Forno Bravo Community Cookbook

Tuscan Bread

This Tuscan style bread is made with a straight mix method. No need to activate the yeast or make a sponge prior to making this bread. Once baked, the loaf has a deep golden brown crust that softens as it rests and a chewy, moderately dense texture. I personally love using this bread for bruschetta or for my toast the morning after baking. The recipe is adapted from the King Arthur Flour recipe collection.

2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 teaspoon basil, dried
1 teaspoon thyme, dried
1 teaspoon oregano, dried
1 teaspoon fennel seed, ground
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 ½ cups (12 ounces) warm water
3 ¼ cups (13 7/8 ounces) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Kneed by hand until incorporated and form the dough into a ball. Cover the dough with olive oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set aside for 1 hour and almost double in size.

Punch down the dough and then form into a football shaped loaf. Place on a floured pizza peel and let rest for 15 minutes. Score the top of the loaf and place in your Forno Bravo oven.

The hearth should be about 350-375 degrees and the over all oven 450-500. Place loaf in the oven and bake for about 35 – 45 minutes. The loaf is done at 190 degrees internally.

Remove from oven, let cool, slice and enjoy.

Until next week, feast well.
Chef Bart

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Sesame seed-chili flatbread

I was digging through recipes this week craving something spicy with a little crunch and a soft chew. Deep within the stacks of my handwritten, tattered pile of unfiled recipes, I uncovered a flatbread recipe I used 20 years ago in a Mediterranean restaurant I was running. Admittedly, we baked these off in a traditional oven for the sole reason of keeping up with demand. We served this bread as a part of the bread service with hummus and a feta cheese dip. I figured that it would be perfect for the Forno Bravo considering the recipe’s original roots hailed from Syria, and though their version is similar to a soft pita, the bread gets baked in long wood burning ovens. This recipe calls for chili flakes and sesame seeds, but the topping can vary based on your desires. Parmesan cheese makes for a wonderful salty punch and fennel seed and sea salt are always favorites of mine. I recommend serving as a flatbread/cracker for dips and pre-pizza noshing.

2 teaspoons yeast
2.5 cups water, 95 – 105 degrees
6 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
5 teaspoons sesame seeds
4 teaspoons chili flakes

In a large mixing bowl combine the yeast and water to activate the yeast. After about 10-15 minutes, add 2.5 cups of the flour. Mix the dough until flour is incorporated and add remaining flour and salt. Continue to mix the dough until all the flour has been absorbed. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.

Pour dough out onto a floured surface and kneed the dough for about 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough back into the bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until doubled in size, about 1.5-2 hours.

In one of my favorite moves in dough making, punch down the dough and return to a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough in half, then divided those halves in half and continue the process until you have 16 equal pieces.

Roll out the dough as thin as you can into a “free form” round. Brush the dough with olive oil and sprinkle about 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon of each of the sesame seeds and chili flakes over the top. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown and crisp (about 1 minute). Remove from oven and enjoy. Can be made ahead of time.

Hope you enjoy. Until next week, feast well.
Chef Bart

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Rosemary Focaccia

FoccaciaI’ve been craving last week’s sweet anise rolls since posting it on the community cookbook. I decided to take the craving as inspiration and turn it into a soft chewy herb laden focaccia. If you are not a fan of rosemary feel free to substitute your favorite herb or olives or even spike it up with a hit of chili flakes.

1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup milk, 90-95 degrees
1 cup water, 90-05 degrees
4 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons anise seeds, toasted
3 tablespoons rosemary, fresh, chopped

1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon course sea salt
1 teaspoon fresh clacked black pepper

In a small mixing bowl, activate the yeast by add the yeast, warm milk and water together. Gently stir until the yeast has dissolved and it begins to bubble. Approximately 10-15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt, first listed olive oil and the yeast-milk water mixture. Using your hands and a folding method, mix the dough until it is smooth and ingredients are completely incorporated. The dough will be soft and slightly sticky. Cover the bowl with a warm damp kitchen towel and let rest for 1.5 to 2 hours or until it has doubled in size.

Sprinkle the anise seed, lemon zest and fresh rosemary over the top of the dough and kneed the bread for 5 minutes. Remove from the bowl and place on an oiled baking sheet. Spread and gently pull the dough so that it evenly covers the sheet pan. Set aside and let rest for 20 minutes.

Using your fingers, gently make small indentations over the top of the dough. Sprinkle the additional extra virgin olive oil, course sea salt and black pepper over the top evenly. Bake in your Forno Bravo oven at 350 – 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Bread will be soft and golden brown. Remove from oven, let rest for 5 minutes and enjoy. Until next week feast well

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Sweet Anise Bread

While my Forno Bravo oven hibernated in its snowy winter jacket this week, my business travel took me to Peru. I had the pleasure of working with a group of chefs from around the Caribbean, Central and South American markets. One of our days was spent exploring local ingredients, artisan producers and the cultural influences that have made Peruvian food a global force. We stopped at chef Eduardo Navarro’s Chaxras {eco – restaurant} in Pachacamac for a lunch inspired by the traditional cooking methods of the Incas.

