Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Whole Wheat Foccacia With Pesto

I had four bunches of fresh basil that needed to get used quickly-I made a large batch of pesto, freezing some for quick pasta dinners later on. The rest, I used on this bread.

I'm not one of these people that feels the need to incorporate whole grains into everything I bake, but I had exactly three cups left in a small bag I wanted to be finished with. Because I used a generous amount of olive oil in the dough, it avoided that toughness people associate with whole grain breads and pizzas. If anything, it turned out quite light.

The pesto is not traditional, but it works well, freezes fantastically, and does not require messing-up my blender. What's not to love? I roast my garlic first, as well as blanch the basil leaves. You can skip both of these steps though the garlic will taste stronger, and the pesto will have a darker hue. Some people insist you should not add the cheese before freezing, but i have never found it to be a problem. I use a hard, sheep's milk cheese in my pesto, so perhaps it holds up better than Parmesan. Again, it really isn't that difficult to shave a bit of cheese into the pesto when you serve it.

For The Pesto:

(About) 1 quart fresh basil leaves
2 heads garlic, roasted and mashed
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated hard cheese to taste
Olive oil to taste

(I know, hardly a recipe at all).

Blanch the basil in boiling water for about 30 seconds. Drain, refresh under cold water and drain well again. Blot dry on towels. Chop very well. Combine in a bowl with mashed garlic, spices and olive oil until you have a texture you like. Freeze any excess in plastic bags, or in ice cube trays.

For the dough:

2 cups warm water
3 teaspoons granulated dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons olive oil (more or less to taste)
3 cups whole wheat flour
3-4 cups bread (strong) flour

Proof the yeast in a large bowl with the water and sugar. Add salt, and whole wheat flour. Add the bread flour a cup at a time until you have a fairly stiff dough. Knead until smooth. Place in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled-about 1 hour. Punch down, stretch onto a greased baking sheet and top with pesto, extra cheese, tomatoes, olives, and whatever you like. Cover lightly and let rise another 30 minutes in a warm place (atop the oven is fine). Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place bread in oven and reduce heat immediately to 400 degrees F. Bake until deeply browned and dough is baked-about 30 minutes. Let stand a few minutes before cutting. Makes 1 very large, or two generous foccacia.

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