Sunday, September 30, 2012

Cheese-Stuffed Focaccia

      Focaccia is basically an Italian flat bread similiar to pizza but, unlike its relative, is never served piping hot.  It is made from a simple dough that can be formed into different shapes like rectangular or round, etc.  It can be thin and crunchy, thick and soft, crispy or chewy.  (Today's recipe is a thin and crispy type.)  It can be seasoned in many ways with different herbs, an infinite variety of vegetables, cheeses, etc., or simply topped with the best olive oil and some coarse sea salt.  Oh, focaccia, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways! You make a great snack and you're delicious with a bowl of soup.  I love to split you open and fill you with meats and cheese or roasted veggies.  You're a nice light lunch when paired with a salad and you make the perfect addition to an antipasto platter.  Oh, sorry....... was I just talking to the focaccia?  How embarassing!

     Well, on to today's recipe. This is a variation of a recipe I recently discovered in one of my cookbooks devoted entirely to antipasto.  We ate it with a salad for a light supper.  Delicious!!

     Cheese-Stuffed Focaccia  
        (adapted from recipe in The Antipasto Table by Michele Scicolone)        Printable Recipe

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour or bread flour (I used all-purpose)
1 tsp. salt
3/4 cup water
5 tblsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup ricotta cheese
6 oz. mozzarella cheese, shredded
2 oz. sharp provolone cheese, shredded
1/4 tsp. table salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
Coarse salt (I used Kosher)

     Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add the water and 4 tblsp. of the olive oil and mix with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms.  Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. (Note: You can do all of this using a mixer with the dough hook if you'd like, or you can enlist the help of a willing youngster.  I've done it both ways and it comes out great either way.)
Mix, mix, mix !

A soft dough has formed.

Here's my youngest son, Jordan.  We lovingly refer to him as "Little Chef" because he's always loved food and likes to help out and learn to cook with me in the kitchen.  He says he wants to open an Italian restaurant some day.  He's helping mom out with the kneading this time. Thank you Jordan !

Now that's a smooth ball of dough !  Great job !

     Now cut the dough in half and cover each piece with plastic wrap.  Let rest for at least 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and lightly brush a 15"x10"x1" jelly-roll pan with olive oil.  Mix the ricotta, mozzarella, and provolone together with the salt and pepper and set aside. 
      After the dough has finished resting, roll out one piece on a lightly floured surface to a 17"x12" rectangle.  Drape it over the rolling pin and lay it in the pan.  Place spoonfuls of the cheese mixture over the top, leaving a 1" border around the outside.  Roll out the other piece of dough to the same size and place over the cheese.  Pat the dough all over with your fingertips to get rid of air bubbles and to form dimples on the surface.  Fold the edges of the bottom piece of dough over the top piece and press firmly to seal.   

 The dough should be very thin.  Take your time and be patient.

 Make sure to leave a border.  You wouldn't want any of that cheesy goodness to leak out.

                                                                      Seal the top piece of dough nice and tight.

         Brush the surface with the remaining 1 tblsp. of olive oil and, using a fork or paring knife, pierce the dough all over at 1" intervals.  Then sprinkle lightly with the Kosher salt.  Bake on the lowest oven rack until the top is golden brown with darker bubbles of dough.  Start checking at 30 minutes. (I baked mine about 38 min.)  Note: If you haven't pierced the dough all the way through the top layer, the dough will puff up during baking... You don't want that.  If it does,  just open the oven quickly and pierce again in several places to deflate.  Let the focaccia cool for 5 minutes.  Cut into squares and serve.

      I hope you'll give this a try.  It's really very long rising complicated procedure.  And you could try out your own combination of cheeses, etc.  Just use your imagination and have fun!

Side note:    To those of you who have visited my blog so far during its short time in the blogosphere.....I would LOVE to hear from you...what you think of the recipes, of the blog itself, or just say hello.  And if you'd like to follow what's happening here, just submit your e-mail address under "Follow by Email" on the upper right side of the page and you'll get an email letting you know each time I've submitted a new post.  And, lastly, would you consider letting some others know I'm here?  It can get lonely behind this computer not knowing if there's anyone out there listening  reading.  Have a great rest of the day....and month!  Tomorrow's the 1st of October already !!

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