lunch paired with a salad or soup. Layer it with some yummy deli meats or chicken salad and you have a fun party sandwich. It also makes a fantastic pizza crust (recipe and pics coming!).
If you have a stand mixer, this focaccia is a breeze to make. The original recipe calls for hand kneading but, being my lazy self, I let my mixer and dough hook do all the work. You do need a bit of time to allow for the rising but most of it is hands-off. If your spending a day at home, catching up on things or have a free Saturday morning, give this recipe a try. You will love it and your family/friends will love YOU!!!
P.S. Your house will smell unbelievably heavenly as this bread bakes. Beware, there is an overwhelming "temptation to devour", as soon as this emerges from the oven!! Of course, I wouldn't know about that. Oh, oh, I have to run now, my nose is growing............
Herbed Focaccia (focaccia Alle Erbe)
2 ½ teaspoons (1 package) active dry yeast
½ cup warm water (105° to 115°F)
1 ½ cups milk, 2% or whole milk, not skim
1 tablespoon brown sugar
5 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons olive oil
sea salt, to taste
1.Warm the milk and water to 110 to 115 degrees. (I do this in the microwave. I put it in for 2 minutes and the check the temperature. If it is not warm enough, continue to heat for 15 seconds at a time, checking the temperature after each cycle.) Once the liquid is the right temperature, add the brown sugar and stir to combine. Sprinkle the yeast over the warm mixture, stir again and let stand until bubbly*, about 5 minutes. Add 3 Tbs. of the olive oil.
*If yeast mixture does not begin to bubble and "grow", do not proceed with the recipe. Either your yeast has lost it's potency or your liquid was too hot or too cold -this is the only secret to working with yeast - make sure your liquid is between 110 and 115 degrees. Use a thermometer! You can purchase an inexpensive thermometer in home stores and even many grocery stores.
2. Using the dough hook on a stand mixer, mix the flour, salt, and chopped basil. Add the yeast mixture and mix until a soft dough forms, about 2 minutes. Continue to mix with dough hook for 10 minutes.
3. Oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn it once to coat the top. (I actually move the dough to one side of the mixer bowl, drizzle a bit of olive oil into empty side of bowl and then turn the dough until lightly greased. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
4. Oil 2 9 inch cake pans. (I use about 2 teaspoons of olive oil per pan.) Punch down the dough, divide in 2, and pat each piece into a circle approximately the size of your cake pans. Transfer to the prepared pans, and continue to flatten the dough with your hands to cover the bottoms of the pans completely. Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rise again in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
5. Preheat an oven to 450°F.
6. Using your fingertips, press down firmly into the dough to make dimples about 1 inch apart and 1 inch deep. Lightly brush the entire surfaces with the remaining 2 Tbs. oil and sprinkle with the sea salt and rosemary.
7. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 25 minutes. Slide the focaccias onto a wire rack and let cool completely. Cut into wedges to serve.
Adapted from a recipe from Williams Sonoma