Friday, August 31, 2012

Coiled Focaccia Garlic Bread

This style of Italian bread uncoils like a spring, when it it pulled end to end!

     While working in Death Valley at a historic luxury resort recently, I easily became bored.  The restaurant operation was corporate managed and there was no room for creativity.  I had plenty of waiting time in the afternoon, when the ovens were full of food that I prepared for the dinner hours.  
     A sous chef gave orders to discard all open containers of food at the old inn, sometime during the summer season, before fall.  I had an open container of dried yeast and an open bin of high gluten flour in the pastry shop.  There was nothing wrong with the flour or yeast.  The discarding of the open containers of food was a precautionary measure, because a remodel of the inn was planned after the summer season came to an end.  
     Instead of being bored while making dinner food, I made a few nice focaccia bread items in my spare time with the flour and yeast that had already been written off as a loss.  Of course the bread items were added to existing employee meals.  The fresh baked bread boosted employee morale!  
     A manager who had been working at the historic inn for his entire career, told me that nobody has made fresh breads at the resort for nearly 50 years.  He said that I was the first chef that successfully made good bread at the inn during the very hot summer season.  Apparently, the inn hired a pastry chef a short time ago and the pastry chef quit the job, because the kitchen temperatures were well over 115 degrees.  That is why the baking products were available at that kitchen.
     I have had success with baking focaccia dough breads in steaming hot tropical kitchens in the past, so focaccia seemed to be the best choice of bread for a hot Death Valley restaurant kitchen.  Considering that this focaccia was baked in 4% humidity, it turned out very nice!      
     Focaccia Dough Recipe:  
     If you have dough making experience, then this will be easy.  
     High gluten flour is best for this recipe, but bread flour can be used.  Pizza dough is focaccia dough or Italian bagette style bread dough.  No oil in the mixture will produce a dough that is like many Italian breads that are not enriched with fat or like a French baguette bread dough.  Many pizzeria chefs do not add oil to a pizza dough and that is correct pizza dough too.  
     Focaccia style doughs require enrichment with fat.  Olive oil is a fat!  Oil strengthens and elongates the gluten strands of the dough.  It only takes a very small amount of oil to produce a nice texture.  The elastic gluten strands give pizza dough the ability to be stretched and tossed in the air!
     Add 2 tablespoon of fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon of dry yeast to 16 ounces of tepid luke warm water in a mixing bowl.   
     Place the mixing bowl in a luke warm place like on top of a warm oven, with a dry towel under the bowl.
     When the yeast activates, add 2 teaspoons of sugar to proof the yeast. 
     Add about 2 cups of flour.
     Add 2 teaspoons of sea salt.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Stir the mixture with a spoon, till a very loose wet dough is formed.
     Start adding a little bit of flour at a time,while stirring, till a loose dough is formed. 
     Add a little more flour at a time, while mixing with your fingers, till the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. 
     Note:  You will be able to feel when the dough is starting to get elastic.  It will stick to your hands when made correctly, but that will change after rising twice.
     Add flour, while hand mixing, till the dough can pull away from the sides of the bowl.
     Cover the dough in the mixing bowl with a dry towel. 
     Set the bowl on top of an oven in a luke warm area, with a second towel underneath the bowl to protect the dough from too much heat. 
     When the dough rises more than double, beat it down with your knuckles and gather the dough like a ball in the bowl. 
     Cover the dough with a towel and let it rise again.
     When it rises the second time, beat the dough down and knead firmly with your hands for 1 minute.
     Place the dough on a floured counter top.
     Roll the dough into a large ball. 
     Cut the dough ball in half into 2 easy portions that are easy to work with.
     Roll and tuck each dough portion with with your hands to make smooth dough balls. 
     You can cover and refrigerate each dough ball for a few days or freeze the dough portions for later use.
     The dough must be chilled before it is cut for shaping!
     Coiled Focaccia Garlic Bread Shaping:
     Fill a shallow container or roasting pan with olive oil, so the oil is 1/2" deep.
     Add about 8 to 10 cloves of minced garlic, per cup of oil in the pan.  
     Roll a portion of the focaccia dough into a 12" wide rectangular shape, that is 1/2" thick.
     Cut the dough into 1/2"x1/2"x12" strips.
     Place the dough strips in the garlic olive oil and try to keep the strips separated.
     Place the pan of garlic olive oil and dough strips in a refrigerator. 
     Chill till the dough strips become stiff again.
     Hold a garlic oiled dough strip by the end, by squeezing with your thumb at the base of the index and middle finger on your palm.  
     Use the other hand to bend and stretch the dough over the tips of the two fingers back to the knuckle of your wrist.
     Coil the stretched dough strip around itself and your fingers, till the end of the dough strip meets the loop of dough that is formed at the end of your fingers.
     Press the dough strip end through the open small loop.
     Gently slide your two fingers out of the coiled dough.
     Place the shaped coiled focaccia on a baking pan.
     Repeat these steps. to make as many coiled garlic rolls as you wish.
     Space the shaped coiled garlic bread roll dough portions about 3" apart on the baking pan.  
     Allow the dough to rise and proof, till the size is just a little bit less than double.
     After the rolls proof, place the baking pan in a 425º to 450º oven.  
     Bake the coiled focaccia rolls, till the dough becomes fully cooked and the rolls become an even golden brown color.
     Brush off any excess bits of dark garlic if you wish.
     Brush with more garlic olive oil before serving if you wish.
     Having someone read the shaping directions out loud while shaping the rolls for the first time may help, but this is actually a very easy bread shape to make.  The flavor and aroma is pure garlic focaccia heaven!  When the rolls are pulled from end to end, they will uncoil and even more garlic aroma will fill the air!  Yum!  Ciao Baby!  ...  Shawna