Many years ago Mr DV and I purchased a bread maker - it was during the time when they were very popular. We could buy a bread mix for less than a loaf of bread and in 3.5 hours have great bread and a wonderfully bread-scented house. The machine came with a little recipe book and we later bought another bread machine recipe book. We trie many of the recipes in the books and if there was a bread machine recipe in the newspaper, we tried that too. The problem with the bread maker was that the bread that it made was too good - it wan’t unusual for us to eat the whole loaf as it was cooling down, only to make a second loaf and eat that too. After a while it seemed to make sense to just stick to store bought bread and have reasonable amounts of it in sandwiches.
We put the bread machine away in our basement and really never gave it another thought until recently when we were renovating our rec room and came across it in a storage cupboard. We made a few loaves, ate them immediately and put the darn thing away again! But the taste of fresh home-made bread is hard to get out of one’s head. Another teacher at my school told me about no-knead breads and i found some interesting and excellent recipes on the King Arthur Flour website. Of course I substituted Earth Balance marg for the butter and soy milk for dairy milk if any was called for.
No knead breads are delightful for all that they are made using yeast and therefore defy all normal bread-making standards - usually bread must be kneaded twice - once before the first rise, and between the first and second rises.
Later one of my bridge partners sent me a recipe for no-knead focaccia. I tried it, and it was great.
But here is how it flopped: for some unimaginable reason, I didn’t grease the pan in which i cooked the focaccia. It tasted great, but around the edges it was adhered so firmly to the sides of my baking dish that I had to cut it out and leave one half an inch of focaccia stuck to the pan all the way around. Then I had to soak the pan all day just to loosen the focaccia so I could scrape it off with a knife before I was able to wash the baking dish. And the baking dish was a new favourite: a vintage square glass pan in the blue heaven pattern. A mid-century classic. I just love that pan and was worried that I had permanently destroyed it.
So here is the recipe. I’ve changed it to make it my own.
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoons of yeast
1 1/2 cups of water - it does not need to be warm but shouldn’t be ice cold either. Cool to room temperature is perfect.
Add the flour, salt and yeast into a large mixing bowl and give it a stir to make sure everything is nicely blended.
Pour all the water in at once and stir until all the dry ingredients are incorporated. It will look a bit shaggy but that’s ok.
Put a piece of plastic wrap over the bowl and set it aside for 12 to 18 hours. I set mine on the stove because I knew I would not be using the stove until tomorrow so putting it there keeps it out of harm’s way while I am doing other things in the kitchen. Don’t put it in the fridge and don’t put it somewhere warm. Don’t open the oven door and put it on the door with the oven on warm. Just set aside with the plastic wrap on it and leave it alone.
After 12 to 18 hours you will notice that the dough has risen substantially in the bowl all on its own.
Now preheat your oven to 450F
Prepare an 8 x 8 inch pan in your normal manner, with a cooking spray or shortening or vegan marg or whatever you like to use. If you love your baking dish, don’t skip this step!!!!!
Now pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of olive oil in the pan. It does seem like a lot but focaccia uses a lot of oil in the cooking.
Remove the dough from the mixing bowl and place it in the pan on top of the olive oil. Stretch it out a bit so it is no longer in a ball but it isn’t necessary to work it into the corners of the pan.
Use your fingers to poke indents all over the dough. You will notice little bits of olive oil seeping up through these indents but this is exactly what you want.
Sprinkle the top of the dough with sea salt. Not too much but don’t be stingy either. Then follow that with chopped fresh or dried herbs of your choosing. Traditionally focaccia is made with chopped rosemary but I will be using chopped oregano tomorrow. I have a rosemary bush but I’m afraid to use it because I’ve seen flies on it and i just don’t think I could get it clean enough to use. It has become a purely decorative rosemary now. I really should grown some indoors where I can protect it, germaphobe that I am.
Cover your pan with foil wrap and bake it in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, then remove the foil wrap and bake it for an additional 20 minutes or until it is golden brown.
You can see that this focaccia came out of the baking dish quite cleanly. A flop, fixed!
You can serve it with vegan cheese or on its own. It is very nice cut in half horizontally and used to make a tomato, vegan mayo and basil sandwich.
It’s an easy bread to make, and your house will smell amazing. The only thing you have to remember if you want to make this bread for a function or for lunch, is that it has a long rising time and you need to account for that and plan your rise accordingly.