The ciabatta sandwiches that Tina served to family Tuesday afternoon were exceptional, and eating just one of them has propelled me into a season of bread baking. Although Tina usually bakes her own ciabatta, she purchased it for this occasion in consideration of the number of hungry people gathered at her house.
I’m eager to make Tina’s ciabatta, but, currently, it’s focaccia all the way. This Italian flatbread is so simple to make that children can have successful results with some adult help. Yesterday I made an Onion Focaccia from Jeff Smith’s The Frugal Gourmet, and there’s not a crumb left.
ITALIAN FOCACCIA—ONION BREAD
2 packages dry yeast, dissolved in 1 cup lukewarm water
3 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
6 green onions, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
Fresh cracked pepper
Place the water and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add half the flour, 1/4 cup olive oil, the sugar, and salt, and mix with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the remaining flour, and blend in by hand. Place the dough on floured board, and knead for 5 minutes. Place the dough on a Formica countertop or on plastic wrap, and cover with a large metal bowl. Allow to rise about 1 hour, or until doubled in bulk.
When it is doubled, punch the dough down, and knead it for 1 or 2 minutes. Roll the dough out to fit a greased 9—by 13—inch shallow pan, and place the dough in the pan. Let the dough rise until not quite doubled in bulk, and then punch holes all over it, using a fork. Brush the top of the dough with some olive oil and then the tomato paste. Mix together the yellow onion, green onions, and garlic; use to sprinkle top of dough. Sprinkle with the pepper. Preheat the oven and bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until lighted browned.
I placed the dough on my granite countertop and covered it with a large metal bowl, but the dough rose outside the bowl. Next time I’ll coat the dough with olive oil and let it rise in the actual bowl.
A mixer and a rolling pin are not necessary.
The tomato paste was difficult to spread. Perhaps thinning it with a teaspoon of water would help.