Baking Classics: Buttermilk Focaccia

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The Technique

Focaccia

Focaccia is truly one of the easiest yeast breads you can prepare. All you need is a little time but it will be well worth it. Buttermilk Focaccia looks to everyday items to make a homemade bread recipe you’ll reach for time & time again. A tad chewy with twangy undertones, the salt & pepper are the perfect compliment to the buttermilk. Expect a lovely richness from the olive oil. The bottom, in particular, is wonderfully decadent. Follow my tutorial to prepare a lovely flatbread in your very own kitchen.

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buttermilk lipstick Southern Recipes & How To's Easy Tailgate Recipes RebeccaGordon ButtermilkLipstickButtermilk Focaccia
makes 15 servings

1 cup warm water {105 to 115 degrees}
1 {1/4-oz} package active dry yeast
1 tsp honey
3 cups bread flour, plus some
1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup whole buttermilk
5 Tbsp olive oil, divided
Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

Combine the first 3 ingredients in a glass measuring cup. Set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes. Whisk together 3 cups of bread flour & 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt in the bowl of an electric stand mixer. Pour the yeast mixture, the buttermilk & the 2 Tbsp olive oil over the flour mixture. Blend the mixture on Low speed until it comes together in a ball around the dough hook. Increase the mixer speed a notch or two & blend an additional 4 minutes. If the dough begins to cling to the bottom of the bowl, add 2 to 4 tablespoons of additional flour. You want a soft & supple dough but not too spongy nor stiff. Remove the dough from the mixer & form into a ball. Place in an oiled bowl being certain the top of the dough is oiled as well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap & let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down & transfer to a lightly floured board. Roll & shape the dough into a rectangle measuring about 6 x 12-inches. Transfer the dough to a half sheet pan that has been rubbed with 2 tablespoons of oil. Press the dough into each corner of the pan covering the entire surface area. Brush the top with the remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil & sprinkle with a smattering of kosher salt. Let rise, uncovered, for about 1 hour or until it rises halfway up the side of the pan. 

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Dimple the top of the dough with your fingertips. Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until the surface is golden brown. Remove from the oven & sprinkle with pepper. Slice into strips. Serve with additional olive oil.

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Baking Tutorial Yeast Bread Buttermilk Focaccia By Rebecca Gordon Buttermilk Lipstick Editor-In-Chief Southern Baking Cooking Entertaining & Tailgating Brand Pastry Chef Editorial Director Writer Photographer Food Stylist TV Cooking Personality Southern Hostess Game Day Entertaining Modern Southern Socials Entertaining Pointers & Practical Cooking Techniques  How To Make Focaccia

Focaccia is an Italian flatbread variety that’s fairly easy to prepare & the good news is that you don’t need any special equipment to craft a quality recipe. The simplicity makes it one of the most ideal bread styles for a beginner to handcraft. After the first rise, focaccia dough is pressed into a humble half sheet pan. After the second, it’s dimpled with your fingers to give it that signature, rustic finish. I prepared pan after pan of focaccia during my time spent as a pastry chef in several fine dining establishments. It can be topped with herbs but I particularly prefer it with a smattering of salt & pepper for a clean taste that pairs well with a variety of foods that may carry more robust flavors however you can finish the bread anyway you please. Hone your skills & get ready to make this irresistible classic bread style.

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rebecca gordon buttermilk lipstick Southern Recipes & How To's Easy Tailgate Recipes RebeccaGordon ButtermilkLipstickThe Technique

My tutorial is quite detailed but do not mistake it as being a difficult dough to prepare because it’s actually the opposite. If you have never made focaccia, I think you’ll find the instruction to be helpful as the visual cues will just simply confirm that you’re doing everything correctly. Here’s what you should know.

No. 1

The Dough

The Yeast

Dry active yeast can be purchased in 1/4-ounce packets or in small jars. I use both when preparing bread recipes, generally based on what my store has in stock at the time. If purchasing a jar of yeast, store it in the refrigerator after opening. Just be mindful of the expiration date so you don’t find yourself in a jam. You’ll find that 2 1/4 teaspoons is the equivalent to 1 envelope of active dry yeast. 

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It’s a good idea to dissolve dry yeast before using. Combine the warm water, the yeast & the honey in a measuring cup or a glass bowl. Allow it to stand until foamy & bubbly. Yeast feeds on sweetness for fuel creating a bubbly personality. If no bubbles are created during the proofing process, the yeast will not be able to do the job. Simply discard the batch & start again. At this point, you’ll only be five minutes into the procedure so don’t get discouraged. If the bubbles are present then the yeast has proved to you that it is indeed good & you can proceed.

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Bread flour has more protein than all purpose flour. It provides dough strength & structure. The development of gluten is key in order to build the foundation of quality bread.

Salt gives dough flavor. Without out it, expect a dull tasting roll. However, salt can kill yeast so it should be evenly dispersed into the flour before the yeast mixture is added.

