Tag Archives: basics

Walla Walla Onion and Basil Foccacia

Foccacia bread is one thing that I make very frequently, as it is an easy, satisfying compliment to just about anything. (Leftover, it makes fabulous croutons, diced, tossed in olive oil and baked until golden brown). Allow 2 1/2 hours for preparation, rising, and baking. I use instant yeast for most things at home, as you just add it to the dry ingredients rather than having to activate it first. If you want to use active dry yeast instead, you will have to add the sugar and the yeast to the warm water, rather than the dry ingredients in the recipe. Amounts are the same. For the most accurate baking results, weigh the dry ingredients, as flour density does vary, and too much flour will result in a heavy dough.

550 ml very warm (hot to the touch) water (2 1/4 cups)
60 ml olive oil (1/4 cup)
1kg flour (6 1/2 cups)
20 g salt (4 tsp)
45 g sugar (3 tbsp)
25 g instant yeast ( 3 tbsp)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp cornmeal or semolina

1 medium Walla Walla onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup basil, chopped
1 tbsp coarse salt

Combine water and olive oil in a mixing bowl and set aside
In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, sugar, and instant yeast
Add dry ingredients to wet, and knead in an electric mixer with the dough hook for 10 minutes , until smooth and elastic to the touch. (alternatively, you can prepare the dough in a bread maker using the dough setting, or by hand if you’re feeling particularly vigorous)
Coat dough ball with 1 tbsp vegetable oil and place into a large bowl, cover, and put into a warm place to rise. (45 minutes-1 hour, depending on the temperature)
Once dough has risen to double its original size, punch it down, re-cover and allow to rise a second time. (30 minutes or so)
Transfer dough to a lightly floured board and roll out into a rectangle 12 by 16 inches ,or the same size as a baking sheet.
Spray a baking sheet lightly with nonstick spray and scatter with cornmeal or semolina (this gives it a nice crust and prevents sticking)
Cover and allow to rise for an additional 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 F

While dough is rising, slice onion very thinly and sauté in olive oil until golden.
Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
Chop basil and set aside.
Once the dough has finished its pan rise, spread the onions all over the top, scatter with basil and coarse salt, and bake for 30 minutes in a 350 F oven, or until it sounds hollow when tapped on the top

Remove from oven and allow to sit for 20 minutes before serving.
Slice into large squares and serve.

Basil Gnocchi

Gnocchi are Italian potato dumplings, very easy to prepare, and a great way to use up a few left over baked potatoes. The potatoes are preferably baked, although you can boil them provided you spread the cooked potato out on a baking sheet and allow it to dry out while it cools to room temperature. Wet potato will cause you to have to add more flour, making the gnocchi heavy. Doughs made with potato have a tendency to get soft rather quickly, so it is crucial that once the flour has been added to the dough, that the gnocchi are shaped and cooked immediately. My preferred method for calculating the ratio of flour to potato is to weigh the cooked potato, and divide it by three. That way, you aren’t worrying about cooking exactly 2 pounds of potato. The ratio of 1 cup of flour per pound of potato is a good approximation, as all purpose flour weighs between 5 and 6 ounces (150 to 170 grams) per cup.

2 lb potato, (a starchy variety such as Russet or Yukon gold)
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp chopped basil
1 egg

Bake potatoes, scoop out flesh and rice or put through a food mill. (if you don’t have either a ricer or food mill, they can be grated on the fine setting of a box grater)
Allow potato to cool to body temperature (basically if it doesn’t feel warm or cool to the touch, it’s great)

Before making the dough, put a large pot of water on to boil with a generous amount of salt

Add salt and basil to potato and mix well.

Beat egg lightly and mix into potato with a fork
Add flour and mix lightly
Turn onto a lightly floured board and knead until dough just comes together. ( I always think it looks like biscuit dough, a bit of texture, but well combined)
Divide dough into quarters and pat one quarter into a rough cylinder.
Rolling your hands over the top of the dough forwards and back, stretch the dough into a long cylinder approximately 3/4 inch in diameter. Cut the dough into lengths of about 1 1/2 inches, and pinch them lightly in the center, transferring them to a sheet pan (line it with parchment so they don’t stick)
Transfer the shaped gnocchi into the boiling water, no more than will cover the bottom of the pot in a single layer. Once they all float to the top, remove them with a slotted spoon and place them in cold water to stop the cooking process and preserve the shape.
Repeat the process with the remaining dough until all the gnocchi has been prepared.
Strain the cooled gnocchi in a colander and toss with a small amount of oil. Place into a shallow dish and refrigerate until needed.
To finish the gnocchi, place a small amount of olive oil (2 tbsp) in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Cook gnocchi until golden brown, and serve either on its own as an accompaniment or with a sauce.
It works well with either a simple tomato sauce or a creamy alfredo or pesto with freshly grated parmesan on top.