Are you feeling a bit of cabin fever? With so many across the globe in quarantine due to the dreaded Covid-19 virus, staying at home for an extended time may be a new phenomenon. As much as I like to visit with family and friends, attend movies, concerts and the opera, I love my solitude also, so hunkering down to help flatten out the Coronavirus curve is no problem. When you think about all the people who have died from this illness, self-isolation is a small price to pay.
There’s no excuse for boredom with all the offerings on TV and cable, and plenty of books and music available online. I like to paint and write too, so I’ll have lots of time for those pursuits in the next couple of weeks or however long we need to be cooped up. And here’s a novel thought — maybe you can entice your housemate to help you in the kitchen and make this focaccia. I have to confess my husband didn’t help make this focaccia, but he did all the cleanup afterwards. And that’s good enough for me, in fact better, since I hate to do the dishes.
All you need is some flour and water and yeast (and a little salt and olive oil) to make the basic focaccia. Let it rise for a few hours until doubled in size.
Then press it into a cast iron skillet (or use another oven-proof pan instead) and let it rise slightly again, enough to dimple with your fingers all over.
Use any combination of vegetables and press them into the dough in a decorative design. I used peppers, tomatoes, red onion, olives and the stems of scallions as “stems,” plus a little parsley. Generously sprinkle some coarse salt (like kosher salt) over everything and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake at 475 degrees for about 15-20 minutes and dig in.
And let’s help out our neighbors and friends who might need a helping hand in grocery shopping or picking up prescriptions during this stressful time. Take precautions and wash your hands frequently. Many restaurants and small businesses are going to have a tough time staying afloat during this crisis. A lot of them in my town are allowing you to call in an order and pay by credit card, then pick-up your order at the curb. So do your part and order some take-out, buy some wine or a loaf of bread from your local merchant. You know what to do.
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- 1 t. dry yeast (about ½ package)
- ½ t. sugar
- 2 cups flour (I used bread flour but regular all-purpose flour is ok too)
- ¾ t. salt
- ¾ cups warm water (between 105 and 110 degrees)
- olive oil to drizzle on top
- coarse, or kosher salt for the top
- vegetables to decorate top (I used small peppers, red onions, olives, cherry tomatoes, scallions and parsley)
- Dissolve the yeast in about ¼ cup water and add a tsp. of sugar to help get it started.
- The temperature of the water is very important.
- It should be between 105 and 110 degrees.
- I use a meat thermometer to get the right temperature.
- Too cold and it takes forever for the dough to rise. Too hot and you kill the yeast.
- After the yeast has sat in the small bit of water and sugar, it should start to bubble up in about five minutes.
- Mix it with the flour, the rest of the water and the salt.
- You can use a food processor or just mix it by hand in a bowl until it’s all blended.
- Add more flour or water if needed.
- Knead for about five minutes, then place in a greased bowl and cover it with a dish towel, plastic wrap or a large plate.
- Let it rise in a warm place until doubled.
- This could take a couple of hours.
- Punch down the dough and spread in a cast iron skillet if you have one.
- If not, just make a free-form circle and use a cookie sheet.
- Let it sit for about five minutes in the pan, then use your fingers to dimple the top.
- Decorate with vegetables over the top in any design you like.
- Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with coarse salt.
- Bake in a preheated 475 degree oven for about 15 minutes-20 minutes.
- Check to see the bottom is browned and if not, move it to the lowest rack in your oven.
- If not browned enough, move it to the highest rack in the oven.