Friday, October 14, 2016


The weatherman says summer temperatures will return this weekend. Mother Nature did not clear that move with me. I've been celebrating the cooler fall temperatures by digging out soup recipes. I made Taco Soup this week. And last week, I shared Copycat Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli soup with two families who'd just had new babies. Since it makes a big recipe, we enjoyed the leftovers, too.

To go along with the Italian theme, I made homemade focaccia bread to deliver with the soup. While I still turn on my oven plenty during the hot summer months, bread baking seems more suited to fall and winter temperatures.
Focaccia is a pretty forgiving bread, and it doesn't require expert bread shaping skills to get a good product. It's shaped into a rustic circle or rectangle, so it doesn't matter if the loaf isn't perfectly shaped. (Honestly, no one around here cares if the traditional loaf of bread is "county fair perfect" either. Homemade bread is homemade bread!)

Here at home, we dipped slices of the focaccia in seasoned olive oil, just like at an Italian restaurant. Homemade soup and bread? Yes, please!

While the summer temperatures are coming back for a short stay - ready or not - we know that fall and winter aren't far behind. If you're looking for tried-and-true bread recipes, the Kansas Wheat website has lots of recipes to try.

You, too, could be featured in that collection of award-winning recipes.  Entries for the 2017 National Festival of Breads are being accepted through January 16. The competition seeks the best yeast bread recipes from home bakers throughout the U.S. It’s sponsored by the Kansas Wheat Commission, along with King Arthur Flour and Red Star Yeast.

Adult amateur bakers can submit original recipes for holiday breads, rolls, time-saving and simple breads, and whole grain breads online. Youth bakers, ages 8-17, can also submit recipes for yeast breads and quick breads. All entries must be made online at  www.nationalfestivalofbreads.com and require photos of the entered bread.

Eight adult finalists will participate in the national competition on June 17 next year in Manhattan and receive a $500 cash award. The finalists will visit a Kansas farm during wheat harvest, tour a flour mill and grain elevator and learn about wheat research at the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center. The Grand Prize Winner will receive $2,000 cash and a trip to attend a baking class of their choice at the King Arthur Flour Baking Education Center in Norwich, Vermont. One youth grand prize winner will be selected and will receive a $300 scholarship. Two youth entries will receive a runner-up prize of a $100 scholarship.

The focaccia recipe I used predates the national contest. But it was a winner at the Kansas Festival of Breads in 2002. 

Whole White Wheat Italian Focaccia
A 2002 Kansas Festival of Breads winning recipe
made by Naomi Johnson, Great Bend
From the Kansas Wheat website
2 cups whole wheat flour*
1 package RED STAR® Active Dry Yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried Italian seasoning
2 cups lukewarm water (110-115°F)

2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons dried grated  Parmesan Cheese
1 cup whole wheat flour*
1 ½ - 2 cups bread flour

Toppings (optional): Olive oil, Parmesan or Romano Cheese, Kosher salt, Italian seasoning, fresh herbs
*Contestant used whole white wheat flour in recipe. 

1. For sponge, combine in bowl, whole wheat flour, yeast, sugar, garlic powder, Italian seasoning, and water. (NOTE:  I used 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning, rather than 1 tablespoon.) Mix 2 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest 20 minutes.
2. Stir in salt, olive oil, and cheese. Add whole wheat flour; mix 2 minutes. Gradually add enough of the bread flour to form a soft dough. Knead dough 5 to 8 minutes. Place in lightly greased bowl. Cover; let rise until double.
3. Divide dough into two pieces. Gently pull or stretch each piece of dough into a circle or rectangle ¾-inch thick. Place on greased baking sheets or pizza pans that have been dusted with cornmeal. Cover, let rise 20 to 25 minutes.
4. Dimple dough with fingertips every ½ inch. Brush with oil; sprinkle on cheese and, if desired, Kosher salt. Let rest 5 minutes.
5. Bake in preheated 400°F oven 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden. During last several minutes of baking, sprinkle with Italian seasoning or fresh herbs. Best served fresh. (NOTE: I sprinkled with Zataar seasoning.)

Makes 2 focaccia (16 servings each).
Focaccia is also tasty with cavatini and a green salad.
Today, I'm linked to Weekend Potluck, hosted by these bloggers. Check out the tried-and-true recipes from them and other food enthusiasts!

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