The Lazy Laowai’s Guide to Toaster Oven Focaccia

March 4, 2012 by MaryAnne

And this would be the money shot.

As you’ve probably noticed by now, I have a thing for unleavened bread, especially unleavened bread made in the wok using a highly unlikely Uyghur noodle dough recipe. I’ve turned that into chapatis, tortillas, pierogies, spaghetti, medieval dumplings and ravioli. I keep a ball of it in the fridge at all times, just as others might keep, say, a tube of Pillsbury Crescent Roll dough or a jar of Velveeta.

Now, although I still have my softball sized lump of Uyghur dough in the fridge (made lovelier by using the leftover whey from last week’s foray into cheese making), I wanted to celebrate the fact that neither I nor Doug is working this weekend. You have no idea how rare an occurrence this is. Usually I’m away, and sometimes if I’m not, he is.

This weekend, we are both at home and we’re honouring this by barely leaving the house, drinking a ton of coffee, watching Ancient Aliens (Mayan Prophesy! The Greys! Giorgio and his enormous hair!) and generally being immobile sloths. I made tacos for lunch yesterday (noodle dough tortillas!) and we ordered pizza for dinner.

And that pizza got me thinking.

Pizza here, the edible kind, doesn’t come cheap. I think we paid about 120rmb for ours from a place in Taikang Lu, from a joint that has access to proper jalepenos, ricotta, artichoke hearts, salami and all. I think that’s approximately the monthly salary of a goat herder in Yunnan.

I thought, hm, I wonder if I could make pizza? I mean, if not in my wok with Uyghur noodle dough, then maybe in our oversized counter-top toaster oven?

I did some leavened dough research online and compared notes. Through a process of elimination, I decided to go for a no-knead, slow rise dough because, well, I’m lazy. Really lazy. I just couldn’t face kneading dough all morning- I do that enough with the Uyghur dough as it is.

This one makes one round baking sheet worth of pizza base, which I repurposed for focaccia when I realized we didn’t have enough tomatoes to make a sauce without leaving the house to buy more. As I said, I’m lazy this weekend. Also, it’s grimly mid-winter and the wet market’s tomato selection has been mealy and pallid for a while now. Hardly enticing.

 

The Dough

 

This is actually a bread dough recipe- specifically, a Le Creuset Dutch-Oven bread dough recipe found here.

  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups water

 

I don’t have unbleached, all purpose flour, but I have my trusty bag of organic Chinese black wheat, known as triticale in the West. It’s a wheat-rye hybrid and it’s amazing. You can use whatever flour you want. Whole wheat would probably work too, but you might need to use slightly less flour or slightly more water so it isn’t too dry or heavy.

Note that I’m using instant yeast. The recipe just called for ‘yeast’ so the regular kind might be okay as well. There’s no sugar or warm water involved in the process though (which would be how you get the regular stuff going) so I’m not really sure.

Here are my ingredients, minus the water.

Triticale flour (aka black wheat), instant yeast, kosher salt. Oh, and my scrawled attempt at a recipe, on back of chocolate wrapper.

I used my rice cooker insert for mixing and for the overnight rising, as it is non-stick and big enough to handle expanding dough.

Throw all the dry ingredients into the bowl. Give it a stir.

I used the rice cooker insert to both mix and let rise. So versatile, it hurts.

Add the water. Again, give it a stir until the water is mixed in and a goopy dough ball is formed.

I used my piggy spatula to stir the water in. No kneading. Just stir until lumpen.

Now cover it and leave it 12-18 hours. I left mine overnight.

Look what I found this morning—

This is the risen dough after 18 hours of neglect in our chilly kitchen

This is a very soft, bubbly, slightly gooey dough, much more delicate than the baby-bottom kneaded kind I’m used to.

Turn it out onto a heavily floured board. Flour your hands and dust the dough ball with flour until it has no sticky bits left on its surface.

It's soft and sticky and will need a lot of flour to not stick to everything it touches

Get a baking sheet. I have a pizza-sized one that I brought from Canada. Our oven is bigger than a regular 2-slice toaster oven but it can still barely accommodate a baking sheet. If you have one of the smaller ones, I recommend cutting the dough in half and doing this in 2 rounds.

Dust the baking sheet with corn meal. This is to keep the dough from sticking.

I last used this corn meal in my dreadful attempt at corn tortillas

Take the dough ball into your well-floured hands and stretch it out carefully into the approximate size and shape you desire.

With your (floured) hands, form it into the desired shape. Mine approximates a round baking sheet.

Now, to make the topping.

I had had some rather grand, aspirational thoughts at first- I’d make a shallot-infused, buttery white wine sauce, perhaps, and some thinly sliced roasted potatoes, all sprinkled with lovely fresh mozzarella. Then I remembered (at 9am, Sunday) that we had no shallots, no white wine, no potatoes, no cheese.

