Thursday, September 02, 2010

My Favorite Dough

Focaccia bread with rosemary, thyme, olive oil & sea salt.
I really love the green kind of dough that you keep in your wallet, but that is kinda hard to keep around and when I run out of it, I can't just make more.  So, my most favorite dough is a bread dough. It is yummy, useful, and I can make as much as I want without getting arrested.

Yesterday in my post, I included a link to a recipe for bread using the "5 Minutes a Day" technique.  That is a basic dough for making a crusty European style bread like a French baguette.  It is wonderful!  When it is fresh, the loaves from this have an amazing crispy crust with a neat texture on the inside.  However, if you are planning on keeping this for a day, it definitely loses something.  Also, it is not as ideal to make sandwiches, especially for little ones.  They struggle with that tougher crust. 

After feeling confident with the basic dough technique, I began experimenting with various other dough in the book.  We discovered that everyone LOVES challah bread which is enriched with eggs, butter, and honey.  When we are feeling rather decadent, we will make up some brioche which is enriched with LOTS of eggs, butter and honey.  I was still however searching for a simple everyday dough that my family loved.  That's when I discovered olive oil dough.  It is categorized as a dough for making flatbread and focaccia bread or pizzas.  There are several recipes in the "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" book that it can be used in, but it is never discussed as a stand-alone bread.

For our first experiments with this dough, we made focaccia bread (like in the photo).  I rolled it out like a pizza crust, drizzled olive on it and added rosemary, thyme and a bit of French grey sea salt.  It was love at first bite!  We started making this more frequently because not only is it yummy, but it is super fast to make because it is thin and doesn't require much time to rise.

One day I decided to try to use the dough to make a regular loaf of bread.  It turned out beautifully.  It has a finer texture than the basic European style bread and a nice soft crust.  It works wonderfully for sandwiches.  Over time I have also used this dough for, pizza, calzones, rolls, dinner braids with various fillings, and breadsticks, along with countless numbers of basic loaves that got devoured right out of the oven by my family.  (It is hard to tell a group of hungry folks to wait until the bread cools after they have just been smelling it baking.)

Here's how I make it:

OLIVE OIL Bread Dough

3 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 T. yeast
1 1/2 T. kosher (course) salt
1 T. sugar
6 1/2 cups bread flour

Mix all of the ingredients together in a large container.  My favorite type is a commercial cold food storage container like this one.  It is just the right size, fits nicely in my fridge and has a lid that just sits on top without snapping tight which is what you need to avoid a messy explosion of yeasty gasses.  Let this rise on the counter 2 or 3 hours.  Then it is ready to use, but will be less sticky if placed in the refrigerator for a while first.  This makes 4 pounds of dough and will keep 10-14 days this way.  Because we can go through a lot of bread, I usually will divide the dough in half and form 2 large loaves.  I let these rise 1 1/2 - 2 hours and then I bake them at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes. 

Another recipe for using this wonderful dough can be found here:  Sweet Provençal Flatbread with Anise Seeds.  I haven't tried this, but it looks delish.

Let me know if you give this a whirl and what you do with it.  Next, I will share with a favorite pizza that I use this dough to make.  It's a fun, fancy gourmet type, but simple to throw together.

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