Thursday, October 1, 2009

Par-baking Focaccia Bread

Big group came over tonight. We had our quarterly planning meeting at my house and I wanted to serve fresh hot Focaccia bread with my Red Pepper and Sausage Pasta. But I couldn't get 2 fresh loaves out at the same time.  So I attempted some par baking.  That's where you partially bake the bread, freeze it, and then finish the baking at the appropriate time.  There wasn't a lot of info on the web for doing it so I had to experiment, something we do a lot of around here.

So I made the normal focaccia in the bread maker but you can make it by hand.  Here's the recipe.

1 cup + 2 T water

3 cups bread flour

3 T butter (unsalted if possible)

1 t salt

2 T sugar

1 1/4 t yeast. (sorry no way around that measuring)

Put it in your bread maker on the dough cycle and hit start, or mix the water, butter (melted) and the yeast together, the flour, salt, and sugar together, then combine and knead for 10 minutes. Set aside in a covered bowl and let it rise for 30 minutes.

Either way you do it, take out the dough and place on parchment paper and make into a round about 1 inch high.  Coat the dough with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic salt, parmesan cheese, and some rosemary. (If you want at this point you can put some thinly sliced tomatoes, garlic or chopped onions on the bread) Set aside and let it rise for 20 more minutes.

For a finished loaf  cook it for 20 minutes at 350.  

To par bake it I cooked the first one for 15 minutes and then took it out.  It looked basically done so I made another loaf and cooked it for only 12 minutes.  I thought that looked about right.

I let them cool, then wrapped them in plastic wrap (I didn't have any plastic bags) and put them in the freezer.

(second loaf)

When it came time for the dinner, I let the loaves warm up to room temp by placing them on the granite countertops for about and hour, preheated the oven to 350 again and put the loaves back in the oven.  I thought they would only need to bake for the time that was left from the original 20 minutes.  How wrong I was.  The loaf that I had cooked for 15 minutes took another 15 minutes and the loaf that I took out after 12 minutes took almost the full 20 minutes.  

The loaf that I pulled out after 15 minutes was perfect. The loaf that I pulled out after 12 minutes sank as the middle wasn't cooked enough to set.  It still tasted OK but wasn't as light as the other loaf.

(par-baked loaves thawing, 12 minute one is closest, notice the sunken middle)

In conclusion, I recommend par baking the loaves for 75% of the recommended time and then baking them again for that same 75%, or until done.

Cook well, it's worth it.

Rob Barrett, Jr.

Cooking for Dads

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