Friday, 29 February 2008

Focaccia - at last

Focaccia isn't known as the most complicated bread recipe in the world. Maybe that's the reason why it took me a long time to try for myself. What could possibly go wrong with a straight yeast dough baked on a sheet until golden-brown and crispy? Well, a lot - as I had to find out a couple of months ago. Despite following the recipe of a well-trusted online source to the letter including an overnight rest in the fridge, my focaccia was rather bland with a weird texture and a weird look to it, too.

Not wanting to admit defeat, I decided to forget about this project unti I read the announcement for Bread Baking Day #7 over at Chili&Ciabatta: With the chosen topic of flatbreads, I suddenly felt the urge to redeem myself. And with "The Italian Baker" by Carol Field freshly borrowed from the library, it almost seemed like a hint of fate.

Luckily, this time everything went well and I can report that making focaccia isn't going to give me doubts about my bread baking abilities anymore. Carol Field's recipe yields a tender and crusty focaccia that is perfect for picnics and should you happen to have leftovers, it also makes a very good pappa al pomodoro.
However, I still don't know why it didn't work out the first time...

PS: I so want to participate in Bread Baking Day #7 - a food blogging event created by Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte - but as I'm already far too late, we'll see if Petra can still add me to her round-up...

Herbed Focaccia

The ingredients

2 1/2 active dry yeast or 18g fresh yeast
1/4 cup warm water for dissolving the yeast
2 1/4 cups plus 1-2 tbsp water, at room temperature
2 tbsp olive oil
1kg bread flour
1 tbsp or 15g salt

For the topping:
olive oil, coarse sea salt, herbs

The yield
Makes enough dough for two baking sheets (not completely covered with dough) or three big round focacce

Stir active dry yeast into warm water to dissolve. Let stand for 10 minutes.

Using a big bowl and a wooden spoon, mix all the ingredients together but hold back a little of the water to adjust dough consistency. The dough will come together as a lumpy mass.

Depending on your preferences, either lightly oil or flour your work surface and knead the dough 8 to 10 minutes until velvety and soft. I like to give the dough a 20 minutes break in the middle with shortens the kneading time quite a bit.

To test if the gluten is properly developped, I do my own kind of windowpane test. Similar to shaping a pizza, I hold up the dough ball and let it stretch over my hands mainly due to its own weight while rotating it a little bit. That way, the dough gets stretched gently until you can really look through it.
The regular way of doing a windowpane test is pulling off a piece and stretching that until it ressembles a thin sheet of dough. That way, my dough always tears, no matter how long I've kneaded it.

For the first rise, put the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with foil, and let rise until doubled (1.5 hours).

Cut the dough into how many pieces of focaccia you want to make and gently stretch them to cover your prepared baking sheets. Cover the dough with kitchen towels or foil to prevent it from drying out and let rest for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile you can prepare herbed olive oil by heating oil and your favourite mix of fresh or dried herbs until warm. Do not let it come to a boil. Let the herbs steep until you're ready to top your flatbreads.

Dimple the dough with your fingertips. These little dips will hold the pools of olive oil, herbs, and salt during the bake. Cover again and let rise until doubled (2 hours).

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius, preferably using a baking stone.

Using a pastry brush, top the focaccia with (herbed) olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Put into the hot oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. During the first 5 minutes, splash water on the bottom to create steam.

The source
Adapted from Carol Field: The Italian Baker

The hint
If you have to bake both baking sheets at once, make sure to switch them around after half of the baking time is over. Baking several sheets at once without using the fan-bake option isn't ideal though. If one of your focacce doesn't brown well, you can use the grill for the last one or two minutes but you'll have to watch it closely. Otherwise the thinner parts will get very dark very quickly...


Nora B. said...

yum yum yum!! I like being your food taster :-)

p/s: congrats on winning Feb's most inspiring award over at Coffee and Vanilla! I knew you would win. :-)

Eva said...

It's always a pleasure to feed you..;-)
Re the award, I was really surprised! So far, still haven't figured out how to display badges in my side bar (since tinkering around with it, my site doesn't look right in explorer anymore...grrr). I'll have to fix that in the next few days and then devote a proper post to it!

Aparna Balasubramanian said...

The focaccia looks delicious. I have found out, to my disappointment and any number of times, that the easy looking recipes can really let you down. So I am always cautious these days when a recipe looks simple!

Eva said...

Aparna, I know what you mean! I guess I'll need another few years of bread baking experience to discover right away flaws in a recipe...

Patricia Scarpin said...

Eva, what a coincidence! I have just finished translating a focaccia recipe I'm about to post. I just need to start writing the post now... :)

This looks superb, my friend. Not complicated? I don't care. It looks wonderful.

DocChuck said...

Over the last couple of years, my wife and I have developed a real love affair with flat bread.

Most of our experience has been with Tandoori NAAN purchased at Giant Foods, or, more preferably, at Trader Joe's.

Your method looks great, and I have gratuitously copied it and added it to our collection of recipes . . . to be tried in the near future.

Thanks for an excellent post.

Anonymous said...

mmm...foccacia. yeast dough are my one kitchen fear. i really need to get over that!

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

That looks lovely Eva. I wanted to participate in that event and had bread coming out of my kitchen like crazy but none of it flat ;)

Kajal@aapplemint said...

Eva ... dunno why but i've bee having so many problems leaving comments on your blog lately.
But never mind , i wanted to congratulate u on the IFP award for feb. It was very well deserved... i voted for you :)

Brilynn said...

Glad you got around to making it, it looks delicious!

Coffee and Vanilla said...

Beautiful foccacia Eva!!

Thank you for your comments...

Have a good day, Margot

Nina Timm said...

You have set some hight standards for yourself and the rest of us if your first attempt looks like this..all it needs, is a hearty bowl of soup.

Eva said...

Hi Patricia, looking forward to reading that, I'm still searching for "the perfect recipe"!

Thanks Doccuck, I hope you'll like it!

Michelle, don't worry. If you want you can simply mix the dough, put it in the fridge, forget about it for a couple of hours, and surprise yourself with a nicely risen blob of yeast dough!

Thanks, Tanna, I always have trouble coordinating myself so I won't forget about event I wanted to participate in...

Hi Kate, that doesn't sound good but I've got no idea why..? Thank you so much for voting for me..;-)

Thanks, Brilynn, unfortunately, not too much cooking is going on lately...

Margot, I finally managed to post about my award...shame on me...

Nina, you should have seen the first one with its weird texture and pale colour - this one looks much better, thank God!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

That looks delicious, and everything focaccia should be - beautifully dimpled, golden brown, and with those lovely flakes of salt scattered all over. Mmmmmm.... I can taste it now!

Katy said...

yum! that looks just wonderful -- foccacia is on my to-bake list as well!

Eva said...

Thanks, guys! I'm glad you like it!

Unknown said...

Yummy! I love foccacia and yours looks fantastic! I haven't baked much bread before, but I'd love to try baking these someday!

Eva said...

Give it a go! This recipe is pretty simple but gives really good results!