I was excited to see that Alice used olives in her recipe. I am a huge fan of olives! And it gave me an opportunity to make a couple of my favorite things – foccacia bread and a muffuletta sandwich.
I’ve made foccacia bread in many different ways, using many different recipes and it’s a very easy yeast bread to make. Yeast breads tend to scare people who are new to bread making, but after you try this bread, it might just give you the confidence to go on to bigger and better things!
Foccacia is a perfect accompaniment to any Italian dish, it is delicious cut in wedges and dipped in olive oil, it is great as a deep dish pizza crust, or as a base for artichoke dip. It is also just the thing for Muffuletta sandwiches. I first had a muffuletta sandwich in New Orleans, at the Central Grocery deli. They sell the sandwiches in wholes, halves or quarters. I liked it so much that I bought a half sandwich to bring home with me to Minneapolis.
The secret to a great muffuletta is the olive salad.
I mixed up my flour, salt and yeast
Added the warm water and mixed it with my hands until the dough was sticky, but not too sticky.
Then I turned it out onto a very well floured counter and kneaded the dough, incorporating a little more flour as I did so.
Kneading is such a therapeutic thing for me. Really, kneading is just turning the dough upon itself and pressing down with the heel of your hand, turning a half turn and repeating. If you need to get out some aggressions, you can always pick up the dough and slap it onto the counter. Do it! It feels really good!
Then I put the dough back in the mixing bowl with a little more flour and covered it with a clean cloth. I allowed it to rise in a warm spot for about an hour or until it had doubled in size.
I pulled it out of the mixing bowl with oiled hands, shaped it into a large ball and placed it onto an oiled baking sheet.
I then pressed it into a large circle and poked holes into it with my finger, making sure the holes didn’t go the whole way through. I drizzled it with olive oil, scattered the rosemary leaves, pressed the olive halves into the dough and sprinkled with salt.
After letting it rest for a few minutes – 10-15 or so – it went into a 425F oven for 25-30 min, until it was golden brown in color.
I let it cool, then cut it in half and covered the bottom with the chopped olive salad.
Over that, I placed a layer of slices of genoa hard salami, a layer of slices of hot capocollo ham (or you can use smoked ham instead if you want a more mellow flavor),
then a layer of provolone cheese. Topped with greens – I used baby arugula, which has a mild peppery sharpness to it – it was nearly complete.
I drizzled the top half of the bread with olive oil (I just used the olive salad oil)
and put the two halves together. It’s best to let it sit for about an hour, for the flavors to meld.
Cut in wedges and serve.
This sandwich tastes wonderful the next day, which makes it perfect for picnics. Just wrap the entire sandwich in plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.
Kalamata olive and rosemary focaccia
Recipe loosely based on this recipe by Nigel Slater.
Makes one round bread about 10 inches (25cm) in diameter.
4 cups (450g) bread flour
1½ tsp salt
1 packet (7g) fast-acting yeast
1 1/2 cup (400ml) warm water
a good handful of Kalamata olives
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp rosemary leaves
sea salt flakes
Put the flour, salt and yeast into a large bowl, mix well, then pour in the water to make a sticky dough. Start with 3 1/2 cups of flour, then add more as needed to make a sticky, but workable dough.
Flour the work surface generously, then turn out the dough and knead lightly. Knead in some of the flour from the work surface, adding a little more if the dough remains sticky. It should come away from the work surface cleanly, but should be a little more moist than the usual bread dough. Keep kneading until the dough no longer sticks to the board. Continue kneading in no particular fashion for a full 5 minutes then put the dough into a floured bowl and set aside, covered with a clean tea
towel, until it has risen to double its size. This generally takes anything up to an hour depending on the warmth of your room.
Rub the bottom of a baking sheet with a little oil. You can also scatter it with a thin layer of cornmeal – this will keep the base crisp and prevent it from sticking as it cooks (I did not do this). Set the oven at 425F (220C).
Remove the dough from its bowl (it will sink, but no matter), shape it into a ball and place it on the oiled baking sheet. Let it rest for another 15 minutes or so.
Slice the pitted olives and remove the rosemary leaves from the stalk.
With a floured finger, push several holes deep into the dough, then drizzle olive oil and rosemary leaves over the dough and press in the olives. Scatter liberally with salt flakes. Bake for 25-30 minutes till pale gold, crisp on top and springy within.
Many thanks to Amy for the beautiful photography. I think I’ll be cooking at Amy’s house a whole lot more!
Alright, Alice. What are you going to tempt me with next?