Over Does It --
Last January IÂ taught my firstÂ cooking class at the local Williams-Sonoma and, typically, I began my teaching career byÂ over-promising.
Oh, I came through and delivered exactly what I said I would. But I hadn't adequately thought through the prep before making the commitment to the class. The result was I spent far more time getting ready for the class than I did teaching it. It began with the research.
The class was titled "Fantastic Focaccia" and I presented the students with four variations on the classic Italian flat bread. I've got a couple of recipes I like making, but they all require more work and time than I expected home cooks -- albeit cooks serious enough to take classes -- to devote to baking. So I spent a good deal of time searching the Internet for simpler recipes and, once I'd settled on a likely prospect, baking it a couple of times to get just what I wanted. By the end of that process, I'd spent a good day at it.
The classes are two hours long, which even for a quick Focaccia isn't enough time to mix, proof, and bake four loaves of bread. Consequently I got up yesterday morning and started making bread. I ended up making six loaves before class and one during the class. Timing was a big issue.
I had one loaf ready to go in the oven when class began. It was a truly basic loaf topped only with olive oil and salt. This accomplished two things. It got cooking odors filling the store immediately and it gave me a first taste to serve 20 minutes into the class. I paired it with a garlic and fresh herb dipping oil which I made in class.
Loaf two had prosciutto kneaded into it and went into the oven when the first loaf came out. So loaf two was timed to be ready to bake 30 minutes after loaf one. Loaf three had a layer of provolone embedded in the center of it, and loaf four was topped with caramelized onions. These two were timed to start baking one hour into the class. Loaves five and six were timed to complete their first proofing halfway through the class and I used one to demonstrate how to make the cheese Focaccia and the other as a spare in case I screwed up one of the other loaves. I mixed one actual loaf in class.
The class was a great success with all the students raving about the bread, and, best of all, I think some will actually give it a try (the only man attending seemed particularly enthused). The class reviews the students filled out backed up what they'd told me personally and several employees commented that first classes seldom go so well.
So today I'm feeling pleased -- despite having worked nearly 16 hours and only getting paid for two. My other classes won't require nearly as much prep and I might even come out OK on them.
2 1/2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp instant yeast
3 tbsp olive oil
3/4 c + 1 tbsp hot spring water (100F â€“ 115F)
additional olive oil
Using the whisk attachment, thoroughly mix flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Mix in yeast. Swapping to the dough hook, add 3 tablespoons of oil and the hot water and mix on low speed until moistened, scraping down sides as needed. Increase speed to medium and knead for 8 minutes, dough should be tacky but not sticky. If dough is too sticky add additional flour a tablespoon at a time: if dough is too dry spritz with water.
Turn dough in a greased bowl, cover, and let rise in warm place about 1 hour or until double. (Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.)
Heat oven to 400F at least 1/2 hour before baking. (If using a baking stone, heat for 1 hour.)
Punch down dough. Brush 12-inch pizza pan or large cookie sheet with oil. Press dough in pizza pan or flatten into 12" circle on cookie sheet. Make depressions, with fingers about 2 inches apart, into dough. Let rise uncovered in warm place about 45 minutes. Brush with additional oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown. Sprinkle with additional oil if desired. Cut into squares and serve warm.
4 ea yellow onions â€“ peeled
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 pinch salt
1 pinch sugar
2 tbsp minced fresh rosemary
Cut onion in half and slice each half into 1/4" thick half-rounds. Melt butter over medium-low heat in a large, covered skillet. Add onions. Sprinkle lightly with salt and sugar and toss to coat. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and browned.
Before baking, brush with olive oil, strew with onions, and sprinkle with rosemary and salt.
4 oz prosciutto â€“ chopped
2 tbsp bacon grease â€“ melted
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
Add pepper to flour along with sugar, salt, and yeast.
Once dough comes together during kneading, knead prosciutto into dough.
Before baking, brush with bacon grease instead of olive oil. Brush with additional bacon grease after removing from oven.
Focaccia al Formaggio (Cheese Focaccia)
8 oz provolone (or other soft, melting cheese) â€“ shredded
After first rising, divide dough in half. Roll each half out into a circle about 8" in diameter. Sprinkle cheese over half of dough, leaving a 1/2" border. Place second round on top and roll edges together and press to seal. Doc top lightly with a fork and allow to rise about 45 minutes.
Brush with olive oil and poke several times with a knife to allow steam to escape. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown.
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