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!
Focaccia
Makes a largish focaccia which would make about
8 slices
300 g plain or bread flour 
a small cube live yeast (about 15 g)
or dried yeast (follow instructions
on sachet)
1/4 glass olive oil 
some warm water
salt 
6 large tomatoes
(quartered) 
or a few cherry tomatoes
(halved)
rosemary sprigs
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!

16 comments:

  1. Mmmh, Anna! That focaccia looks delicious! I am having a fast day today (due to some blood tests I am not allowed to eat for 24 hours) and when I saw the last pic I would have liked to take that filled piece of focaccia from the screen and eat it right away... I can feel what it must taste like... Well tomorrow I'll have everything I am dreaming of today! Greetings from hungry Christa

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  2. Hi Christa!

    I am fasting, too, today! Not really... I'm just being good and eating little and drinking lots of black coffee (not good, I know, but it's good to me!) and trying to forget that most of my focaccia is sitting in a freezer, so I wouldn't eat it! And I know it tastes delicious, as I had some when I made it!

    Saluti from very hungry Anna!

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  3. Hi Anna, you should be proud of your Focaccia, it looks amazing! I think you should put some of your dough on the doorstep for Halloween! I loved the story of your mum's dough having a life of it's own! How funny! Many thanks for your comments. American's do really know how to enjoy Halloween don't they? Your photos of Rome in your last post look wonderful, it is a place I would love to visit. Much love to you Anna, from Linda x

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  4. