Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dough Hook

This is a dough hook:

It reminds of that urban legend about the couple that parked at Lover's Lane and heard on the radio about the escapee from the insane asylum with a hook in place of his hand. When they got home, they found a bloody hook hanging from the car door handle.

My dough hook looks kind of scary, and I'm a little worried about what mischief it will get up to while I'm sleeping. I wonder if it will be hanging from my bedroom door knob in the morning, all covered in yeast. Because it's actually a genius of a hook, smarter and wilier than the average kitchen appliance. I find that I evaluate my appliances, as if they are team members reporting to me. The crockpot is old and set in her ways, the toaster oven performs well but don't push his limits, the ice cream maker is fast and clever. And now I have a new stand mixer with a dough hook, and it's like the cool new guy everyone wants to get to know, who brings to the table some tricks to get the job done faster, better.

But whether or not you have a mixer with a dough hook, you must make some focaccia. Focaccia is easier to make than pizza because there's no sauce to worry about, and you need very little or no cheese. Simple toppings are best, focaccia doesn't have to be the main course, but it's good with salads or roasted veggies or a saucy pasta. This focaccia with Asiago and sea salt and cherry tomatoes was so simple and delicious that I nearly dropped my food in a rush to give you the recipe and insist that you make it. But I was stopped by the dough hook. It's a rather intimidating enforcer of dining etiquette.

Asiago Focaccia with Cherry Tomatoes and Kalamata Olives
Makes 1 10 inch focaccia

1 teaspoon active dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon salt

1 oz Asiago cheese, grated
4 to 6 cherry tomatoes, sliced thinly
8 to 10 kalamata olives, halved and pitted
4 basil leaves, chopped
Sea salt

Combine the yeast and warm water and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Add flour, olive oil, and salt. Mix by hand or on low speed for about 1 minute to blend ingredients. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand or with the dough hook on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. Transfer the dough to a well-oiled 10 inch cake pan and turn it over once to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Punch down the dough and spread to fill the cake pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Top with grated cheese, tomato slices, olives, and basil. Sprinkle liberally with sea salt.

Bake the focaccia until golden, about 25 minutes. Remove from pan to cool on a rack and serve warm or at room temperature.

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