Archive for December, 2009

Focaccia from Poolish

25 December 09

Focaccia is Italian, poolish is Polish by way of Vienna through France. Focaccia is quite well-known in French cooking. The Burgundy region knows it as foisse. Provance and most of the rest of France knows it as fougasse.

Poolish fermentation gives a much fuller flavor to just about any bread, so this is a nice variation. It takes much longer than the simple focaccia recipes that can be whipped together in almost no time at all. But – longer fermentation generally means more flavor – and so it is here.

Focaccia is quite ancient. It goes back past ancient Rome to either Etruscan or Greek roots. There are as many variations as there are cooks. You can use herb infused oil. You can add meaty toppings. You can add sweet toppings. You can treat it like pizza dough or sandwich bread. It is frequently served as a side and dipped into olive oil. You can do anything you like with this basic recipe. This is pretty much a large flat bread. The recipe can be scaled up or down to your needs.


188 g bread flour (1-1/4 cups)
180 g water (3/4 cups)
1/8 tsp yeast (a good pinch from a standard pack)


all poolish
200 g bread flour (1-1/3 cups)
7 g salt (1 tsp)
the rest of the yeast package
45 g olive oil (3 Tbs)
90 g water (3/8 cup)
60 g Herb Oil (1/4 cup)

—–Herb Oil—–

120 g olive oil (1/2 cup)

—–Poolish —–

Mix the flour and water with a good pinch of yeast until it is all incorporated. Cover and let rise overnight.

If you are going to make an herb-infused oil now would be a good time to warm the oil and add the herbs. Crush the herbs with a mortar and pestle as needed and dump them into the warm oil to soak overnight is the simplest way.

—– Dough —–

Mix everything together for 3 minutes on low speed and then 3 minutes on second speed. If you are masochistic enough to mix by hand then just keep stirring until you arm falls off. It is too sticky a dough to be kneaded.

—– Stretching, Folding, Forming —–

Turn out onto a heavily floured work surface. Flour the upper surface and pat it out into a large rectangle. Stretch and fold in half, then fold the side in by thirds. Pat the folded sandwich down so that it is about the original size and thickness. Lube the top with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap.

  1. Ferment 30 minutes. Repeat above procedure, folding opposite direction from before.
  2. Ferment 30 minutes. Repeat above procedure, folding opposite direction from before.
  3. Ferment 30 minutes. Repeat above procedure, folding opposite direction from before.

Place the sandwich onto a jelly roll pan lined with oiled parchment paper and lube well with oil. A double recipe takes a 17” x 12” pan. Use a pan sized to your batch.

Ferment one hour.

Pour 1/4 cup of oil (infused if you are using it). With only your finger tips poke the dough down and spread it out without getting it too thin. You do NOT want to flatten that last rise. The dough should pretty well fill your pan and be dimpled all over where your finger tips have pushed into it.


Photo from “Flour on My Face” blog by Arlene Mobley

Ferment 2 hours, covered with plastic wrap.

Add some more oil and poke it down if it looks like it needs it. Sprinkle with salt to your liking. Add any doo-dads that you want. If there are any really big, thin bubbles you might as well pop them now.

—– Baking —–

Preheat the oven to 500°F. When you put the dough into the oven then lower the temp to 450°F. After 10 minutes turn the pan if your oven does not cook evenly. Total cooking 20 to 25 minutes. So if you rotated the dough give it another 10 to 15 minutes. What you want is about 200°F at the center of the bread. Cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before indulging. This – by the way – is what is called baking in a falling oven. This is an attempt to mimic the action of the old stone ovens – quite historical, actually.

If you are using toppings that burn you might want to add them during the last few minutes of cooking. If you are doing an infusion with your oil do try to use fresh herbs. They work better. A real traditional would be some onions, some olives, some garlic, all chopped up and slowly infused overnight.

Yeah – this is where the pizza joints got their idea for their bread sticks.