Within seconds of walking into the outdoor restaurant, the sweet smells of baking bread and visions of delicate smoke plumes coming from a wood fired oven captured my senses. I hastened a direct path towards to the oven to discover an amazing site of pillowy buns being placed in the oven. The soft, sponge texture combined with sweet smoke and delicate anise flavors had me hooked in just one bite. Here is an adapted recipe for the traditional “Pan de Anis”

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups bread flour
.25 cup sugar
2 teaspn anise seed, toasted
1 teaspn vanilla extract
1 teaspn kosher salt
5 tablespns shortening
1 egg
1 cup water, 90 – 95 degrees
1 tablespoon yeast

Place the all purpose flour and bread flour in a standing mixer bowl with the dough hook attachment. Add the salt, anise seed and sugar. Mix well.

Add shortening, vanilla and egg to the flour mixture. Activate the yeast in the warm water and let sit for 15 minutes. Add to the dough mixture. Knead dough until smooth. Add a splash of water if dough seems dry, or a bit more flour if dough is too sticky. Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic warp. Allow dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

Divide dough into 1 -1.5-ounce pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a smooth ball, cover loosely with a damp cloth and let rest for 15 minutes. Place the dough circles on the baking sheets, and spray lightly with water. Let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour, or until they have risen a bit.

When your oven is between 350-400 degree, place the bread in the oven either directly on the hearth or on a baking sheet. Rotate if necessary and continue to bake for 18-25 minutes or until bread is golden brown. Remove from oven and enjoy warm. Until next week – feast well.

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This is a post on how to bake focaccia in a wood fired oven, with a fabulous and very different recipe that incorporates potatoes from New York baker Jim Lahey:

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Bacon croutons

1 pound bacon
2 cups bread cubes (preferably left over pizza oven bread) cut into 1/2 inch pieces

While heating up your oven for pizza, place bacon in a cast iron fry pan and place in oven door, keep an eye on it and rotate bacon as so it won’t burn. Once the bacon is crisp, remove the fry pan from the oven being careful because it will be hot, remove bacon to side dish, place the bread cubes into the fry pan and toss with the bacon fat. Place the fry pan back into the oven to toast the bread, this only takes about 2 minutes tossing bread every 30 seconds or so.
I use half of the bacon as a pizza topping and the rest is cut into bacon bits and added to a Caesar salad along with the croutons.
Note: this will be the best bacon you have ever had so refrain from eating all of it before it makes it onto a pizza or the salad.

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Wood-Oven Goat Cheese Sandwich With Shallot Relish and Kale

Who doesn’t love a good grilled cheese? That’s a rhetorical question, since everyone loves a good grilled cheese (except you poor souls out there who are unfortunate enough to be lactose intolerant). This is a twist on the classic I came up with as a vegetarian option for a party, and I was surprised to discover it actually ended up outpacing all the meat options in terms of popularity with the guests. The lesson, as always, is good food speaks for itself, and any preconceptions should go right out the window.

3 T unsalted butter
8-10 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 T capers, chopped
1 tsp piparras or pepperoncini, chopped
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 T fresh chopped parsley
1/2 tsp honey
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch kale
10 oz fresh chevre (goat cheese)
8 slices pumpernickel or marble rye bread
salt and black pepper to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of the butter in a saute pan over medium-low heat. You can also do this directly in your oven if it is cool enough. You’ll want it at a relatively low temperature – around 350ºF – to make these sandwiches so they don’t scorch before the cheese melts and the bread crisps up. Add the sliced shallots and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the shallots are very soft and have turned a rich caramel color, about 30 minutes. If the shallots start to stick, add a small amount of water and scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan, stirring them in with the shallots. Once the shallots are done, remove from the heat and stir in the capers, peppers, vinegar, parsley, honey, lemon zest and half the olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.

While the shallots are cooking, massage the kale. Yes, you read that right. It’s a trick I learned from a cook/farmer friend (thanks Abra!), and you’ll never think about kale the same way again. First, remove the woody stems from the leaves. Use your hand to hold the leaves in a tight bundle and use a sharp knife to cut the leaves into thin strips (this is called a chiffonade). Place the kale in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Rub the seasoned kale between your palms and scrunch it in your fists until all the leaves have taken on a dark, shiny and slightly damp appearance, about 2-3 minutes. What you’ve accomplished is breaking down some of the stiff cellulose in the leaves without cooking them, leaving you with tender yet fresh and bright-tasting kale. Set aside.

Melt half of the remaining butter in a pan large enough to hold four sandwiches. Divide the goat cheese among four slices of bread. Top the goat cheese with spoonfuls of shallot relish and then add a layer of massaged kale. Close up the sandwiches with the remaining slices of bread. Place the sandwiches in the pan, put the pan in your wood oven, and cook until the first side of the sandwich is browned and crispy, 3-4 minutes depending on the temp of your oven. Remove the sandwiches to a platter. Add the remaining butter to the pan and, once melted, flip over the sandwiches and put them back in the pan to toast the second side. When both sides are crispy and the cheese is nice and melty, remove from the oven and serve immediately with a cold beer.

