When it comes to bread, the good ole Focaccia always trumps everything in my books.
a. Its almost crusty like a pizza, but softer and ohh-so-richer
b. It has toppings like pizza
Alright so yes, we all know, I'm obsessed with peee...zz..aaaa...hhh. And Focaccia is just my way of eating a pizza. One of the variations if you please. Ahhh but I skipped the cheese on this one. See, healthy eating! (It would be if you substitute flour with whole wheat flour)
So yeah, Focaccia!
Initially I started out to make just one type of focaccia, the ultimate Italiano, but the non-baker that I am, I muddled up the yeast to flour ratio and then I had to add a little more flour and then added a tad bit more water, and then had to add some more flour, well long story short, I ended up making two loaves instead of one. And when it tastes soooo gooooood, who's counting how many I made!
Also, If you're planning to make a bread at home from scratch, be ready to work out. Not to scare you anything but I'm skipping gym for the next whole year for the workout I had while kneading the dough. Oh alright, I never went to the gym in the first place, but hey, Making bread= workout.
Most importantly, for those who are intimidated by using yeast like I am or rather I was, my only message is, don't be. Yeast can be your ally once you treat it well. Like any other relationship, your relation with the yeast will blossom only if you nurture it well. And before I get into more analogies, these are the points you need to take care of when using yeast.
a. Use 7 gms yeast (1 packet) per 500 gms of flour
b. Ensure that the yeast packet is not out of date.
c. Use tepid water for the yeast around 110-115F
d. Feed your yeast with 1 tbsp honey or 1 tbsp sugar
e. Let your yeast sit till it becomes frothy before adding it to the dough mix.
Thats it! You're ready to take on the yeast now!
Btw, does anyone feel like I've used the word Yeast a tad too many times?
Time taken: 3 hours + baking time
500 gms flour for one loaf of foaccia
50 gms (1/3 cup) of semolina flour (optional)
250 ml water (lukewarm)
1 packet/ 7 gms of yeast
1 tsp salt + extra for crust
freshly cracked black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
Fresh herbs of your choice
Pinch of love
2/3rd cup of olive oil + more for drizzling
Toppings of your choice, I went with
Classic tomato and basil
Caramelized onions with chili flakes, olives and tomatoes
First, take your luke warm water and add the sachet of yeast and honey to it. Set it aside for 5-7 minutes
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, take the flour,
Add the semolina,
And olive oil.
After the yeast has woken up from its slumber, you'll see it starts to foam up on the top. When its beautiful like this,
Add it to the bowl of dough mix.
Take a fork and start incorporating everything together. It will get harder to move your fork around once everything is combined.
Now is the time to get down n dirty. Thats right. Clean your hands thoroughly and get in the bowl of dough n start working it. Keep kneading it till you can knead no more and then some more. About 10-12 minutes of intense kneading and massaging and stretching should give you a smooth elastic dough. I probably should have gone a little more with the kneading but I stopped around the 16-17 minute mark. I was kneading 1 kg of dough, remember?! No child's play! Whew!
Okay, so when your dough's ready, brush it with olive oil, grease the bowl you're going to allow it to proof in and gently lay down the ball of dough in the bowl. This prevents the skin forming on the surface of the dough. Cover it with wrap and place it in a warm place for about an hour.
After an hour, my bowl was almost bursting at the seams. Risen perfectly. See, yeast became my friend!
Sprinkle the baking pan with just a wee bit o' semolina like so.
Take your dough and place it in the pan. Flatten it our with your fingers. Make craters or dimples on the surface of the bread. This is what gives Focaccia its unique look.
Those dimples are also going to be huge pockets of flavours. Drizzle in your olive oil. Use extra virgin if possible.
Go ahead with your toppings now. I inserted the thin slices of garlic cloves randomly in the dough. Next went in the basil leaves. Smush them down in dough. Add in the pieces of tomato on top of those basil leaves.
Sprinkle some salt (use coarse if available), some black pepper, some fresh or dried oregano(optional).
We need to let this rise for another hour. So cover it with a damp cloth and place near a warm place like this. Plenty of sunshine!
For the caramelized onion focaccia, while the dough was rising for the firs time, I sliced one big onion thinly. Took a pan, added garlic butter to it
and some olive oil.
Let the butter melt
Threw in the onions and let them caramelize on low heat for about 30 minutes. Add in a pinch of salt too to soften the onions.
To assemble, I flattened the dough in the baking pan, did the whole making dimples and drizzled the olive oil.
Take the now caramelized onions and place them all on the bread. Take tomatoes, sliced green olives, chili flakes too top of the bread with. Some freshly grated parmesan cheese would be great with this too! Allow this to proof for another 1 hour in a warm spot.
Here's what happens after they proofed for another hour. Look how beautifully the dough has risen up again. Meanwhile have your oven preheated on 400F or 200C.
Place the baking pan in the oven. This is my bread being baked!!! How exciting!! The aroma emanating from my kitchen right now was Ahh.mayy.zing!!
25 minutes later, my bread was done! Perfectly golden, crusty on the outside, soft in the middle and the flavours!!
Let it rest for 5 minutes before cutting into it. Drizzle more olive oil on the bread... makes it even more tasty.
Just check out the crust on this one!! Perfection!! *Heart eyes*
The tomato basil one!! Serve it up with fresh home made Pesto drizzled over with some balsamic vinegar. You can't get more italian than this!! Ahhh the party of flavours for the mouth!
The caramelized onion and olives one! Both equally dee-lee-cious!
Bellissimo!! Indulge! Mangia!!
The next day I even made myself a Focaccia panini with sauteed mushrooms and some, yeah you guessed it right, Pesto! Yummm!!