So I went for a sauteed garlic oil brushed top, with the dried herbs I found in our spice drawer.

I used the following for the topping:

 

  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and sliced lengthwise
  • a few tablespoons of sunflower oil, enough to cook the garlic and then to brush over the focaccia
  • a few pinches of unimpressive dried oregano and rosemary
  • a few pinches of kosher salt
  • the last few spoonfulls of paneer

 

A head of garlic, a sharpened knife, over processed dried herbs... and thou.

Sautee the garlic until it looks pretty

When the garlic is slightly browned (but not too browned, as it will brown more in the oven and you don’t want it to turn to charcoal), remove it from the heat and spoon it onto your flattened dough. Distribute it as evenly as possible.

Brush oil onto the dough. I spooned it on then brushed it around with my fingers. If you have a pastry brush, go for it.

I then added blobs of the last of the spicy roasted garlic paneer– maybe 3 tablespoons or so. Add more if you have it. To top it off, add a pinch or two of the herbs, evenly around the surface. If you have fresh ones, awesome. Add a pinch of salt too. It brings out the flavours nicely.

Decorate the dough! I smeared on the garlicky oil and all the sauteed garlics, the last of the paneer, kosher salt and the dried Rosemary and Oregano

Now to get the oven going. The recipes I looked at casually suggested you crank the oven up to something absurd, like 500F. I think that’s about 270C. Mine goes up to 250C in theory but not really in reality. Because the oven is so small, however, it preheats very quickly. I cranked mine up to max and let it go for about 10 minutes before slamming the focaccia in.

I think this is the hottest I've ever had this oven. I was waiting for it to explode.

I baked it for 20 minutes.

Look what came out! It’s gorgeous- crispy outside, chewy inside. Fragrant as all get out. Doug said it was probably his favourite thing of all the things I’ve baked so far.

This is what it looks like after 20 minutes in the toaster oven on the Maximum Blast Furnace setting

Look, one more close up. You need this. Really.

And this would be the money shot.

 

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8 Comments »

  1. Hey Maryanne!

    I nominated Wok With Me, Baby for a Liebster award because I love what you do here and you make me laugh!

    http://www.unhipsquirrel.com/2012/03/rosemary-roasted-brussels-sprouts.html

    Go here to check out your Liebster :)
    Nicola @ unhip squirrel recently posted..rosemary roasted brussels sprouts & cauliflower (and Liebster awards!)My Profile

    • MaryAnne says:

      Awesome! Thank you! I’m honoured to be the one providing comic relief (I’m certainly never going to win any awards for prettiest cakes…).

  2. Hail says:

    You have finally convinced me that its time to buy a rice cooker
    Hail recently posted..PC TV SoftwareMy Profile

  3. mjskit says:

    OMG! Paneer and roasted garlic!??!?! I’m in love! I don’t have paneer in the fridge but I do have feta and roasted garlic (no kidding :) ), so I know what we’re have for supper.
    mjskit recently posted..Kabocha Squash and Fennel SoupMy Profile

    • MaryAnne says:

      Yes! It’s yummy! I’ve also now made that focaccia twice now and it’s so lovely, with and without the fresh cheese blobs on top. Thinking of using the whey in the dough next time (I’ve got a freezer drawer full of little stacked take-away tupperware-type boxes of it) as it did wonders for the wok tortillas.

  4. Tracyann0312 says:

    OMG! I love roasted garlic it is so yummy. I wish I have an oven at home so that I can cook such thing. New ideas coming out in your blog Mary Anne.
    Tracyann0312 recently posted..חג פסחMy Profile

  5. Alex says:

    Looks like an interesting website, I will have a proper trawl when I get time. I am just sat in the staffroom of my school in Shanghai waiting to teach my first class of the day, eating my own homemade foccacia. I decided to see if anyone else had used a rice cooker.

    Last night in desperation for some bread I racked my brains on how to make some leavened bread with the equipment in the apartment (We have no toaster oven).

    I knocked a basic dough together (butter based). I rose this in front of a cheap bar heater for 1 hour, I knocjed this back and allowed to prove for 1/2 an hour before putting in my rice cooker (I found it rummaging through the cupboards of the flat, a relic from a previous tenant) I put the dough in there and flicked it on using a pencil to override the automatic switch off, leaving it for ten mins, then just flipped the bread and let cook out at temp of rice cooker.

    It was ready in about 1 an a half hours. When I pulled it out it was pretty soggy with butter and a little of the moisture steaming it. I left it on the side and surprisingly the crust hardened and the bread became very similar to focaccia. Tonight I am going to experiment replacing the butter with the oil and set out to make focaccia from the start.

    I think your way is more sensible but if you have only got a rice cooker its worth a try.

    Cheers
    Alex

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