Okay, I’m not going to lie. This winter has already been exceedingly challenging for me. I knew that moving to Stamford meant colder temperatures and an increase in snow days. What I did not know is how much I dislike cold weather. I definitely took advantage of the milder temperatures in Richmond. Now, I am frozen to the bone. All of the time. I have been frozen since November. And looking at the forecast this week, it would appear that I will continue to freeze (I’m looking at you, Friday, with your “low of 3” BS). The only thing keeping me sane is my upcoming trip to Singapore, the promise of 90 degree days, and the infinity pool at the Westin.
Our most recent winter weather adventures started this past Saturday, before the bigger storm hit Monday night. On Saturday we had a couple of inches in addition to freezing rain and whatnot. I was stuck inside for most of the day working on a case but my husband had his first day off since January 2! While he was deservedly sleeping the day away and I was waiting for some ridiculously long data queries to run, I decided to make some focaccia bread. And then that idea spiraled into making baked Emmental, because of course I needed something to dip the bread in. The result was an admittedly odd combination: a mix of Italian, French, and Swiss influences. But, it doesn’t matter because it was delicious and for a moment, I was warm.
Side note: this recipe results in a lot more bread than cheese dip…but you can do all sorts of things with focaccia so I’ll leave you to figure out what to do with the leftovers!
For the focaccia – adapted from Italian Food Forever
Makes 1 (13 x 9 Inch) Rectangular Pan
5 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
2 teaspoons Fleischmann’s instant dry yeast
2 – 3 tablespoons olive oil (extra oil needed for bowl and for drizzling before baking)
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups warm water
Sea salt, Kalamata olives, grape tomatoes, for toppings
For the baked Emmental
½ lb Emmental cheese, cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
Sprinkle of fresh thyme, sea salt, freshly ground black pepper
Chopped chives as garnish
For the focaccia
Mix the flour, oil, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. Add in half of the water and stir to combine. Slowly add the rest of the water until the dough begins to form into a ball. Then, place the dough mixture onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes; it will quickly become smooth.
Add a drizzle of olive oil to the bottom of the large bowl from before. Place the dough ball inside, making sure the oil coats its sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise until doubled in size, for about an hour and a half.
Next, lightly oil a baking sheet (13 X 9). Spread the dough into the sheet, using your fingers to spread evenly. Then, cover the baking sheet with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise for another 20 or 30 minutes. At this point, the dough should dimple when you push it with your fingertips. Dimple the entire top of the focaccia.
Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top and sprinkle on the sea salt. Place any additional toppings on top as well, such as Kalamata olives and grape tomatoes. Let the dough rise again, for another 15 minutes or so while the oven is preheating to 425°F. Place the baking sheet in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until the bread is golden brown. Important: cool to room temperature before slicing!
For the baked Emmental
While your focaccia is cooling, start prepping the cheese. It doesn’t get any easier than this, folks! Place the Emmental cubes evenly in a 10 inch cast iron dish/pan. Drizzle a tablespoon of olive oil on top, and throw in the garlic and thyme. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
When the bread is cooled and you’re just about ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Place the roasting dish on the top oven rack, about 5-6 inches or so from the heat. Broil for about 6-8 minutes until the cheese starts to brown and is bubbly. Garnish with chives and serve right out of the pan (don’t burn yourself) with the focaccia.