Feeling like Foccacia

Since my last bread bake was such a success, I decided to try another. My mom and I have recently found a new appreciation for sun-dried tomatoes. I know they’re not always a favourite. To all those sun-dried-tomato haters out there, bear with me. I used to be one of you!

“What was wrong with hydrated tomatoes?” I used to think. They’re wrinkly. They’re chewy. They’ve lost all the integrity of a plump juicy tomato! And yet . . .

Under that unattractive pruney skin is a surprising kick of tangy saltiness. It has just the right amount of chewiness to make you really taste the flavour, yet not so chewy that you start wondering whether you’re just chomping on a strip of leather.

Once I started to embrace the sun-dried tomato and stopped comparing it to its un-dried brother, we just got along splendidly! We just bought our first jar, so I thought why not crack it open and see how it tastes?

Which brings us to today’s challenge: Sun-dried Tomato and Pesto Foccacia

There was just one problem. I didn’t have any pesto! Being in my cheffy mood, I decided I’d try my hand at making my own. I didn’t really feel like scrounging up pine nuts, so I decided to make the Fisher Price version and used toasted almonds instead. (I figured I was just going to be baking with it anyway. As long as I got the basil and olive oil, everything else could just play along.)

It turns out pesto is incredibly easy to make.

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I just threw everything in my food processor and let the magic unfold.

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With my cooking skills all warmed up (pressing the food processor’s power button is only for the master chefs), I was ready to tackle that foccacia!

First, we wake up the yeast ... the highly unattractive yeast.
First, we wake up the yeast … the highly unattractive yeast.
Next, my favourite part: mixing the dough together by hand.
Next, my favourite part: mixing the dough together by hand.
Squish. Squish. Squish. What a good stress reliever.
Squish. Squish. Squish. What a good stress reliever.
All done kneading!
All done kneading!
Grease it up and let it rise.
Grease it up and let it rise.
Poof!
Poof!
More punching! I love this part.
More punching! I love this part.
Hulk rip!
Hulk rip!
Divide it into two (kind of even) halves.
Divide it into two (kind of even) halves.
Flatten out one of the dough balls (pizza style) and spread on some of that yummy pesto sauce. Mine just happened to have a face.
Flatten out one of the dough balls (pizza style) and spread on some of that yummy pesto sauce. (Pesto face is optional but highly recommended.)
Knead that pesto all throughout the dough.
Knead that pesto all throughout the dough.
Take that other dough ball and flatten it out . This one gets sundried tomatoes.
Take that other dough ball and flatten it out . This one gets sundried tomatoes.
Knead those tomatoes into the dough. Now we're ready to mix the two together!
Knead those tomatoes into the dough. Now we’re ready to mix the two together!
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Man, my hands are getting tired.
Once you've combined the pesto half with the sundried tomato half, divide them into two again.
Once you’ve combined the pesto half with the sundried tomato half, divide them into two again (otherwise it won’t fit on the pan).
Let them rise in a warm place.
Let them rise somewhere warm. I turned on my oven light and just stuck it in there.
POKING TIME!
POKING TIME!
I don't really know what the pokes do, but it's fun and maybe that's just the way foccacia is supposed to look.
I don’t really know what the pokes do, but it’s fun and maybe that’s just the way foccacia is supposed to look.
Brush on some olive oil.
Brush on some olive oil.
Back in the oven it goes! It's starting to smell like a bakery in here.
Back in the oven it goes! It’s starting to smell like a bakery in here.
It's done!
It’s done!
Took almost all my will power to wait for it to cool before cutting a thick slice.
Took almost all my will power to wait for it to cool before cutting a thick slice.

Another bread challenge down! All this baking is really starting to grow on me. It’s definitely a good way to kick back and relax after a long day at the office. At the very least, punching down the dough is always an effective stress reliever.

The result is definitely worth the five hours of hard work (and waiting). It has a great crunch to the crust, but the inside is soft and light. The pesto is swirled all through the dough, so every bite or so you get a slight crunch of an almond. Every bite however has that clean fresh basil taste.

I only wish I had pushed all the tomatoes back into the dough before popping them in the oven. The ones that stuck out on the top came out a little charred. At least it’s easy to pick them off and pretend it never happened!

My house smells like a bakery, and I have a fantastic loaf of fresh foccacia all set for tomorrow’s lunch. The only question now is who’s going to help me finish the other loaf?

Update: After having another look through my recipe, it turns out I was supposed to be making two separate foccacia loaves. One was supposed to be pesto flavoured and the other sun-dried tomato. Whoops. Fortunately the flavours go together wonderfully! I like to think it adds another dimension to my first-time foccacia. I meant to do that!

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