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Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Raisin, Rosemary, and Cinnamon Focaccia

On lazy weekend mornings, I often wake up with dreams of baking still swirling around in my head, like the steam coming off a hot cup of coffee. Sometimes, I’m so enticed by these thoughts of baking that I eagerly pop out of my warm, cozy bed and prance into the kitchen. I swing my apron on over my pajamas, preheat the oven, and start playing with flour and sugar.

Baking in the morning is such a gentle and lovely way to start the day. The aromas fill the house (or tiny San Francisco apartment) with happiness and the promise of something delicious, soon to be enjoyed.

This past weekend, I decided to do a little advance planning and try out a recipe I’d been thinking about for awhile: Raisin, Rosemary and Cinnamon Focaccia. Although you can complete the entire Focaccia recipe in one day, you’d have to wake up before the sun to get it baked off in time for breakfast or brunch. I prefer that the sun wakes up before I do, so I put together most of the recipe on Saturday for a Sunday bake.

First I plumped the Raisins in hot water for about 5 minutes, which heightens the lush, juiciness of the Raisins in the final bread. I like to do this step with most dried fruits that I bake with to ensure that the fruits are tender and delicious…it is simply too disappointing to take a bite into an irresistible bread…only to discover that it is dotted with hard, unappealing dried fruits. Next, I proofed the yeast in warm milk and mixed in the dry ingredients. This Focaccia recipe has milk in it instead of the more traditional water, so it has a softer and more tender crumb than most (the fat in the milk coats the gluten strands in the flour so they can’t link together as easily, resulting in a more tender bread). I then left the yeast to do its magic, and waited for the dough to double in size (about an hour and a half).

I then punched the dough blob down and shaped it on a sheet tray. Then I brushed the top lightly with olive oil, covered it with plastic wrap and slid it into the fridge for later. On Sunday morning, all I had to do was sprinkle the top with some Turbinado Sugar (bigger, crunchier crystals than table sugar) and pop it into the oven.

The resulting Focaccia is softly sweet and full of juicy Raisins that are nicely balanced by the crunchy Turbinado Sugar baked into the crust. The deep fruitiness of the Raisins is enriched further by the Cinnamon and Rosemary, which not only taste delicious but smell simply divine. This Focaccia is worth the time.

This focaccia recipe was written originally to be done in a KitchenAid Mixer, but I adapted these instructions to do it without one. If you are the lucky owner of a KtichenAid, then proceed as instructed below but reduce all kneading times by about 2 minutes. Also, be sure to scrape sides of bowl and turn dough occassionally while kneading.

Raisin, Rosemary and Cinnamon Focaccia
(adapted from “The Art and Sould of Cooking” by Cindy Mushet)

2 cups plump sweet raisins
2 ¼ cups warm milk (I used 2%) heated to 110-115 degrees
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast, or 2 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast
5 cups bread flour (or AP Flour)
3 Tablespoons olive oil, plus additional for brushing
2 bunches fresh rosemary, leaves removed and very finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2-3 Tablespoons Turbinado sugar

To plump raisins: Place in saucepan with water to cover. Bring water to boil, then turn off heat, cover pan, and let raisins sit for 5 minutes. Drain the raisins in the colander set in the sink and shake off any excess water. Spread raisins on baking sheet and cool.

Mix and Knead the dough: Combine warmed milk and sugar in large bowl and sprinkle the yeast on the top. Whisk in ¼ cup of flour by hand. Let sit for 10 minutes. Whisk in another 2 cups of flour and mix thoroughly for ~5 minutes (I used my hands for this, which I coated lightly with olive oil to prevent sticking, but a wooden spoon would do the trick).

Add the raisins, olive oil, rosemary, cinnamon and salt to the dough and mix until well blended. Add the remaining 2 ¾ cups of flour and knead for ~6 minutes (the dough will be very sticky…I kneaded the dough while it was still in the bowl by sort of squishing it together with my hands, which were lightly oiled).

Rise the dough (first rise): Lightly oil the tub a bowl, scrape the dough in and lightly coat the surface of the dough with little oil. Cover with plastic wrap or lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 1-1 ½ hours. If you’re using a tub, be sure to mark the starting level of the dough with a pencil or piece of tape so it’s easy to tell when the dough has doubled.

Punch down and shape the dough: Scrape the risen dough onto a greased 17x12 inch baking sheet with ½ inch sides and press dwon onto the dough firmly to expel some air bubbles (but don’t knead the dough again). Push and stretch the dough into an even layer in the pan. If the dough begins to pull back and resist stretching, you can brush the top with a little olive oil, set the pan aside for 10 minutes and then try again.

Proof the dough: Brush the dough with a little olive oil and cover pan with plastc wrap. Let the dough rise until it is almost doubled in size. Or, if you want to bake the focaccia the following day, brush the dough with a little olive oil, let rise ~20 minutes, cover with plastic wrap and stick in the refrigerator overnight.

Prepare oven: Place baking or pizza stone in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Be sure to allow ~45 minutes for the stone to fully heat.

Bake the Focaccia: If you had the dough in the fridge overnight, take it out for ~30 minutes before proceeding. If not, continue on.

Remove plastic wrap, brush the dough olive oil if it was refrigerated (you can skip this additional oil if you didn’t refrigerate the dough overnight), dimple the dough by gently pressing your fingertips into the dough, about ½ inch deep, taking care not to deflate the dough by pressing too hard or making too many dimples.

Sprinkle the dough with Turbinado sugar and bake for 30-35 minutes (check that internal temp is at least 200 degrees F). Transfer to a cooling rack, brush lightly with olive oil immediately and cool for ~10 minutes before serving. Cut focaccia with a serrated knife.


Chelsea said...

Becky!! I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog (via facebook)! I'll be checking back often for more fun recipes and life updates...I'm so excited to hear that you're in pastry school :) love love love!

Holly said...

Hey, Becky. I'm Marie-Suzanne's "substitute mother, knitting guru" friend. Remember I gave you a scarf one Christmas. Wow, it looks like you're doing a fabulous job. Of course, I just have to look at it and have some wishful thinking. Don't bake anymore because if I did, I'd eat it all. Good luck with your classes and your career.