Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Focaccia - Get ready for a therapeutic experience with this recipe

This is my 2nd baked recipe in just a week. I am not part of any ongoing baking marathon (I am not that good yet) but I seem to have a confidence surge with regard to my baking abilities and I do have a reason/mentor. The other day, I was in the half price book store browsing books, did I mention it before that I frequent this store as I have realized I can find treasures at bargain there. I collect books (all kinds of them) and then the first thing that goes when we have moved every time are those books. My rationale is that the World is a huge circulating library, get some, read and enjoy and drop it off for others to have fun too(This is not my quote, I read this somewhere but don't remember where or who to attribute it to, so credit goes where it is due..). I have even bought my text books at bargain stores during my graduation, honestly how many of us go back and read those text books after the exam is over? and I am too much of a penny pincher to pay those exorbitant prices for a 4 month reading. So I get them used and recycle them for other self financed students such as me.

Anyway, back to my recent browsing escapade at half price book store, I went into the 'cook books' section and found a gem of a book. 'Making bread at home' by Ingram & Shapter is 256 pages of pure joy and revelation for a wannabe baker like me. Not only does the book have trust worthy recipes but also starts off with a really informative history of world bread, techniques, ingredients for everything from French baguettes to Italian Ciabatta to English muffins to Indian Bhatura with eye catching pictures. I have been trying recipes from this book and made a wonderful focaccia to start with. Just to prove this is a tried & tasted recipe in the Sattvaa kitchen, I made two batches in the last 5 days :-)
I had a colleague once, slightly older lady who used to mother all of us in the best way a mother knows, bring good food and hope the team would perform well and that no one would be stressed at work :-). Her warm, home baked, soft dinner rolls did make us forget the project deadlines for a little while as we sat there and chewed on them. As can be expected, yours truly pestered her for recipes. This lady had certain principles when it came to her recipes, she would part with her recipe only if someone proved worthy of her recipes :-) and not to every altoo-faltoo (good for nothing) person that came about asking for them. Here I was with a pure vegetarian repertoire trying to prove my mettle as a cook to a lady who wouldn't even come close to anything vegetarian or vegetables even if she was starving. Desperate that I was for those soft rolls, I took some devious means, engaged other colleagues to speak on behalf of my culinary skills and passion and also took it upon myself to tell her stories from my childhood to prove that I had a decent pedigree in cooking and would never do anything to disrespect her recipes. It took some hard work before she gave me the recipes for her 'to die for' dinner rolls. One look at that recipe sheet and I knew I was not ready for it. It called for kneading the bread dough for exactly 8 minutes, turning it halfway for the right number of times and stopping exactly when it was kneaded well. I was just not there and the recipe sheet promptly went into my book and stayed there. Now with the afore mentioned book as my baking guide, I am all set to revive my hitherto stored away baking recipes, so stay tuned.
Now there are so many versions of 'no knead focaccia' out there, so you may wonder, why am I back to kneading? Or even with this recipe, I could have cheated and kneaded the dough in my food processor but honestly, I wanted to get the hang of making bread the real way and also learn the technique of knowing when you have kneaded well, I wanted to understand what happens through the 1st, 2nd and 3rd rise the bread dough goes through, I wanted to learn about proofing the yeast. So, I set on this slightly laborious but completely satisfying journey of making the focaccia at home by kneading the dough. I will let you all in on a secret, if you have one of those 'blue days' and if you really want to punch someone in the face but can't do it because you are a 'nice person', go ahead and mix some bread dough. The 10-12 minutes spent kneading that dough will really help you vent out all the frustrations and make you good as new :-). It is a sublime experience to feel the dough turn soft and mellow right under your knuckles and is good for your morale. If you are making the dough using a bread machine or food processor, follow the manufacturer's instructions to knead the dough.

Focaccia is a dimpled Italian bread, made with generously herbed dough to make it aromatic. It is the original Italian hearth bread made from surplus pieces of dough in a very hot oven. The olive oil kneaded into the dough gives the bread a nice aroma.
What do you need to make Focaccia?
Makes one 8 inch round pan
2 1/2 cup bread flour
2 Tsp active dry yeast
3/4 cup water
1 1/2 Tblsp olive oil
1 Tsp salt
1/4 Tsp sugar
1 Tsp (or less) oil to prepare pans & bowls
2 Tsp EVOO
dried herbs of choice - garlic, oragano, thyme, italian seasoning, kasoori methi, black pepper crushed
toppings of choice - sliced tomato, bell pepper, onions, jalapeno pepper, grated cheese
kosher salt (optional)

How do you make Focaccia? 
  • Stir in sugar and yeast with luke warm water, set aside for 5-8 minutes or until you see the mixture frothing on top. 
  • Sieve the bread flour and salt together into a wide bowl, make a well in the center. 
  • Pour in the frothing yeast mixture, olive oil and mix it into a soft dough. 
  • Take the dough onto a lightly floored surface, set your timer to 10 minutes and start kneading the dough.
  • See notes below to know when to stop kneading. 
  • Prepare a bowl by smearing a couple of drops of oil all around the inside, drop the kneaded dough in, cover it with a lightly oiled plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise to double the volume. This process is dependent on the potency of your yeast and the temperature of surroundings and generally takes an hour & half. 
  • When the dough has doubled in volume, take it out from the bowl and punch it down. 
  • Add the dry herbs (I did kasoori methi today and had used a combination of Thyme, oregano & Italian seasoning 2 days back) and gently knead them into the dough.
  • Prepare your baking pan with a couple of drops of oil, put the punched down dough in it and stretch it uniformly to reach the ends of the pan. 
  • Cover with a lightly oiled plastic wrap and set aside for 30 minutes. 
  • Remove the cover, using fingers make deep dimples all over the bread, top with any toppings of choice. I did sliced tomatoes and ground black pepper. 
  • Drizzle olive oil all over the bread, cover with the plastic wrap and set aside until it rises to almost double the volume (about 45 minutes). 
  • Preheat the oven to 400F, bake the bread for 20-23 minutes or until it looks light golden brown on the surface. 
  • Remove the bread from the baking pan, let it cool. Cut wedges and serve it warm. 
  • Kneading by hand: Take the dough onto a flat surface, press the heel of your hand into the center of the dough, curl your fingers & grab the far end of the dough. Stretch it and pull towards you and give the dough a half rotation. Keep rotating the dough and continue to knead uniformly. 
  • The dough will start to become soft and elastic by the 5th minute or so and you will notice the pliant difference as you knead it.
  • The sure test to confirm if the dough has received a good kneading is to poke your fingers in to make a deep hole. If the dough doesn't spring back and cover the holes, you are good to go. 
  • I used pure olive oil and not extra virgin as I didn't have EVOO in the pantry. Nevertheless, the flavor was absolutely delicious. 


prathibha Garre said...

Love fresh foccacia,perfect wid hot soup

Sangeetha Nambi said...

Soooooo delicious...

NamsVeni Pothas said...

it is completly new recipe for me. looks very delicious.i like it sure.

Gayathri NG said...

Nice foaccacia, looks so yum...

Vijayalakshmi Dharmaraj said...

its new to me!!!

Kaveri Venkatesh said...

Very nicely made focaccia

Priya said...

Personally i love focaccia that too with kneading.Kneading gives a wonderful airy texture them na.

Loving this beautiful bread.

Priya R said...

I have never tried these, but I heard that its great to bake with them :) makes me want to try... thanks for the info dear useful

Kannada Cuisine said...

Love fresh baked breads...the Focaccia looks colourful

Jay said... this..
Tasty Appetite

Julie said...

delicious foccacia:)
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