Homemade Foccacia

May 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

This is a bread recipe that you don’t need to knead, is quick to prepare, and doesn’t need a fancy pan. Also, you get to cover your hands with olive oil and stick them in squishy bread dough, which is reason enough to make it!

It’s my go-to recipe if I’m having people over for appetizers.

Smaller crumb on this batch from a shorter second rise

Smaller crumb on this batch from a shorter second rise


2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon quick-rise yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons truffle oil (or olive oil, if you don’t have it)
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp salt
4 3/4 bread flour


1 tbsp fresh thyme
2 tsp fresh rosemary
2 tsp course sea salt (Maldon is a good option)
If you have don’t have fresh herbs, or resent paying £2 for them at the store (must get herb garden!), use a smaller quantity of dried herbs.

How to make Foccacia

Stir 2 cups warm water and yeast in large bowl, and mix in 3 tablespoons olive oil, truffle oil (or just olive oil to sub), freshly ground pepper, and 2 teaspoons salt. Add 1 cup flour. Stir until mixed in. Add enough of remaining 3 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time, to form dough that is soft, sticky and not completely smooth, stirring until well incorporated.

Oil a separate large bowl, scrape dough in, and cover in plastic wrap. Let the dough rise in warm draft-free area until it’s grown to double in volume, about 45 minutes.

Put a bit of oil on a baking sheet. Slide out the dough onto your sheet and gently pull and stretch dough so that dough almost covers baking sheet. Press fingertips all over top of dough to form indentations. Drizzle a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with thyme, rosemary and coarse salt. Loosely with plastic wrap.

Let rise again in a warm draft-free area until puffed, about 15 minutes. If you’re in a hurry, you can bake it right away, but it won’t have as nice of a rise.

Preheat to 450°F or 230°C. Bake focaccia until deep golden brown, about 30 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool. If you’re not sure it’s done, lift up the bread using a spatula and check the bottom. It should be cooked and a bit hollow to the touch.

Serve beside a shallow dish of olive oil and vinegar, olive oil and good quality sea salt (my favorite), or make it more meal-like with some charcuterie meats, olives, and hummus.

Foccacia with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

Foccacia with olive oil and balsamic vinegar

About yeast

You’ll typically see two different types of yeast called for in a recipe. Traditional yeast (or Active Dry yeast) is what I grew up using- you need to ‘activate’ or proof the yeast before using it in a recipe by letting it sit for about 10 minutes in warm water and a bit of ‘food’ for the yeast, sugar or honey.  Instant yeast can be mixed directly into the dry ingredients (flour) without activating/proofing it. Both work perfectly – I’d suggest sticking to the Instant as it’s easier and lets things rise faster. (It’s also called rapid rise, or quick rise, just to keep you on your toes). Keep jars of yeast in the fridge once you’ve opened it- it’ll last about 3 months. Or, buy the individually sealed packs.


London and No-Knead Bread

February 8, 2012 § Leave a comment

After a three month sabbatical off work (well, really, off life!), I’m back. Blogging that is, but not back in Vancouver.

Claudia’s Kitchen is now in London!

I’ll start updating my culinary adventures again, along with observations from a Canadian in London.

For example, did you know the orange light on stop lights is used both to stop and go here? I know. Blows your mind, right?

(You probably also knew the traffic runs the opposite way. I’m still struggling with that one).

ANYWAY. Magic bread.

When there’s a lot of uncertainty in my life, I like to bake. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment and (usually) turns out the way I plan (life isn’t that easy). I’m looking for a job now in London, which inevitably gives me moments where I feel inadequate or I think to myself, “oh, &^#$, what am I doing here?!”

You know what helps? Making a delicious loaf of bread. I’ll know I’ll always be able to make bread. And bread this pretty!

Executive summary of how to make this deliciously simple, totally amazing bread:

  1. The day before you want bread, mix flour, water, and a bit of yeast. Stir and cover with plastic.
  2. Three and a half hours (the next day) before you want bread, give it a little mix, cover with flour, leave on counter.
  3. An hour and a half before you want bread, turn on the oven and put a pot with a lid inside.
  4. An hour before you want bread, put dough in pot, lid on pot, and put in oven. Bake with lid on for thirty minutes, and another 15 without the lid on.
  5. Remove from oven when brown, marvel at bread magic.

