Roasted Hazelnut Focaccia
Spring is in its final days here on the peninsula. The lake — an impossible blue in the powerful sunlight — is warming up gradually, tempting the toes of waders while beckoning the hardier swimmers who don’t mind scream-inducing chills. The tourists are popping up on the dunes and milling about in the small harbor towns like bracken ferns marching out of the woods, encroaching on our garden.
Summer is fast approaching and we’re sprinting around trying to get the garden ready for its trial run. Naturally, juggling not only meal planning but actual time in which to cook has been a practice in time management (not my best subject of study). So, it might surprise you that today’s recipe is something as lofty as a homemade bread. Relax… other than the 8-10 minutes required for kneading, making bread is about as hands-off as you can get other than a sturdy slow cooker recipe.
To me, homemade bread is an investment of time and energy that always yields a worthy return. Of course, I probably enjoy bread more than your average person, so maybe I’m a bit biased in my assessment. Still, with very little prep work and only a little bit of “babysitting”, you can not only fill your house with the unmistakable scent of baking bread but also get a tasty loaf of focaccia to slice and eat as an accompaniment to a hearty soup or use to make gourmet sandwiches.
Let’s Talk Ingredients
Flour – For this recipe, a basic, unbleached all-purpose flour is called for, but you could use a higher-gluten bread flour if you had some on-hand. The texture of focaccia tends to be very forgiving, though, so the extra gluten isn’t necessary. (Need tips on working with yeast and bread dough? Try this post.)
Roasted Hazelnut Oil – Depending on where you shop and the choices for “gourmet ingredients” you have available, you may have trouble finding roasted hazelnut oil (sometimes labeled “toasted hazelnut oil”). In truth, we had to go to more than one store to find it, ourselves. In grocery stores, it can usually be found down the aisle with the extra-virgin olive oil and other “specialty oils”. If not there, you may find it near the vinegars and salad dressings. Hazelnut oil has tons of tasty uses, so don’t worry that you’re buying a fancy oil for a single recipe. Try it drizzled on steamed broccoli, blended with softened butter and spread on toast or muffins — so many tasty possibilities. If you absolutely can’t find it, don’t despair. While the oil goes a long way to accentuate the hazelnut flavor of the bread, you could substitute a nice extra-virgin olive oil and still have a very hazelnutty bread.
Roasted Hazelnut Focaccia
Adapted from Cooking Light
1 1/4 cups warm water (100 — 110-degrees)
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast (1 standard packet)
1 tablespoon roasted hazelnut oil (see note above)
3 3/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup golden raisins (optional)
Additional roasted hazelnut oil or cooking spray
For sprinkling atop:
1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts
2 tablespoons roasted hazelnut oil, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
In a large bowl, combine the warm water, sugar, yeast, and 1 tablespoon hazelnut oil stirring with a whisk; place uncovered bowl in a warm, draft-free area for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, measure out 3 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour into a medium bowl, set aside 1/2 cup of the flour. To the remaining flour, add the salt, nutmeg, and raisins (if using); sift to combine.
Add the flour mixture to the yeast mixture; stir with a wooden spoon until dough forms and begins to come away from sides of the bowl (the dough may be a little dry or still seem a little too damp/tacky at this point). Place the uncovered bowl in a warm, draft-free area for 10 minutes.
After the dough has rested, turn it out onto a work surface dusted with some of the remaining 1/2 cup of flour. Knead for 6-8 minutes, adding additional flour only as necessary, until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a large bowl coated with a bit of the roasted hazelnut oil (or you may use cooking spray), turn dough to coat. Cover bowl and let rise in a warm, draft-free area 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
Turn the risen dough out onto a 13×9 baking dish lightly oiled with roasted hazelnut oil (or coated with cooking spray). Gently press and stretch the dough to the edges of the dish. After stretching it most of the way, you may need to allow the dough 5-10 minutes of relaxing time in order for it to stretch and completely cover the baking dish; be patient. Cover and let rise 45 minutes or until doubled in size.
Uncover the dough. Using your fingertips, gently but firmly make indentations across the dough surface. Sprinkle the surface with the chopped hazelnuts. Cover once more and let rise for a final 30 minutes or until nearly doubled in size. While dough is in its final rise, preheat oven to 400-degrees.
Uncover the dough and drizzle with 1 tablespoon roasted hazelnut oil. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Bake at 400-degrees 20-25 minutes or until golden. Drizzle the bread with the remaining 1 tablespoon roasted hazelnut oil. Serve warm.
While not an expected addition to focaccia, the golden raisins add an interesting counterpoint of flavor to the buttery-nutty bread. Still, if you’re skeptical or just plain don’t like raisins, you could leave them out and the bread would still be very delicious.
This bread recipe was based on a very creative recipe from Cooking Light. One of their serving suggestions was turning the focaccia into a hoity-toity sandwich sure to impress: spread halved slices of focaccia with whole-grain mustard, top with thinly-sliced smoked ham, a few thin apple slices, and an ounce of brie cheese. Slip these sandwiches under the broiler and toast for a minute or two — just long enough for the brie to melt and begin to brown a touch.
The sandwich, alone, was reason enough to make this easy focaccia, but getting to try roasted hazelnut oil was also very inspiring. I have a feeling I’m going to be sneaking it into a few other things in the future!
(The beautiful photo of the Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park was taken, recently, by James. Great photo, hunny!)