{Herself Sez: I LOVE focaccia! I like the rich, olive-oiliness of it, and the flavor of the herbed oil that I dip it in. It’s a good thing the Ol’ Curmudgeon only makes it in half-batches, and freezes it in small-serving sizes. That keeps me from eating it too fast. (I’d eat it all – ALL – at one sitting, given the opportunity!) The Ol’ Curmudgeon doesn’t like it very much, so he makes it just for me. It is such a warm, rich experience being cherished this much! Kind of like focaccia dipped in warm herbed oil!}


Baked Shrimp in Tomato Feta Sauce

16 December 09

This is pretty good stuff. You can use chunks of fish or other kinds of shellfish if you like. (Or a combination thereof). This is for 2 people, double for 4, etc.

olive oil
1 small onion
1 big clove garlic – or 2 small
1 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes or equal amount fresh chopped
1/8 cup minced fresh parsley
2 tsp fresh dill or 1/2 tsp dried dill
1/2 lb medium sized raw shrimp (should work out to about 8 per person)
Salt to taste
black pepper to taste
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Swirl some olive oil into a good oven-proof skillet – cast iron works best – and heat up to about medium. Add onions and cook on low heat until soft and translucent, should be about 5 minutes – don’t burn them. Fine chop or use a coarse press on the garlic. Mix the garlic in and cook until garlic fragrance is evident – about 30 seconds usually.

Mix in the tomatoes, raising the heat until the mix is nicely simmering. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or less. You want to slightly thicken the liquid, but not boil it dry. While this reduction is happening is a good time to fine chop the dill and parsley and crumble the cheese.

Cut off the heat and add the dill, parsley, feta cheese, and shrimp. Stir it up and add salt and pepper to taste. And yeah, the shrimp need to be peeled and deveined. Thaw the shrimp if they are frozen.

Put the pan in the 425°F oven for about 10 minutes or until the shrimp (or whatever) is done.

Serve while it is hot over rice or pasta, or with a good crusty French baguette. Over rice or with fresh French bread with lots of butter are especially wonderful. Rice is also nice in that rice and this dish take about the same time – 30 to 35 minutes.

Make sure that you get genuine Greek-style feta cheese – made from sheep’s milk, not the phony stuff. It does make a considerable difference. A wimpier flavored cheese just won’t stand up to the other strong flavors in this hearty dish.

{Herself Sez: O yummy!}

Roast Pork Loin –

8 December 09

This takes a little while to get cooked up, but it is worth the effort. Try this with your next dinner and your guests will rave. Pfui – never mind the party, do a small one for yourself and your spouse. It will be appreciated.

Enough pork loin for the people at hand, maybe ¾ lb per person, fat still on. This is variable, usually a 6 pounder will feed 8 people. A 1.5 pounder will feed two. If you are lucky, you might have enough left over for a sandwich the next day or so. The cooking times will probably need adjustment up or down a bit depending on the size and shape thereof.

Cut diamonds or squares about 1” apart in the fat side. Roast at 350° for 1 hour fat side up. Lube the pan enough not to burn, you want to capture the juices below the cooking rack. I put some water in my pan and just deduct from the water in the sauce.

While it is roasting make up a paste. For every 1.5 lbs or so of loin:

1/4 cup brown sugar
1 clove minced garlic. If you’ve got a garlic press with different meshes, use the largest, Otherwise, just smash and mince with the knife.
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves. It is really better not to use ground clove. It is better to use clove buds spiked into the center of each square or diamond. Just like mama used to do with a ham. The reason is that the paste is mostly going to slide off as heat softens it. The cloves help anchor the paste to the top. Just use your hand and thoroughly mold the paste around the clove anchors. Don’t worry, the flavor will get through just fine.
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 myrtle leaf if you can get it, bay leaf, otherwise. I like the subtle taste the myrtle gives. Don’t get too heavy, a little is good. A lot is NOT better. Kitchen scissors work well here. Clip the tip and the stem, chop the rest fine with the scissors.
kosher salt to taste, probably around 1/4 teaspoon per 1.5 lbs loin.
fresh ground pepper again too taste. Probably 8 to 10 grinds per 1.5 lbs loin.

Scale the paste up or down as needed. Just mix up the paste in a small bowl with a kitchen fork, then add enough dark rum to make a stiff paste – NOT a slurry, just enough run to help hold it together. Let the paste mellow in the bowl while the loin finishes the first hour of cooking.

When the loin has roasted, remove from the oven, save all the pan juice, pack the paste firmly onto the fat side, and roast another 30 minutes. Don’t overcook it, when your instant thermometer reaches 155° take it out and let it rest. It will coast up to 160°, which is just done pork.

While the roast rests make the following dip. Per 1.5 lbs of loin:

1/2 cup simmering water
1 cube chicken bouillon
1 teaspoon cornstarch

If the reserved pan juice has a layer of fat floating, just skim it off. Stir in all the pan juice and the bouillon. Add the cornstarch to just enough cold water to dissolve it and then stir that in to the simmering mix.

Slice up the pork and serve the sauce in dipping dishes.

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