It’s almost no hands on time- just requires a bit of advanced thinking. Basically, the fermentation time allows the yeast to activate the gluten in the flour over time, so instead of you doing the work, the yeast does. Cooking it in a pot with a lid allows the steam to surround the loaf when it cooks, giving it a perfect crust.

The amounts and all that

3 cups flour (you can use all purpose or bread flour- I did bread and I’ll try it next time with whole wheat and bread)
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 5/8 cups Water

Mix the flour, yeast, and salt together. Add water and stir. Let sit for 12-18 hours.

Flash forward 12-18 hours, your dough surface should be dotted with bubbles. Cover some of your counter with flour, pour the dough out on there, pull it together with your hands once or twice, cover with plastic, and leave it for 15 minutes. (Perfect timing to clean your kitchen!)

Shape the dough into a ball (put flour on your hands if you’re getting sticky). Coat a teatowel with flour, and put the dough seam side down on it. Cover again with a tea towel. Let sit for two hours.

After an hour and a half, turn on your oven and throw a pot in (cast iron, ceramic, enamel… just no plastic, ok?)

Once your two hours is up, carefully take the pot out, plop your dough in, and bake for half an hour with the lid on. Take the lid off and bake until browned, 15 – 30 minutes. Cool on a rack.

Buttermilk Oat Scones

April 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

With a little planning ahead, fresh scones in the morning are as easy as this:

1. Get your ingredients together the night before.

2. In the morning, cut in the butter.

3. Mix in the oats, buttermilk, and fruit of choice (raisins, frozen berries). Drizzle the buttermilk over, and gather into a ball. Place the ball of dough on the counter, roll it out, and cut it into scone-size pieces.

4. Bake, cover with icing sugar, and enjoy!

Buttermilk Oat Scones

  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I use 1/2 cup whole wheat flour)
  • 3 tbsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 cup butter, cold (cut into small chunks)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup currants, raisins, other dried fruit, or frozen berries
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda

Cut in the butter (a pastry cutter works well but a fork will do)

Stir in the oats and fruit. Drizzle buttermilk over and gather into a ball. (It’ll have some loose oats pieces- try your best to keep them in and use a bit of extra buttermilk if necessary.)

Put the dough on a floured surface and pat into about 2.5cm thickness. Cut out with cookie cutters or just a glass.

Bake on parchment paper in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes.

Sift icing sugar over the scones and enjoy.

Claudia’s Banana Bread

April 6, 2011 § 3 Comments

I think everyone has their favorite banana bread and likely will promise you it’s the best you’ve ever tasted.

I’m not that competitive (ha! who am I kidding)- but this is my personal favorite recipe. Simple, moist, banana-ey, and studded with chocolate. It’s is a super-easy classic that’ll take care of business.

Claudia’s Banana Bread

I always make banana bread in batches of two- easier to share it when you know you have extra hidden away at home!

Mix together: (do this separately or else you’ll get baking soda lumps, and those are the worst. bleh!)

2 ½ c flour (up to ½ whole wheat)

2 tsp. Baking soda

Mix together in a large bowl:

4 eggs

¾ c vegetable (canola) oil

2 c sugar

5 ripe bananas, well mashed (we keep quantities of over ripe bananas in the freezer andthaw them out in the microwave, peel and mash to make this recipe)

1 c pure chocolate chips (or more…)

Pour the dry ingredients into the wet and stir until combined.

Pour into 2 greased, floured* loaf pans and bake in the oven at 350o F for about 1 hour. If you use a few cute little baby loaf pans like the one pictured, start checking at about 35 minutes.

Rest the loaves in the pans on a rack to cool for at least 15 minutes before you try to remove the whole loaf. If you want to cut right in, all the power to ya, but it may crumble.

*grease the loaf pan with a block of butter or the butter wrapper. Put about a tablespoon of flour in the pan, and ‘pat’ it around so it coats the butter. Tap out the excess into the sink.

Cinnamon Buns

April 5, 2011 § 1 Comment

“How do you cure a food addiction? For that matter, how do you define it?

