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Recipe du Jour: Rosemary Lager Focaccia for Dipping…

This entry is part of a series, RdJ»

Rosemary Focaccia

Here’s a quick, summery bread recipe that uses beer. (Yes, I’m on a beer-cooking kick. You’ll just have to suffer.) It’s easy to make, and I think it’s ideal for cutting into crouton-sized pieces and dipping into olive oil:

  • 1 1/4 cups lager beer (I suggest Paulaner, but you take your pick)
  • 1 package active dry yeast (I like the fast-acting stuff)
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar (super-fine if you want fast-dissolving)
  • 1/4 cup good-quality extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (or bread flour)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (or kosher)

Open two bottles of beer. Take a sip out of one bottle, then pour the rest of it in a good-sized, microwavable bowl. (Don’t worry, you’ve got the other bottle for sipping on while you work. No need to panic!) Microwave the beer for 20-25 seconds on high, to warm it up a bit. (You may want to cover the bowl loosely, say with a paper plate on top, to prevent splattering.) Stir in yeast, sugar and 3 tablespoons of the oil. Set aside for a few minutes to proof. It’ll foam nicely, unless your yeast is old.

Place 3 cups of the flour and the teaspoon of salt in a large mixing bowl, or use a stand mixer. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the yeasty beer. Stir until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Flour up a work surface and turn the dough out onto it. Knead vigorously for several minutes,using some of the remaining flour as needed to keep the dough from being sticky. Once the dough is uniform, smooth and elastic, form it into a ball and place in a large, lightly greased bowl. Turn the dough to coat with oil. Cover with plastic and let rise in a warm spot for about 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Coat a large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and place the flour on it. Stretch and mold the dough to fit the sheet in a uniform layer. Use your fingertips to press some decorative divots in the top. Cover with plastic film and let rise another 25-30 minutes.

Parmigiano-Reggiano

Heat the oven to 350° F. Uncover and brush dough with remaining olive oil, then sprinkle with rosemary and salt, then bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown and delish. Serve warm with a meal, or let cool and cut into small pieces for dipping. To reheat, simply wrap in foil and place in a 300° F oven for 10 minutes. (Don’t use the microwave; the bread will get tough and chewy.)

Want to kick this bread up some knotches? Here’s some ideas: Use a heartier beer or ale in the basic bread dough. Put a half-teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes in the flour just before you mix. Or dried Italian herbs. Switch from rosemary to a hearty mixture of seeds: Sesame, poppy, flax and sunflower work well. (To get the seeds to stick you may need to use an egg wash rather than simple olive oil.) Sprinkle the top with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (not the shaker cheese, please). Or try some bacon bits. The options are pretty endless and only limited by your imagination!

Here’s a nice dipping oil mix:

  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Crushed red pepper flakes
  • Roasted garlic bits (I use dried, fresh is fine too)
  • Table salt (or coarser grained, if you like)

Mix all those together in proportions you like, then place on a low glass plate. Cover nicely with extra-virgin olive oil and stir. I like it this way, but if you want an extra dose of flavor, pour in a bit of a high-quality balsamic vinegar. (Wifey likes it that way.) Get a handful of bread bits and dip in…

Enjoy the (Blissful Brew Bread) Heat!

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