Italian breads seem to be a recurrent theme with the TWD group over the last couple of months. First pizza, now focaccia. Not that we are complaining. Going back to our gluten eating days, we did enjoy focaccia on occasion, in fact, while living in Montana, a local health conscious baker, built his own wood fired oven, in order to do justice making some of the old style, rustic European breads. A lot of his breads were sourdough based, and focaccia was no exception. Usually only available on a weekend, unless you placed a special order, these specialty breads would disappear as soon as they emerged from the oven. Since not everyone in our household shares our personal love for Italian food, focaccia is generally not at the top of the list, when baking bread. We do love a challenge, and never having tried focaccia gluten free before, we felt we couldn’t pass up this opportunity.
The contributing baker to the original recipe is Craig Kominiak, and he calls for two rising periods, followed by a resting period of 24-36 hours in the refrigerator. Generally, from our own humble experience, gluten free baking is not always amenable to these extra long resting periods. As a result, our own gluten free adaptation differs greatly from the original. When developing any recipe, we always cut the recipe in half, just in case it flops. This was no different. The changes we made included the preparation of a simple sponge prepared a day ahead, consisting of sorghum flour, brown rice flour and water. The remaining flour blend included brown rice, tapioca, sweet rice and potato starch, along with psyllium seed soaked in coconut milk, one egg and the addition of 1 tsp. of apple cider vinegar. Fresh thyme and rosemary, along with a couple of tablespoons of fresh Parmesan cheese were worked into the dough before rising. The dough was allowed to rise for 1-1/2 hours, during which time it nearly tripled in size. Quite a feat for any gluten free dough.
Spreading a dusting of rice flour onto a baking board, we divided the dough in half, and pressed it into rough oval shapes, about 1/2 inch thick. Using a fork we pierced holes throughout the dough, allowing it to bake evenly. We brushed the top with olive oil, sprinkled it with fresh thyme, rosemary and halved cherry tomatoes, along with salt and pepper.
The focaccia baked for about 15 minutes in a pre-heated 450°F oven. The best thing about making this recipe is how the entire house fills with the delicious aroma of fresh herbs and baking bread.
Never having made gluten free focaccia, we consider this recipe to be a great success, in both texture and flavor. We were also quite impressed how easy the dough was to work with, along with the fact that the final result mirrored the description in the Baking with Julia book, as well as our memories of regular focaccia (however faint – it is quite a while back now).
In the future, we will definitely give the “refrigerated resting time for the dough” a try, as well as experiment with a non-savory version.