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The Mixing & The Kneading

You are now ready to add all of the ingredients together & proceed with the recipe as directed. A heavy duty stand mixer fit with a dough hook is a bread makers friend. It will take care of all of the muscle work when it comes to kneading the dough. Bread doughs will give your mixer a good workout. Do not leave it unattended as it may rock & shake a bit as the dough mixes.

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After approximately 1 minute of blending on Low speed, the dough will come together in the work bowl & begin to form around the dough hook. This is your cue to turn the mixer up to Medium speed to finishing the blending & kneading process

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After approximately 3 minutes, the dough will clean the bowl sides but it will be a touch sticky. The dough consistency contributes to the signature texture & flavor of the focaccia once baked. As this particular bread style blends in the work bowl, you may encounter approximately 2-inches of dough at the base of the dough hook clinging to the very bottom of the bowl. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of additional flour to remedy. Anytime you prepare homemade yeast doughs, additional flour will be needed to aide the process if doughs are sticky.  

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When the kneading process is complete, expect a soft dough that clings to the hook. Sprinkle a generous amount of flour around the outer portion of the dough & begin removing it from the work bowl & equipment onto a floured surface.

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There are two types of dough scrapers I use often when baking. A plastic dough scraper is a flexible tool that aides in removing dough from the bowl. It has a thin edge that allows you to get every bit of dough removed quickly & efficiently. Position the tool behind the flour you added around the circumference of the dough & work your way around the dough by loosening it from the sides as you go. The dough should tumble away from the bowl in a light mass.

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The First Shaping

The dough should feel smooth & light. Place it on a lightly floured surface & flatten the dough into a circle using your hands. The dimples over the surface are from my finger tips indicating the light texture of the dough.

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Gather the outside of the dough & press sections of it to the center around the entire circumference until it all meets evenly in the middle. Flip the dough over. A few quick spins between your hands will have it shaped into a ball. The dough is now ready to be placed into a large, lightly greased bowl.

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The First Rise

Allow the dough to rest & rise. Place the smooth surface in a lightly greased bowl & flip it over so that the greased side faces upwards. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap & place it in an area in your kitchen free from drafts. Covering the dough will keep it from developing a tough skin. This particular dough rises very close to the top of the bowl so if it were to reach the plastic wrap, the oil on the dough will keep it from sticking. 

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Allow the dough to double in bulk. This can take anywhere from an hour to an hour & a half depending on the temperature of your kitchen. If it’s slow going, turn on your oven & place the bowl of dough beside it to speed along the process. Once it has risen to the occasion, punch the dough down.

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The Second Shaping

After doubling in bulk, remove the dough from the bowl & place it onto a lightly floured surface. Punch the dough down until it is relatively flat. Fold the dough into a 6 x 12-inch rectangle. Place the dough onto a half sheet pan that has been generously brushed with olive oil. 

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The dough will not be covered for The Second Rise therefore it’s important to drizzle additional olive oil over the dough to prevent a film from forming over the surface. Push it into the corners of the pan. Sprinkle the top with a little kosher salt. Place the dough in a draft free spot in your kitchen & allow it to rise so as it’s half the original size larger. Your kitchen temperature is a factor that helps to determine how slowly or quickly the dough rises. If it seems to be taking a long time, turn your oven on & place the pan close by.

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No. 6

The Baking 

After an hour the dough will be ready to be dimpled. Use your fingertips to press indentations all over the dough surface. This will add a lovely design element to the simple bread style. The dough is now ready to go into a preheated oven as directed in the recipe.

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The Flatbread

Brush a bit of olive oil over the bread surface when you remove it from the oven to give it a lovely sheen. Sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper for a little more depth. Allow the bread to cool completely before slicing into it with a serrated knife. Expect a crewy texture & a rich flavor from the olive oil.

The Tune
“I’ve been Loving You Too Long” Etta James

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About Rebecca Gordon

* Southern Born * Southern Bred * Tailgate Queen * Southern College Football Fanatic * SEC Tailgate Strategist * Southern Recipe Writer & Sometimes Novelist * Half-Hour Hostess * Media Personality * Houndstooth Hound Owner * Small Town Dreamer * Big Idea Doer * 3rd Generation Pimiento Cheese Fixer * Casserole Maker * Budweiser Drinker * Bourbon Cocktail Sipper * Peanut Butter Love Affair * Cookie Monster * Calorie Burner * Retainer of Useless Pop Culture One Liners * Terrible Dancer * Even Worse Singer but doesn't care * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * Rebecca Gordon shares over 20 years of cooking knowledge in the instructional filled original editorial content on Buttermilk Lipstick as well as the cooking class format videos that can be found on her YouTube channel through regular collaboration with numerous media outlets. Gordon draws from an extensive background in corporate publishing spanning over 13 years on both the business and editorial side focusing on women’s southern lifestyle. She is a classically trained pastry chef and draws from fine dining restaurant experience from a James Beard award winning chef as well as her southern roots upbringing to share cooking, entertaining & style content relevant to today’s modern woman.

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