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Schiacciata, with a Little Sourdough: Tuscan Flatbread

This is a traditional Schiaciatta al Olio (flatbread from Tuscany), with a sourdough boost.

If Focaccia is half way between pizza and bread, then Schiaciatta is half way between Focaccia and Pizza. It is flat, and infused with olive oil. You should bake it pretty hot — around 500F.

I make a standard 4 cup dough recipe, with:
4 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups water
2 tsp salt
2 TBS olive oil
2 tsp yeast

To which you add 1/2 cup of sour starter.

Reserve an additional 2-4 TBS olive oil for treating your dough and finished bread.

Let the dough rise and fall and rise back to double, then cut it into two pieces, which you shape into pizza balls and let rest for an hour. Then stretch the dough into a circle and place it is a round metal pan covered with olive oil. Pour 2 TBS oil on the dough, and let it rise for 30-60 minutes (covered). It should be about 1/2″ high.

Right before you put the bread in the oven, make impressions with your fingers — like a Focaccia.

Oven Firing 
Fire your oven until it reaches 700F, and the carbon burns off the oven dome, then allow the temperature to fall to about 500F, as the fire burns down ( about a three Mississippi oven).

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Pour another 1-2 TBS of oil on the hot baked bread and let it rest for a minute.

The sourdough helps with the crunchy texture of the bread and with a little flavor. I’d been making it for 18 months before I started adding the sour, and it really adds something.

We use it as bread with a meal, for lunch and with appetizers.

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Schiaciatta: Tuscan Flatbread

Here is a recipe for traditional Schiaciatta al Olio — flatbread from Tuscany. If Focaccia is half way between pizza and bread, then Schiaciatta is half way between Focaccia and Pizza. It is flat, and infused with olive oil. You should bake it pretty hot — around 500F.





500 grams of Tipo 00 flour (Caputo flour works great)
300 grams water
10 grams of salt
30 grams of high quality extra virgin olive oil
3 tsp yeast
Plus, and additional 30 grams of olive oil

Diced, cored tomatoes

We recommend cooking by weight. It is fast, and easy to get the exact hydration (water to flour ratio) and dough ball size you want.

Mix the dough in a stand mixer, by hand or in a bread machine. If you are using a stand mixer, mix it slowly for two minutes, faster for 5 minutes, and slow again for 2 minutes.

If you have time, try using autolyse. Mix the flour and water for 2 minutes (or until fully blended), then let the dough rest for 30 minutes. That gives the flour time to fully absorb the water. Then add the salt, olive oil and yeast, and mix on low for another 8 minutes.

Cover the dough and let it rise for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until double. Punch it down and push out the air bubbles. Form the dough into a large ball and let it rest for a couple of minutes before shaping it into a rectangular shape, roughly 1/4″ thick. Cover the dough and let it rise for another 20-30 minutes.

Right before you put the bread in the oven, make impressions with your fingers tips — as you would with a Focaccia, and drizzle on 20 grams (1-2 Tbps) of olive oil.

Oven Firing 
Fire your oven until it reaches 700F, and the carbon burns off the oven dome, then allow the temperature to fall to about 500F, as the fire burns down (about a three Mississippi oven).
Bake at 500ºF in a convensional oven.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden. Pour another 20 grams (1-2 Tbps.) of oil on the hot baked bread and let it rest for a minute.

We use it as bread with a meal, for lunch and with appetizers.

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This is a flatbread that we made with some California friends. They have a cousin who owns a nice Pasticceria in Lucca who give us the recipe and technique, and our samples (which were great). The bread is simple, though finding chickpea flour might not be. :-) It is very similar to a French Socca, from Provence. I have heard Cecina called Chickpea Pizza as well.

We have used Cecina as part of a vegetarian meal of risotto, grilled peppers, and baked eggplant — all made in a hot brick oven. It also makes a great appetizer. You can get it to-go for lunch throughout Tuscany.


brick oven cecina


1 cup chickpea flour
2 cups water (I have seen recipes with a 1:1, 1:1 1/2, and 1:3 but this works well.)
2 TSP olive oil
Dash salt


Mix the batter (it is very watery) and let set for 2-4 hours.

Fire your oven so that is is hot and ready for fire-in-the-oven cooking. Maybe two Mississippi’s. This is a good brick oven recipe because it cooks best with top and bottom heat.

Pour a liberal amount of oil in a baking sheet with 1″ (or so) sides. Add enough batter to make a 1/4″ – 1/2″ thick flatbread, and bake for 10 minutes. It should be brown on top. Cut and drizzle with olive oil, and serve immediately. The commercial bakery has seasoned cast iron pans, so that Cecina does not stick to the bottom, but we did OK with steel pans as well.

Chickpea flour is both healthy (a good source of protein) and tasty. Enjoy!

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