Friday, January 15, 2016

My First Olive Oil Experience

My real-life first olive oil experience is when I was a simple, food-loving kid who loved different places and different people. Did I enjoy different foods? Not so much because my Westernized palate wasn’t worldly. One rainy Christmas Eve, my parents took me to a modest San Jose, California red apartment two-story complex we used to live at before moving to the fifties’ “Family Knows Best”-type house in the suburbs...

Olive Oil book available at
fine bookstores online and stores
At the old red complex to visit former neighbors, I knocked on Florence’s upstairs front door. A short, plump, elderly gray-haired Italian lady greeted us—damp and cold—with a hug and genuine smile. I liked her and her kitchen filled with sweet and savory smells. After all, she baked cookies and breads. I sipped hot cocoa topped with miniature marshmallows and sat huddled up to the warm stove. The kitchen table was cluttered with dozens of cans and bottles of oils and fats.

Biscotti made with EVOO works!
Florence offered me a cookie from a tin box. I asked, “Which ones should I choose?” She answered, “The long cookies with almonds—biscotti.” She told me the oblong-shaped biscuit, twice-baked, was from Italy.  I dipped it into my cocoa; she put hers in black tea. The woman whispered while pointing to a dark colored bottle on the table, “Olive oil makes cookies moist,” she said adding, “my secret ingredient.” I believed her. She gave me the box filled with layers of different edible gems including Neapolitan, Pumpkin and Spumoni. It was a memorable special gift...

Speaking of treasured presents, this recipe (perfect for a cold winter night) was provided for The Healing Powers of Olive Oil and is a fine one that I cherish and want to share with you.

Tender Focaccia
* * *
This focaccia, whose crumb is softened by the addition of both potato flour and dry milk, is ideal for slicing and turning into sandwiches.

2 cups (16 ounces) boiling water                               2 ½ teaspoons instant yeast
3 ¾ cups (16 ounces) unbleached all-                        1 ½ teaspoons salt
purpose flour                                                               2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) olive oil, plus
¼ cup (1 ½ ounces) potato flour, or                           2 to 3 tablespoons to grease the pan and
1/3 (3/4 ounce) potato flakes                                      the surface of the dough
¼ cup (1 ¼ ounces) nonfat dry milk                           ¼ to ½ teaspoon kosher salt, sea salt, or
                                                                                    Fleur de Sel, for topping

Put the hot water and 2 cups of the flour in a large bowl and beat for several minutes to develop a smooth flour. If you have the time, add 1/8 teaspoon yeast once the batter has cooked to lukewarm, and set the sponge aside for several hours or overnight; this helps develop flavor in the finished loaf, as well as the soft interior texture.
Whisk the potato flour with the remaining flour, dry milk, yeast, and salt. Add this to the batter a little at a time, while continuing to beat. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Beat, by hand with a large spoon or with the paddle attachment of a mixer set at medium speed, for 8 to 10 minutes, changing to a dough hook when the dough begins to hold together.
After the dough has become smooth and shiny, put it in an oiled bowl, cover it with a damp towel or plastic wrap, and let it rise for 30 minutes. The dough should have increased by about one third and be puffy-looking. Don’t punch down the dough, but pull the sides of the dough up and over in a folding motion. Do this several times to release some of the gas, then let the dough rise for another 30 minutes.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a 12- or 14-inch round pan, or 1 tablespoon olive oil into each of two 8-inch round pans. Place the dough in the oiled pan(s), gently stretching it to fit. Let the dough rest for 30 minutes, then stretch it out a little more. At this point you may refrigerate the dough in the pan(s), tightly covered, for up to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400F. Just before baking the focaccia, dimple it with your fingers, brush it with little olive oil, and sprinkle it with coarse salt or a few sprigs of fresh herb. Bake the focaccia for 25 to 30 minutes, until it’s deep brown all over. Remove it from the pan(s) and cool it for 15 minutes before eating. Serve with flavored olive oil, or split for sandwiches. Two 8-inch round or one 12-to 14 inch round focaccia, 12 servings. 
(Courtesy: Arthur Flour Baker’s Companion: The All-Purpose Baking Cookbook.)

SPECIAL NOTE: Excerpt from The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, Revised and Updated (published by Kensington). Dedicated to my mother in parent heaven; her birthday was yesterday January 14. I sense she would be proud of my Healing Powers series and that The Healing Powers of Vinegar was ranked #1 in Healthy Cooking on amazon in December and Health on kobobooks; in January The Healing Powers of Honey ranked #3 in Nutrition on kobobooks. And the 3rd edition of VINEGAR will be released this summer.

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