Sourdough Focaccia

carapelli focaccia
This post is sponsored by Carapelli Olive Oil. As always, all opinions expressed are my own.

While I love a hearty whole-grain sourdough loaf, nothing hits the spot like a fresh piece of focaccia fresh out of the oven. With a salted top, chewy interior, and crisp bottom, it’s the perfect accompaniment to a bowl of soup or stew. But it’s also a pretty tasty snack on its own, dipped in some good olive oil.

Focaccia is also one of the simplest breads to make, so it’s great for beginners or for days when you don’t have the time to babysit your dough. You don’t have to do much shaping or kneading for this bread — just mix, let it double, fold and let double again (this gives an extra airy, even texture); then gently turn into an oiled pan and let it rise some more before topping and baking. I’ve found that the key to really good focaccia is patience — really give it time to double twice for the best texture and flavor, and don’t be in a hurry to push it out to the edges of your pan.

For this sourdough focaccia, I used Carapelli Extra Virgin Olive Oil to create a flavorful bread with a crisp bottom and luscious, chewy interior. It’s especially delicious served with Carapelli Founders Edition Extra Virgin Olive Oil, a fresh and well-balanced blend with notes of wildflower and citrus. While you can top your focaccia with anything you want, I like to keep it simple with flaky salt, pepper, and a light sprinkling of herbs and parmesan to let the flavor of the bread and olive oil really shine.

A few notes:
  • I typically mix and bake focaccia in the same day, but you can retard the dough overnight too. You can refrigerate the dough either after the first doubling (fold, then put in the fridge to double again, then proceed as written); or you can refrigerate the dough after it’s been turned out into the oiled pan.
  • If you’re baking for a crowd, you can double this recipe and bake it in two 8-inch pans or in one 9×13 pan.
crumb shot focaccia
focaccia olive oil pour

Sourdough Focaccia

Makes one 8×8 pan

Ingredients:

  • 95g ripe sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 156g water
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil (plus more for coating the pan and drizzling)
  • 213g bread flour
  • 10g rye flour
  • 5g sea salt
  • Flaky salt, pepper, thyme leaves, and grated parmesan

Method:

  1. Mix together all ingredients from starter through sea salt until smooth. Transfer to a well oiled container and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel.
  2. Let dough rise until doubled (this can take 3-6 hours, depending on the temperature and the strength of your starter). Fold, then let double again.
  3. Pour a couple Tbsp of olive oil into 8×8 pan and tilt to cover the entire bottom.
  4. Carefully turn dough into the oiled pan, doing your best not to let it deflate. Let rest, covered, for 30 minutes, then gently press from the center out to fill the corners. (If the dough resists at all, let it rest for another 10 minutes and try again.) Let rise, covered, until very puffy and airy (in my 2-inch high pan, the dough comes up halfway). This usually takes me 2-3 hours (longer if the dough has been refrigerated overnight — see notes above). About 30-60 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 500F with a rack and baking stone (if you have one) in the middle.
  5. When you’re ready to bake, drizzle the focaccia with olive oil and dimple the top with your fingers. Sprinkle with flaky salt, black pepper, and thyme leaves, if desired.
  6. Bake at 500F for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 450F and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until nicely browned and risen. Sprinkle on some parmesan during the last 10 minutes of baking, if you’d like.
  7. Let the focaccia cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before removing and cooling on a wire rack. It’s best served fresh out of the oven, but leftovers can be wrapped in foil and re-warmed in a low oven the next couple of days.


hannah poking focaccia


Strawberry Swirl Frozen Yogurt

strawberry swirl frozen yogurt cone

I try to be a “kitchen stuff” minimalist. Don’t get me wrong: my eyes light up when I discover a new bakeware store, and my idea of a good time is browsing the kitchen-related aisles of HomeGoods or HomeSense. But I usually take my time when it actually comes to buying stuff, especially appliances that take up valuable counter or storage space.

Case in point: ice cream makers. I’ve probably threatened to buy one for the past three summers. But I’ve never bit the bullet, sticking to semifreddos and extra trips to the ice cream parlor. (The texture of no-churn recipes have never really excited me.)

But this year, the new Salt & Straw cookbook arrived in the mail; and between the mouthwatering pictures of flavors like Sea Salt and Caramel Ribbon and Strawberry Honey Balsamic with Black Pepper and pregnancy cravings for Wendy’s Frosties, I knew this had to be the Summer of Homemade Ice Cream. I mentioned to my husband that I was starting to research ice cream makers. And by the next day, with the help of a friend, he had procured a Cuisinart ICE-20 (I’ve mentioned he’s a keeper, right?). Predictably, I can’t stop churning.

