When you have a bread starter, one of the things you have to do is feed it each week (or thereabouts). It doesn’t matter if you aren’t going to be baking, it doesn’t matter if your freezer is full of bread, you still need to feed the starter. And, that means you’ll have starter that needs to be used, somehow, some way. Otherwise, it’ll go to waste, and we can’t have that. So, we’ve learned a few ways to use the starter, including turning it into about a pound of bread dough. It’s not great bread dough, so we won’t go into details about how we do it, but we will give you the lowdown on how you can turn about a pound of bread dough into potato focaccia. Fair enough?
When we saw the recipe for potato focaccia in Bake From Scratch, by Brian Hart Hoffman, we figured it was worth a try. After all, we have several pizza places in town that offer a potato pizza, which are really good, and focaccia isn’t really much different from pizza, right? After all, it’s a crust with toppings. Now, we changed it up some — the cheese and herbs used — but isn’t that what a recipe’s for: to make it your recipe?
If you make bread regularly, just use about a pound of that, or you could buy a pound of dough from a store. We’ve seen bags of dough (for pizzas) at some of our local stores. Or, you could try our basic bread dough, scaling it down to 1/4 the original amount. Naturally, use another herb in place of rosemary; the original recipe used thyme. Same goes for the cheese; another hard flavorful cheese would be fine, too. Something like Romano Pecorino, or Asiago. Finally, try to use real extra-virgin olive oil — the kind that adds flavor.
Procedure in detail:
Make salted water. We know you don’t need instructions for this; we just don’t want you to forget to put 1 teaspoon of salt into the quart of cool water and swish it around. The salt will bring out the flavor of the potatoes, so it’s important.
Peel and slice potatoes. Peel the potatoes and slice them very thinly. If you have a mandoline, this is the perfect opportunity to take it out and use it. Just be careful; we don’t want a comment about how you had to head to the ER for stitches. We just use a chef’s knife and do the best we can. As you slice the potatoes, place them in the salted water.
Refrigerate. Place the potato slices in the refrigerator for about 2 hours. This will draw out the starch, infuse the potatoes with salt, and make the slices nice and crisp. When you’re ready to start work, drain the potatoes completely and pat dry on a clean dish towel.
Preheat oven to 400°F. If you have a baking stone, place it in the oven to heat as the oven heats. If not, use an oiled baking sheet for your dough in the instructions below.
Spread dough. Spread the dough into about a 16-inch circle on a piece of lightly floured parchment. Try to get it even in thickness, but don’t worry too much about it. By its nature, focaccia is a rustic bread, so, if it’s a bit wonky here and there, that’s good. If you don’t have a baking stone, spread out the dough on an oiled baking sheet. We did for years and the focaccia was great.
Top dough. We topped ours in this order: rosemary, potatoes, a bit of cheese and black pepper, more potatoes and cheese, thinly sliced onion, a sprinkle more black pepper, a sprinkle of salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. Naturally, the exact order and amount doesn’t really matter; just try for an even amount across the top so everything bakes evenly. We wanted the onion on top so they’d get slightly caramelized as the focaccia bakes.
Bake. Slide into the oven with a pizza peel if you have one; otherwise, make a substitute peel from an upside down baking sheet, a piece of stiff cardboard, or a cake lifter, or something else you can find. Bake until the crust is browned, the onions are caramelized in spots, and the potatoes are browned in spots, about 20 to 30 minutes.
See, easy, and, once you taste it, you might be surprised that potatoes can make such a good topping for bread (consider making a pizza with white sauce and potato slices — tasty). We like the fact that it looks rustic, just as if it came from a farmhouse kitchen. The onions add a nice depth of flavor, and, other than making the dough, this is super simple. Four stars if you have to make the dough specifically for focaccia, five otherwise.