I made buttermilk pancakes the other day and substituted a little of the all-purpose flour for spelt. They were so good! It made me realize that it’s been a long time since I baked with whole grain flours (hard to believe that it had been my sole obsession three years ago). Also, yikes, I just realized the last recipe featured on this blog containing a flour other than all-purpose was way back in November! They’re really good cookies by the way.
I decided to remedy this immediately. As usual, I pulled out my battered copy of Good to the Grain. The recipes coupled with the photography always fill me with this longing to lead a more wholesome life, with no greasy take-out food, no indoor pants, and fresh air coursing through the rooms at all times. Let’s address why these are impossibilities.
First, there’s no way I could do away with my comfort food burritos, which are filled to the brim with rice, beans, meat (MEAT), and other stuff that’s good for the soul but not so much for the waistline (it feels weird writing about waistlines, as I don’t think I’ve ever given mine any proper thought). Secondly, I hate wearing jeans, which is something about me you would never guess because I ALWAYS WEAR JEANS. But it’s true. I’d much rather have my legs be swathed in loose, silky, comfortable pants when there’s no one to impress. And finally, it’s still 40 degrees out, yo! Despite the fact that both Chris and I think of our heating as the devil because it makes the apartment unbearably stuffy, it only turns on twice a day, so to open the windows would be wasting the heated air. I think the point I’m trying to make is that the healthful life I dream about is probably largely illusory. Though I enjoy baking with whole grain flours, and eating vegetables with all my meals (well, not breakfast—I do give myself a break then), and going to the gym thrice weekly, I’m not perfect.
Anyway, the focaccia called to me.
Spelt foccacia is less springy than regular foccacia, of that I’m sure. Since spelt contains low amounts of gluten, doughs containing it don’t rise as well and result in a lack of the same effervescence as all-purpose doughs. Hence, a slightly denser texture and less sticky.
On the other hand, spelt has a great flavor that I think came through in this recipe. It was kind of hard to tell, with such strong-flavored toppings all competing for attention, but I detected a wheat-flour like taste, with that signature nuttiness I really love.
What disappointed me the most about this recipe was probably due to the overall crappiness of my oven, but my focaccia refused to golden-brown properly! Very disappointing, especially because, I’d kept it in there for so long that the garlic and rosemary started burning. It’s alright. I don’t think the taste suffered too much, but it made for a slightly less attractive presentation.
I don’t need to tell you what to do with focaccia. Neither do I need to tell you how to top it. But, I will add, rosemary is one of my favorite herbs, and it really suits breads, spelt, and garlic and pecorino. With that said, a simple sea salt topping would be enough to make me a happy sailor, and I would gladly eat this focaccia in any form it was offered. In my case, it went perfectly alongside leftover soup (third batch and still going strong), always a winning combination.
(I should also add, I accidentally bought 2 pounds of active dry yeast, so I think I’m going to take up bread-making as a hobby for the foreseeable future. Focaccia is only the beginning, my friends!)
SPELT FOCACCIA WITH ROSEMARY, GARLIC, AND PECORINO
Adapted from Good to the Grain
Makes 1 rectangular focaccia
1 package active dry yeast (2-1/4 tsp)
Pinch of sugar
1 cup spelt flour
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
1 T kosher salt
1/4 cup plus 2 T olive oil (plus more for greasing)
garlic, herbs, spices, coarse salt, cheese, and any other toppings of choice
Lightly rub a large bowl with olive oil. Add 1-1/4 cups of warm water, yeast, and sugar to another large bowl. Stir, and allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes (should start bubbling). Add the flours, salt, and 2 T olive oil and stir to combine. Pour the dough onto a lightly floured surface and begin kneading, adding up to 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour if needed (depending on the manageability of the dough, as it’s quite sticky). Knead for about 10 minutes until the dough is elastic and supple (you’ll start to feel the difference—just keep kneading!)
Put the dough in the oiled bowl, turning it so it’s lightly covered with the olive oil. Cover with a towel and let rise for about 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
Generously oil a baking sheet with olive oil. Place the risen dough onto the baking sheet and stretch it so it fills the pan. Dimple it with your thumb, then cover with a towel and let rise for about an hour.
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Now it’s time to top the dough. First, brush a 1/4 cup of olive oil onto the dough, then sprinkle with the toppings of your choice. Bake for 22 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Allow the bread to cool slightly before slicing and serving.
As a note, you can store the dough in the fridge after the first rise. Just cover it tightly with plastic wrap and make sure to let it come to room temperature before continuing on with the recipe.