One of the great features of the Salt & Straw cookbook is that it starts out with three simple base recipes: one for regular ice cream, one for sorbet/frozen yogurt/sherbet/gelato, and one for coconut (dairy free) ice cream. Most of the remaining recipes build off one of these bases; and you can actually whip up large batches of the bases and refrigerate/freeze portions for later use so you can practically churn up a pint on a whim.

I decided to start my churning journey with this strawberry swirl frozen yogurt. A ribbon of strawberry syrup adds a touch of sweetness and color to a creamy, tart fro-yo base. I can see having a pint of this deliciousness always on hand, changing up the fruit depending on the season.

A few notes:
  • I’ve tried this with both regular 2% Greek yogurt, and full-fat regular yogurt (strained overnight in a cheesecloth-lined sieve set over a bowl). Both work well, though I slightly preferred the texture of regular Greek yogurt. Either way, do not use fat-free yogurt for this recipe.
  • You can also sub 1/2 cup sour cream for part of the yogurt for a little added tang and richness.
  • Straining the strawberry syrup is optional; if you like a more chunky frozen yogurt you can leave the fruit solids in. If you do strain the syrup, the remaining fruit can be refrigerated and used to spread on toast or top your fro-yo.


strawberry swirl frozen yogurt in a scoop
Marcus eating frozen yogurt

Strawberry Swirl Frozen Yogurt

Makes about 3 pints / Inspired by Salt & Straw and Serious Eats

Ingredients:

For the base:
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp xanthan gum
  • 1/4 c (80g) light corn syrup
For the frozen yogurt:
  • 1/4 to 1/2 c strawberry syrup (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 cups base
  • 1 1/2 c (360g) super-tart Greek yogurt, very cold (see notes above)
  • 3/4 c whole milk
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
For the strawberry syrup swirl:
  • 8 oz / 225g trimmed and chopped strawberries
  • 2 Tbsp / 30 g freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice
  • 6 oz / 175g granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt

Method:

  1. Make the base: Stir together the sugar and xanthan gum in a small bowl. Combine 1 1/4 c water and the corn syrup in a small saucepan. Add the sugar mixture and immediately whisk vigorously until smooth (but don’t fret over a few lumps). Set the pan over medium heat and cook, stirring often and adjusting the heat if necessary to prevent a simmer, until the sugar has fully dissolved, about 3 minutes. Take the pan off the heat and let the mixture cool completely.
  2. Transfer the mixture to an airtight container and store in the fridge until cold, at least 4 hours, or up to 2 weeks, or in the freezer for up to 1 year. (Just be sure to fully thaw it and stir well before using it.)
  3. Make the strawberry syrup: Combine strawberries, lemon/lime sugar, and salt in a medium pot. Note the pot’s weight at this stage so the reduction can be tracked on the scale (or you can use a digital thermometer). Mash the strawberries with a fork or metal spatula until swimming in juice.
  4. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, continuously stirring and scraping along the bottom and sides of the saucier with a flexible, heat-resistant spatula. This should take about 5 minutes.
  5. Once the mixture begins to boil, continue cooking until reduced by 4 ounces (mixture should be 220°F) for a thin, saucy ribbon or 5 ounces (224°F) for a thick, gooey ribbon. This should take about 6 minutes.
  6. Strain the syrup into a heatproof container. Cover and refrigerate until completely chilled.
  7. Churn the frozen yogurt: Before churning, place a 1-quart container into the freezer, along with a spatula. Place the yogurt, milk, and salt into a bowl and whisk until combined. Add the base and whisk until smooth. (If you have an immersion blender, you can add all ingredients together and blend until smooth.) Pour the mixture into an ice cream maker and turn on the machine. Churn just until the mixture has the texture of a pourable frozen smoothie.
  8. Quickly transfer the fro-yo into the prepared container: Spoon in layers of fro-yo alternated by drizzles of strawberry syrup (I used about half of the syrup, but use as much as you want). You can use a knife to swirl the two occasionally, or leave as-is for more distinct strawberry ribbons.
  9. Cover with parchment paper, pressing it to the surface of the fro-yo-so it adheres, then cover with a lid. It’s okay if the parchment hangs over the rim. Store it in the coldest part of your freezer (farthest from the door) until firm, at least 6 hours. It will keep for up to 3 months.

Zeppole

zeppole

A couple years ago, my husband came home from work one day and asked, “Have you had a zeppole? They’re so good!” I had, in fact, never had a zeppole nor heard of them. So over the next couple of weeks, we went on a bit of an Italian bakery run trying to find zeppole for me to try.

