Going away party/dinner for Joe, our nephew, who was being sent to Afghanistan the following Monday
Surplus of summer squashes
This post. A bit after the fact.
I wanted to bring something…I knew there would be chowder and clamcakes…and so this is what I came up with.
P.S. Bread dough rises really fast when it's like 90 degrees outside and 400 or so (it seems) in the kitchen.
The basic dough recipe is adapted from"Schiacciata alla Fiorentina" in The Italian Baker by Carol Field and can be found on pages 294-297.
From the book:
Schiacciata, which simply means squashed or crushed, is the word Florentines use for the flatbreads that other Italians call focaccia or pizza. At the Il Fornaio bakery on Via Matteo Palmieri in Florence, I watched as the bakers shaped schiacciate as big as a small pizza and as small as an hors d'ouvre, but to me they were at their most appealing as 6-inch disks topped with brilliant strips of red and yellow peppers, ribbons of zucchini, or almost translucent slices of ripe tomatoes dusted with tiny basil leaves, and all glossy from a wash of local olive oil. They are wonderful eaten cold for lunch with a salad; take them on picnics, too, or serve them with a platter of cold meats.
* When I made this, I tripled the recipe, because I'm crazy that way. I'm always worried there won't be enough for everyone. But I'm just giving the measurements for one batch.
2 1/2 tsp (1 pkg) active dry yeast or 1 small cake (18 grams) fresh yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup milk
2 T olive oil
2 1/2 T lard, at room temperature (I used vegetable shortening)
3 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
Olive oil for brushing the tops
Salt for sprinkling the tops
Toppings – thinly sliced vegetables, grilled or sauteed to intensify the flavor. Garlic or garlic paste. Cheeses. Whatever sounds good. You get the idea.
Stir the yeast, water and milk in the bowl of a stand mixer; let stand until creamy, 10 minutes. Stir in the oil, and lard with the paddle. Add the flour and mix at low speed about 2 minutes. Change to the dough hook and knead 4 to 5 minutes. Add the salt and knead another 1 to 2 minutes. The dough will climb up the collar of the hook, and you will have to stop several times to push it down. The dough should be smooth, velvety, and softer than bread dough but firmer than croissant dough.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, 1 to 2 hours.
Cut the dough into 6 pieces (approx 5 oz each) on a lightly floured surface
and shape into balls using the pinkie edges of your hands as they (your hands) move in opposite but parallel directions on either side of the ball. Hopefully this slideshow will help give you the idea.
Let rest under a towel for 15 minutes.
Dimple the doughs,
spreading each into a circle, and let rest under a towel another 15 minutes.
Dimple tops with oil and sprinkle lightly with salt. Place the dough circles on parchment-lined or oiled baking sheets or baker's peels sprinkled with cornmeal.
Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Dimple the dough again with your fingertips, stretching it as you go. Sprinkle with salt and brush with oil.
Mist water very lightly over the top to cover and trap the oil (I totally forgot to do that) and then cover with the topings of your choice.
(like fresh ricotta, garlic paste, sliced tomatoes and basil leaves)
(or grilled slices of zucchini and pattypan squash and sliced scallions – all from the garden)
(grilled red onion and fresh ricotta – my personal favorite)
Or any other combinations of those basic ingredients.
Brush the tops with oil, sprinkle with salt, and brush or mist lightly with water. (Again – the water? Forgot all about it.)
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F at least 20 minutes before you plan to bake. Bake the 6-inch schiacciata 18 to 20 minutes. Immediately brush the surfaces with oil. Serve hot, or cool on racks to room temperature.
** A word to the wise. My kitchen, by this point, was a HUGE mess, because not only was I making all these, but I also decided, in my heat-induced insanity, to stuff and fry a bunch of squash blossoms. Because hey, why NOT fry and bake at the same time when it's 90 outside
and the humidity is at, oh two thousand percent. (And yes, my window has streaks and splatters. It was a messy day.)
So anyway, like I was saying – the kitchen was a huge mess – every surface was covered with baking sheets of focaccia or dirty bowls or the flour/egg wash/cornmeal bowls I had out to dredge and fry the squash blossoms…anyway, when it came time to start putting the baked focacce on a platter to bring to the other house, I had no where to set up. Well, I could have used the dining room, but I wanted everything in the kitchen. Why? My brain was melting. I couldn't see past those four walls.
And so. Because I wasn't REALLY thinking, I set the lightweight wooden/bamboo/wicker/whatever it is tray on top of my cannister of flour on my work table. And I started laying some of the focaccia, overlapping each other because I'd made 19 or 20 or so, at ONE END OF THE TRAY.
I'm sure anyone who's ever been on one end of a see-saw and their elementary school friend on the other end decided it would be funny to jump off can see where this is leading.
Yes. It's leading to >SPLAT!< on the floor. Two of my three ricotta/garlic paste/tomato/basil beauties landed face down on the tile.
Sad, huh? I show this photo to point out that mistakes will happen to us all, and to implore you to use the common sense I was clearly lacking in that moment and DO NOT balance your tray on your flour cannister and the start loading things on it AT ONE END ONLY! You can see the chaos and destruction that will result.
Ah well. The other remaining focaccia (or schiacciata) were safely loaded on the tray and transported to the party, where they were apparently enjoyed by all who tried them.
And the good thing about making way too many? Sometimes you get sent home with half of the leftovers.
So go on, harvest something from your garden, slice it, grill it, make some dough, and put it all together. It's well worth the time and effort, I promise. And hey, if you start in the morning, these should be ready to eat for lunch!