Green Eats: By bread alone

Focaccia, the Italian flatbread, is open to interpretations; take these two, for example.

By PHYLLIS GRAZER
March 29, 2011 11:56
Foccacia

Foccacia 311. (photo credit: MCT)

With Pessah just weeks away, I’m sure that many readers are looking for creative ways to rid their shelves of nonkosher- for-Pessah products, and especially flour. That’s why this week I’ve decided that the time is ripe to introduce you to two new focaccia I recently made and enjoyed.

You can use these recipes for inspiration, and feel free to add any seeds or a half a cup of cooked grains to replace an equal amount of flour.

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For the uninitiated, focaccia is an Italian flatbread, found in both slim and thicker heartier versions, and with various toppings like cheeses, meats and vegetables. Brushed with olive oil, coarse salt and herbs, they make a fine accompaniment to soup and salad. The heartier thicker version can be cut in half widthwise and used to make scrumptious sandwiches.

SLIM FOCACCIA WITH PEARS, OLIVE OIL AND BALSAMIC VINEGAR

This delicious focaccia looks and tastes like a slice of Italy, and you can even freeze the baked breads and use them as a base for pizza, or just brush with olive oil, sprinkle coarse salt, sage or rosemary, and reheat.

For 3 focaccias:
✔ 3 cups white spelt flour
✔ Stybel focaccia flour or white flour
✔ 1⁄2 cup wheat germ
✔ 15 gr. fresh yeast (Shimrit)
✔ 250 ml warm water
✔ 1 tsp. salt
✔ 1 Tbsp. date syrup (silan)
✔ 1 Tbsp. olive oil
✔ Olive oil for brushing
✔ Coarse sea salt
✔ 2 long sprigs rosemary, broken into pieces

Topping:
✔ 2 firm pears, peeled, halved and cored
✔ 1⁄4 cup organic cane sugar, or other sugar
✔ 1⁄2 cup balsamic vinegar
✔ Arugula leaves
✔ 3 tsp. date syrup

In the bowl of a food processor, mix flour, yeast and wheat germ. In a small bowl, mix the warm water, salt, silan date syrup and olive oil. Pour into the feed tube while the processor is running to form a ball of dough, and then remove it and knead for about 7 minutes. Cover with a damp towel and let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 190º. Line two large pans or cookie sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle with cornmeal. Punch the dough to remove air bubbles and divide into three pieces, about 240 grams each. Let stand 10 minutes, then flour hands and stretch one of the balls over the knuckles of the hand, opening it like a pizza, to an oval about 13 x 39 cm. Place it in the pan and repeat with the other two balls of dough. Brush them with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt and half the rosemary. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.

In a small pot, mix the balsamic vinegar and sugar and remaining rosemary and bring to a boil. Lower heat and place the halved pears inside, adding boiling water to just cover the pears. Cook 15 minutes or until the pears are tender but not too soft. Drain and slice each half pear into three pieces (for a total of 12 slices) and divide among h the focaccia. Sprinkle arugula leaves on each focaccia and garnish each with dribble of silan date syrup. Serve immediately. Thinly sliced pieces of goat cheese will also go well on this focaccia.

WHOLE SPELT FOCCACIA WITH AVOCADO OIL AND ARTICHOKES
6-10 servings

A hearty focaccia that rounds out a soup and salad dinner, and is perfect for brunch and entertaining. Avocado oil has similar healthbenefits to olive oil, and a higher smoke point. Whole spelt flour has all the health benefits of whole wheat flour and then some. It is tastier and easier to digest. Substitute half whole wheat and half white flour if desired.

To save time, buy a jar of marinated artichokes, or use frozen artichoke bottoms and marinate them at home.

For the focaccia:
✔ 35 gr. cubed fresh yeast
✔ 1⁄2 cup warm water
✔ 1 tsp. honey
✔ 2 eggs
✔ 3 Tbsp. honey
✔ 1⁄4 cup avocado oil (or olive oil)
✔ 11⁄2 tsp. salt
✔ 1⁄2 cup warm water
✔ 31⁄2 cups whole spelt flour
✔ Additional flour for kneading
✔ Coarse salt
✔ 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary, broken into pieces
✔ 1 jar artichoke hearts in marinade, or 1 cup home made marinated artichokes (recipe follows)

Crumble the yeast in a small bowl and add a half cup of the warm water and a teaspoon of honey.

In another bowl, whisk eggs, oil, honey, salt and the remaining warm water.

Put the flour in a large bowl and make a well in the center.

Pour the egg mixture in the center along with the yeast mixture, and mix with a wooden spoon, adding about three-quarters to 1 cup flour as necessary, until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes until the dough is no longer sticky, adding flour as necessary (be sure to knead in every addition of flour before adding more). Turn over in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.

Punch the dough to deflate, and place in a parchment-lined large baking pan or cookie sheet (if you have one) sprinkled with flour and use the palm of the hand and fingers to flatten it out to about 2 cm. thick oval, then use your thumb to create indentations 3 cm. apart. Drain the artichokes from the marinade and slice thickly. Place a slice of artichoke in each indentation. Brush the dough with the marinade and sprinkle coarse salt and rosemary sprigs.

Let stand 15 minutes.

Bake in a preheated 190º oven for 25-30 minutes or until the focaccia is golden brown both on the top and bottom (check by lifting with a spatula). Remove from the oven and brush with the marinade again.

Serve warm.

For marinated artichokes:

Cook 1 cup artichoke bottoms according to package directions and drain. Add a half cup olive or avocado oil, 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 2 cloves crushed garlic, fresh or dried thyme and rosemary leaves, and salt and pepper to taste. Marinate several hours or overnight in the refrigerator.


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