Spelt Focaccia

I have been spending time in the spelt chapter of Good to the Grain. It's a pretty flavorful place to browse and dream of cakes, scones and focaccia, while looking at stunning photographs.

This focaccia has a wonderful nutty flavor, enhanced by a generous dousing of olive oil. You can top it with anything you fancy--I went with the classic rosemary and a sprinkling of grey sea salt.

I made this focaccia twice because I felt that I made my first too thin. I used my rimless, cookie sheet, which is larger than a standard 10 x 15 pan, and then spread the dough to the edges. (Please use a rimmed pan. The following ought to convince you.)

Unbeknownst to me, a considerable amount of olive oil dripped down to the bottom of the oven during baking (the recipe calls for 1/4 cup drizzled over the surface of the dough). Over the course of the week it turned into charred puddles stuck like tar to the oven floor.

How could we not notice you ask? Well, burned olive oil smells like oven cleaner. With the baking stone covering one rack, and a baking pan for water on a lower rack, I can't really see the bottom of my oven. It never occurred to me to get down on my hands and knees and really peer in there. All we had baked were loaves of bread and some roasted vegetables--nothing that exactly splatters grease.

I applied oven cleaner five times yesterday. I'd say I'm about halfway there. You won't see anything more from my oven until it is clean...

Mr. Savory suggests that from now on I try bending deeply when putting a baking sheet into the oven, rather that bending over with straight legs at an angle. If you are like me and skipped your workout to bake, you can say you fit in a few lunges. All that yoga I've been doing, especially the Warrior poses, should help me out with the deep knee bends.

With the second focaccia, I used the same baking sheet (since I was still oblivious), but decided to shape the dough 1/2 inch thick. This made a smaller, but fluffier bread, and the oil stayed on the sheet.

I did make a few minor changes to the mixing process that made things flow a little more easily for me.

Spelt Focaccia
adapted from Good to the Grain

Olive oil for the bowl and pan
1 package active dry yeast

Pinch of sugar
1 1/2 cups spelt flour
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1/2 tablespoon sea salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
Herbs, spices, or other toppings of choice

1. Lightly rub a large bowl with olive oil and set aside. In another large bowl, add 1 1/4 cups of warm water, the yeast, and sugar. Stir, and allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes until it begins to bubble. (If it doesn't, it may be inactive; throw it out and start over with a new package.)

2. Add the spelt flour and salt to the yeast mixture, mix to incorporate, then add the all-purpose flour and olive oil and stir to combine. Pour the dough onto a lightly floured surface and begin to knead together, adding up to 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour to the dough as necessary to keep it from sticking. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until it is supple and elastic.

3. For the first rise, put the dough into the oiled bowl, turning it so that the top of the dough is coated with oil. Cover with a towel and leave for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

4. Generously oil a rimmed, 10 x15 inch baking sheet with olive oil.

5. For the second rise, place the dough on the baking sheet. Stretch the dough out with your hands so that it covers the surface of the baking sheet, and dimple it with your fingers. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and leave to rise for 1 hour.

6. Preheat oven to 400 degrees, with a rack placed in the middle.

7. After the dough has completed the second rise and has puffed up on the sheet, top it with 1/4 cup of olive oil and sprinkle it with salt, herbs or spices, or the toppings of your choice.

8. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Allow the bread to cool slightly in the pan before slicing and serving.

9. If you wish to store the focaccia dough for future use, after the first rise is complete, wrap the dough tightly in plastic and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before shaping the dough and continuing with the recipe.