Soup season has definitely arrived here in the Pacific Northwest. When it is cold, rainy and dark outside nothing sounds or tastes better than a bowl of soup, especially if it’s homemade. Soup is an easy make ahead meal and freezes great. Nothing goes better with soup than some warm, homemade bread. If you get your soup made up ahead of time it frees up time to put together some bread too right before dinner. What could be better than warm bread right out of the oven?!
One of our favorite breads to serve with soup is focaccia bread – a flat Italian style bread. It’s an easy bread to start with if you are yeast shy and haven’t had much experience with yeast bread. The other great thing is it easy to personalize to your family’s taste. You can make it plain and simple or jazz it up with different seasonings (basil, oregano, rosemary, garlic), cheese (parmesan) and even some fun add ins like olives or sun dried tomatoes.
For dinner last week we were having a minestrone style soup so I thought a little Italian seasoning would be great so I added in dried basil, oregano and garlic powder. I topped it with some shredded Parmesan cheese and it was the perfect addition to our meal.
I like to cook my focaccia bread on my pizza stone. The bread turns out nice and soft in the middle with a light, crispy crust on the bottom thanks to the heat of the stone. If you don’t have a stone be sure and enter the giveaway here at Food on the Table. In the mean time you can easily cook it on a cookie sheet, you just won’t get quite as crisp a bottom.
I mix my dough up in my Kitchen Aid – quick and easy! I add my herbs right in with the flour. After kneading for about 5 minutes in the mixer put it in a greased bowl, cover with a damp cloth and let it rise – about an hour. It should more than double in size. One tip I use to help my dough rise a little quicker is to preheat my oven to 150 degrees and then turn it off. I then put my bowl full of dough into the oven, covered with a towel and let it rise there.
After it has doubled in size, deflate the dough and place on a lightly floured surface and roll out until it is about 1/2 inch thick.
Because I use a pizza stone and it is in the oven preheating I place the dough onto my pizza paddle that I have covered with a nice coating of corn meal. The cornmeal allows the dough to slip easily off the paddle right onto the hot pizza stone in the oven. If you are using a pizza stone but don’t have a pizza paddle you can use the back side of a cookie sheet or a cutting board covered in cornmeal. If you are using a cookie sheet to bake the bread just oil the cookie sheet and place your dough right into the rimmed cookie sheet for it’s second raise.
While the dough is rising, place your pizza stone into the oven and preheat the oven with the stone in place – about 400 degrees. You want that stone nice and hot.
Then allow the dough to sit for about another 30 minutes to rise a little bit more. Right before putting it into the oven use your finger to make indentations into the dough and drizzle a light coating of olive oil over the top. Sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt and then a nice covering of Parmesan cheese. You could also sprinkle with sun dried tomatoes and/or sliced olives.
Slide the dough right off the paddle onto the hot pizza stone in the oven and back for about 15 minutes.
Like most bread, I think focaccia bread is best eaten warm, right out of the oven!
3 1/2-3/4 C bread flour (will also work fine with all purpose flour)
1 tsp honey or sugar
1 package active dry yeast
1 C warm water
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
sea salt or kosher salt for sprinkling
olive oil for drizzling.
Add honey/sugar and yeast into warm water and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes until bubbly.
Add together 1 cup flour, salt and olive oil. Add in yeast mixture and mix together, adding in second cup of flour. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic and not sticky – about 7 minutes. Add additional flour if necessary. Add enough flour only to keep the dough from being sticky. Grease a large bowl and place dough in bowl and cover. Allow to rise until double, about one hour. May place in a warm oven (preheat to 150 degrees and then turn the oven off) to rise if room is cool.
After dough has doubled in size, deflate dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/2 inch thickness. If using a pizza stone, place stone into oven and preheat to 400 degrees for about 20 -30 minutes. Cover the pizza paddle, cutting board or back of cookie sheet with a coating of corn meal and place dough onto the corn meal to rise again. If you are not using a pizza stone, generously oil the inside of a rimmed cookie sheet with olive oil and place rolled out dough onto cookie sheet for second rising.
Allow to rise for about 30-40 minutes. Before putting dough into oven use your finger to poke dimples into the dough and then drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and Parmesan cheese. Slide the dough from the paddle onto the pizza stone in the oven. Bake for about 15 minutes.