The pressure is on! It’s almost officially summer, and in our home that means hosting many gatherings and events throughout the season. My biggest challenge: What will I serve that everyone will love? I really enjoy featuring home cooked meals for my guests and of our first of many parties will be happening this next week! We will be hosting an outdoor garden dinner and I want to make something I know everyone will love, and we all know what that is… Pizza! Now, all I need to do is learn how to perfect my pizza making craft.
Since I need to practice new recipes, I baked up a storm this past weekend in anticipation to see what new recipes I am able to do. I love baking, but making bread can be intimidating at times. I am here to tell you that the fear of working with ingredients that need leavening isn’t really as hard as it seems, as long as you attentively keep track of rising times. I took advantage of my many herbs growing in the garden and decided to practice making a Focaccia, or as I like to call it, herb pizza.
The prep process for Focaccia is almost identical to that of pizza, with the only difference being that you allow Focaccia dough to rise twice: The first time for an hour and a half, and the second time after spreading out the dough in the pan for about 30 minutes. In my opinion, it’s even slightly simpler than making pizza since you don’t have to worry about sauce or cheese and only need to focus on the olive oil and herbs. Below are a few details to remember along the way:
Focaccia Herb Pizza
First, prepare your favorite pizza dough. (I used one from Beth Hensperger’s The Bread Bible, a great cookbook that has led me to create wonders in the kitchen.) The key is after letting the dough rise stretch it out in the pan which you are going to bake with and then let it rise for an additional 30 minutes. (You may also experiment using store bought dough.
While the dough is rising go ahead and chop some herbs and let them infuse in a good quality olive oil. (You will need about a third cup of olive oil for a pan of bread.) I used sage on one side, and rosemary on the other, but you can explore combining your own selection of herbs. Oregano and Basil can be great additions!
Once it is ready, just use your knuckles to form indentations. This is a crucial step as this will allow the oil and herbs mixture to disperse evenly to flavor the bread. Pour the flavored olive oil on the prepared dough. Bake it in your oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have a pizza stone, prepare it at 450 degrees and drop to 400 right before you introduce the bread.
The time spent baking is vital for the outcome and I believe your instinct comes in handy here. I would have taken mine out about 15 minutes before, but I was going by the book’s timing. Every oven and stone is different so you need to keep an eye on your focaccia pizza. A crispy outside and moist inside is an ideal result. Mine was a bit too crispy, but then again, it can serve as a flat bread instead! It’s a good thing I did a practice run before the party.
Test it out, and whatever you do, make sure to celebrate the first day of summer with your friends and family outdoors offering them delicious new recipes they will surely ask you about!