Those who feel they are addicted to food… tend to share a number of common experiences, such as out of control eating, frequent high calorie food choices or even binges, secrecy and a sense of intesne, overwhelming craving for certain foods.”

While I do not intend to trivialize mental disorders, this article in the National Post expresses how I feel about these cinnamon buns.

No, they aren’t quick or healthy. But they are damn good and hey, everyone deserves that once in a while. Cinnamon buns can seem a little daunting- but I’ve put together a little executive summary of cinnamon bun making and it’s really not that bad:

  1. Mix up dough. Knead. Let rise for a few hours. (20 mins hands-on time)
  2. Roll out dough. Rub with butter and cover with filling. Roll, cut, and place in buttered pan. Let rise for another hour or overnight in the fridge. (20 mins hands-on time)
  3. Bake (if left in fridge, bring it to room temperature, then bake). While baking, mix up icing. (10 mins hands-on time)
  4. Remove from oven, slather in icing, and do what you must to refrain from eating the whole batch. Or, eat the whole batch.

I very slightly adapted the recipe from Molly Wizenberg- the original is on Epicurious here.


  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise yeast (from 2 envelopes yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray


  • 3/4 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup raisins, or to taste, if you want. (I soaked mine in a mixture of hot water and bourbon first. Highly recommended).

Cream Cheese Icing:

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Small squeeze of lemon juice, if you want

For dough:

Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed to 120°F to 130°F, 30 to 45 seconds. Pour into bowl. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky (or just stir at this point), scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic, adding more flour if sticky, about 8 minutes. Form into ball.

Lightly oil large bowl with butter, vegetable oil, or non-stick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

For filling:
Mix brown sugar and cinnamon in medium bowl. Wash and dry an area of your counter carefully, and flour it.

(Softly!) Punch down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch (ish) rectangle. Spread butter over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar evenly over butter. Add raisins, if using. Starting at 1 long side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. With seam side down, cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).

Prepare two 9-inch square glass baking dishes with nonstick spray or butter. (Optional: I add a mix of corn syrup, maple syrup, and softened butter to the bottom of the pan. It makes them gooey and wonderful). Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes. (Or, put them in the fridge over night).

one of the few things that look better in the morning...

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375°F. (If you kept the buns in the fridge, let them warm to room temperature first).  While you are baking, make the icing (instructions below). Bake rolls until tops are golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and invert immediately onto rack. Cool 10 minutes. Turn rolls right side up.

For cream cheese icing:
Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Buns in the Oven!

February 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

Light brioche burger buns, that is. Don’t get any ideas.

This recipe is from Smitten Kitchen (from NY Times, from… the recipe has been around the block).

I made them for a night we were doing mini burgers. I don’t know where to buy mini buns – so I made these and they are SO much more entertaining. And you can make jokes about having buns in the oven.

A note on flour: I used to hate reading recipes that call for bread flour, because who has room for that? Eventually I caved – bread flour has a higher gluten content (12-14%) than regular flour (10-12%), which helps the bread rise and give shape and structure. I used a mix of whole wheat bread flour and regular white flour here and it turned out delish.

This makes about 8 regular-sized buns or at least 20 mini buns for me.

Light Brioche Burger Buns

3 tablespoons warm milk
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar

2 large eggs
3 cups bread flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
Sesame seeds (optional)

Combine one cup warm water, warm milk, and sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over top. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one egg.

In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add the softened butter and work it in with your fingers into crumbs. Stir in the yeast mixture and beaten egg until a dough forms.  Put the dough onto clean, well-floured counter and knead (see the video below if you’re new to  kneading)

until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes. It it’s too sticky, add more flour to your hands and counter top as you go, but try not too add too much.

Make the dough a rough ball shape and return it to your bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, one to two hours.  If you’re planning ahead, you can also let it rise in the fridge over night. Bring the dough back to room temperature before shaping into buns the next day.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide dough into 8 parts.  Roll each part into a ball and place on the parchment. Cover with saran and let rise again for another hour.

5. Put a shallow pan of water on the oven floor. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Beat your remaining egg with a tablespoon water and brush on to the top of the buns. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake, turning sheet halfway through baking, until tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool until warm.  Eat, reveling how wonderful it is to eat warm buns.

The full-sized buns almost finished baking

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