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.


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.

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.

Lamb Shanks

March 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

This is a really easy, hands off recipe with outstanding results. The lamb was falling off the bone after two and a half hours, and the flavour of the swiss chard/sauce mixture was fantastic.  It’s a great dish to throw together if you have people coming over for dinner on the weekend- most of the prep and cooking happens a few hours before it’s served, and it made my apartment smell delicious!

I cooked it with three lamb shanks and kept the same amount of sauce- if you are doing six shanks, I recommended doubling the sauce (keep the swiss chard to two bunches though).

Directions slightly modified from the original recipe from Bon Appétit here

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, divided
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cardamom, divided
  • 6 1- to 1 1/4-pound lamb shanks
  • Generous amount of olive oil for the pan
  • 12 green onions, chopped, divided
  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 3/4 cups (14 ounces) beef broth
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled in your hand
  • Large pinch of ground cloves
  • 1 to 1 1/4 pounds Swiss chard (about 2 bunches)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 2 5.25-ounce packages bulgur (about 2 cups), prepared according to package directions (you could also use mashed potatoes, couscous, or quinoa)

  • Preheat the oven to 325°F.

    Mix flour, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon cardamom, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper in pie dish to blend. Coat lamb shanks in seasoned flour. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat and cook the lamb shanks until brown (in batches if necessary) about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to a roasting pan – keep using the skillet.

    Add half of your green onions to same skillet. Reduce the heat to low and stir for two minutes. Add garlic; stir 30 seconds. Add tomatoes with juice, broth, raisins, tomato paste, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 3/4 teaspoon cardamom, saffron, and cloves (it makes sense to mix these all together beforehand). Increase heat and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits. Pour the mixture over lamb, or add the lamb to the skillet if it’s oven proof and large enough.

    Cover roasting pan/skillet with foil and place in oven. Braise lamb until tender, turning every 30 minutes, about 2 1/2 hours. Remove the lamb and set it aside aside.

    Meanwhile, cut center rib (including stem portion) from each chard leaf. Cut chard ribs crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide pieces. Stack several leaf halves at a time and cut crosswise into 1-inch-wide strips.

    Tilt roasting pan/skillet and spoon off all fat from top of sauce that pools at lower end. Set roasting pan/skillet over 2 burners. Add chard ribs and remaining green onions and bring to boil over medium-high heat. Return lamb to roasting pan. Cover and return to oven. Braise until chard ribs are tender, about 20 minutes. Uncover; mix chard leaves into pan juices. Return pan to oven and roast uncovered until chard softens, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes.

    Transfer lamb to rimmed platter. Season chard mixture in pan to taste with salt and pepper. Spoon chard mixture over lamb. Sprinkle with parsley; serve with bulgur, mashed potatoes,  couscous, or quinoa.

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