some warm water
Thursday, 20 October 2011
Sunny Days! ( My delicious focaccia!)
in a sunny Italian garden, last Summer...
I can still smell it: focaccia, freshly baked, on a sunny day, as I walked past a Panificio, on my way home from school. Focaccia is the snack "per eccellenza"... it's our "fast and delicious" food, it's what you would have bought when you came out of school, or you would have queued up for at 2 in the morning, back from a club, with your friends, or what you might sometimes have had for breakfast or in the evening, filled with something delicious (mortadella, mozzarella, salad), plain or with tomatoes, thin, crunchy, fragrant... who needs pizza?
Focaccia from a bakery (panificio) in Bari
My mother would often make focaccia for us. I remember once she left the yeasty dough in a bowl and went out. When we came back, the table and our kitchen floor were covered in it! During that time it must have increased its volume about ten times and become quite smelly, too! It looked like a scene from some old horror movie! But it was funny!
My mum's focaccia was very deep, as she put a mashed potato in the dough. I like mine really thin and as close as you can get to the delicious focaccia you buy in Bari (it's the best, of course!)
Today I made focaccia, in my quest to recreate everything my mum ever cooked, and experimented with, and more. When she made focaccia, she never weighed the ingredients ( I weighed mine only for the purpose of writing the recipe) and had her own way of mixing the dough (I saw a chef make focaccia exactly in the same way, last week!) She used her hand, like a big spatula which she used to "beat" the dough in a movement similar to that of a food mixer (believe me, it's true! And painful!)
Needless to say, I did the same! I didn't use potato in mine and the result was... FANTASTIC!
My lovely focaccia made in a pealla pan!
Makes a largish focaccia which would make about
300 g plain or bread flour
a small cube live yeast (about 15 g)
or dried yeast (follow instructions
1/4 glass olive oil
some warm water
some warm water
6 large tomatoes
or a few cherry tomatoes
and a generous coating of olive oil
for the base of the tin in which
you will bake your focaccia
(190 C, 375 F, Gas 5)
If you are using dried yeast, before you start you might have to reconstitute it, by following the instructions on the packet.
I used live yeast which the baker at one of the big UK supermarkets kindly let me have for free, as you can't buy it in this country (not where I live, anyway!)
I put my flour in my old mixing bowl, made a well in the centre , poured in a small glass of warm water, with some salt, the olive oil and the yeast, and mixed the ingredients using a spoon and then my hands (only used one, actually, like my mum used to do. It's so tiryng.)
If you have a large mixer, you can do this much quicker, but I wanted to make it in the old fashion way, as I am a cook on a mission! As I went along, I kept adding water, to make a dough which had the consistency of a thick, stringy batter, quite liquid, really, not at all firm or stiff. If you look at my pictures, you'll get an idea of texture.
I covered the bowl with clingfilm and placed in a warm place (a sunny windowsill!) until it doubled up in size. I could see lots of lovely bubbles quickly forming and, when I lifted the clingfilm, I could smell the yeast: I love that smell!
1) mixing the ingredients
2) the dough doubled up in size
I decided to make focaccia in my paella dish, as focaccia needs to be baked in a metal dish, or a deep tray.
The amount would be enough to make one delicious largish focaccia! Using my hands, I placed the dough in the oil coated tray and gently moved it around, until it covered the round base. I left it for ten minutes, then placed a few halved cherry tomatoes on the top and a few sprigs of rosemary from my garden, as I love the aroma!
ready for the oven
Having put my focaccia in the oven, I looked at the photo of an Italian focaccia my sister bought last Summer in Italy, and realized mine needed more tomatoes, so I added more tomatoes, in order would to the full authentic flavour. If, like my you don't like tomatoes, you can discard them, after baking, or you can make a plain "in bianco" focaccia. Just as good!
My focaccia was in the oven for about 40 minutes. I knew it was ready when it turned golden and the base was cooked. I was generous with my coating of oil for the tin, to make sure the base was cruncy.
Success, success! My focaccia is so delicious I had to freeze most of it to make sure I wouldn't eat it!
Focaccia can be cut and filled with "goodies", such as: mortadella, or mozzarella with salad, vegetables preserved in oil, or with ham, salame... well, anything! I filled mine with lettuce leaves, mozzarella and sun dried tomatoes!
Why is everything delicious red, white and green?
I am very proud of my lovely focaccia!