Turns out zeppole are basically Italian doughnuts, and they come in many different forms: baked, fried, filled, and unfilled. After sampling a variety of zeppole, we realized our favorite were the Zeppole di San Giuseppe variety, which are basically doughnut-shaped cream puffs. Traditionally these are eaten to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day (a Catholic holiday in March), which is pretty much the only time you can find them in actual Italian bakeries in our area. But they’re too delicious to not be eaten the rest of year; and since they’re made from good ol’ choux, they’re easy enough to pull off at home!

A few notes:

  • Traditionally, this style of zeppole are garnished with canned sour cherries. This is delicious, but if you don’t have any you can just use some fresh fruit or a thick jam.
  • If you like a lighter/softer filling, you can whip up some heavy cream (I’d probably do 1/2 cup or so) and fold it into the pastry cream before filling the zeppole.
  • Zeppole are best consumed within 4 hours of assembling, but all the components can be prepared ahead of time: the pastry cream can be refrigerated up to 3 days and the choux rings can be baked and stored at room temperature for a couple of days (or frozen for longer storage). If the pastry softens during storage, recrisp by baking uncovered at 300°F for 5-8 minutes. Cool completely before filling.
choux pastry rings
baked zeppole

Zeppole

Makes about 10 zeppole

Ingredients:

  • 1 recipe choux pastry (prepared through step 4)
  • 1 batch vanilla pastry cream (recipe below)
  • Thick fruit jam or preserves (I used strawberry)
  • Fresh fruit, canned sour cherries, or additional thick jam, to finish
  • Powdered sugar, to finish (optional)
For the vanilla pastry cream:
  • 1 1/2 c whole milk
  • 1/2 c heavy cream
  • 100g granulated sugar, divided
  • 40g custard powder (or cornstarch)
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 28g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Method:

  1. Make the vanilla pastry cream: Place a sieve over a heatproof container. Combine the whole milk and heavy cream in a medium saucepan along with 80g of the sugar. Whisk to combine.
  2. In a medium bowl, place the remaining 20g granulated sugar and sift in the custard powder or cornstarch. Pour in a splash of the milk-cream mixture and whisk to combine (this helps prevent lumpy custard). Add a bit more of the milk mixture and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the egg yolks.
  3. Bring the remaining milk-cream mixture to a simmer over medium heat. Once it has reached a simmer, remove from the heat and slowly pour into the egg mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over medium to medium high heat, whisking continuously.
  4. As soon as the mixture thickens and large bubbles appear, turn the heat to low and continue whisking on the heat for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain into the prepared container. Whisk in the butter, followed by the vanilla extract.
  5. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface of the custard to keep a skin from forming. Cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate until chilled (at least three hours, or up to 3 days).
  6. Bake the zeppole: Preheat the oven to 425F with a rack in the middle. On a large piece of parchment using a cookie cutter or other round object, trace about ten 2 1/2 inch circles. Space the circles at least 2 inches apart. Place the parchment on a large baking sheet (with the tracing on the underside so you don’t get pen/pencil onto your zeppole). Transfer the choux dough to a large piping bag fitted with an open star/French piping tip. Pipe rings of choux using the tracings as a guide. After you’ve piped all the bases, go back and pipe another, smaller ring on the top inside edge of the bottom ring. (If you have any dough left, you can pipe little cream puffs to use it up.) Dust the rings with icing sugar.
  7. Bake the pastry for 10 minutes, then turn down the oven to 375F and continue baking until the rings are puffed and a deep golden brown — about another 20-30 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet after about 30 minutes total baking time — avoid opening the oven door any sooner, or your pastry may collapse. After the rings are finished but still hot, pierce the bottoms with a skewer or paring knife and return to the turned-off oven for 10 minutes to allow the steam to escape and the insides to dry out (prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon). Transfer rings to a cooling rack and allow them to cool completely before filling.
  8. Assemble the zeppole: Whisk the chilled pastry cream to loosen and transfer to a piping bag fitted with an open star tip.
  9. Using a sharp serrated knife, trim off the top third of the choux rings and set aside. Remove any soft bits from inside the shells.
  10. Spread a thin layer of jam on the bottom of the rings. Pipe the cream on top. Place the tops back on and pipe a dollop of cream in the centers. Garnish with a sour cherry, fresh fruit, or a dab of jam. Dust with powdered sugar if desired. Serve immediately, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours. (The pastry will eventually start to soften, so it’s best to fill the zeppole shortly before eating.)
baked zeppole with garnish