I never thought I’d say this but more than 10 years of having to wait not so patiently for a chronically late boyfriend has made me a better baker. My dinner plans got cancelled last night and so, I decided to make the most of my free evening to make some Focaccia bread. Focaccia — doesn’t it sound delicious? Well anyway, I didn't realise how much waiting was involved in baking a Focaccia!
A flat baked Italian bread, Focaccia is basically made the same way a pizza is. In fact, some people prefer to make a pizza out of their Focaccia loaf by heaping toppings (most likely cheese and tomatoes) onto it when it’s half-baked.
The dough for the Focaccia is basically the same as your pizza dough. But for Focaccia, you season it generously with olive oil and herbs and salt. You can also add caramelised onions, tomatoes and sliced, pitted olives for vareity. I like to eat my Focaccia as a bread: either on its own (it’s really tasty enough) or to sandwich some delicious vegetables. For the sandwich above, I kept the filling simple -- layer one: melted mozzarella; layer two: grilled aubergine cooked lightly in herbed tomatoes; layer three: deep fried oyster mushrooms; layer four: sliced avocado. Trust me, it was delicious.
Making the bread
All you need for the dough is 3 cups high protein bread flour, 2 tsp active yeast, 2 tsp salt, 1 cup water and 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil. Activate the yeast by adding tepid water to it. Wait till it froths and add it to the flour + salt and mix them, adding 2 tbsp of the olive oil and the water gradually.
Knead till the dough forms a ball and comes off the mixing bowl easily. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes. Pour the remaining 1 tbsp olive oil into a bowl; transfer the kneaded ball of dough into the bowl and coat it with the oil. Cover with a damp cloth and leave it aside for a couple of hours to rise. It should double it’s size.
Next, transfer the dough onto a lightly floured work surface, sprinkle some flour on the dough and knead for a few minutes. Cover, and let it rest for about 20 mins. See what I mean about waiting and waiting?
While waiting, preheat your oven to 200C. Grease a 13x9 pan with some olive oil. When the dough has rested enough, transfer it onto the greased pan and shape it into a rectangle in the centre of the pan. Let it rest for about 5- 10 minutes.
Slowly stretch the dough to touch the sides of the pan. This might be easier said than done because the dough is elastic. Take your time. Stretch it as much as you can without tearing it and if it is stubborn, let it rest another few minutes before you try again. See, more waiting!
Once you’re done, use your knuckles and dimple the dough. Drizzle olive oil (2 tbsp) and sprinkle salt (about 2-3 tsp) and herbs. I sliced some black olives and pressed them onto the dough, lightly.
Lower your over temperature to 180C and bake your bread for 30 mins or till the top is golden. I confess, I lost track of time and I left it in the oven for 40 mins: it turned out pleasantly crispy at the sides which made it quite delicious. A fortunate accident!
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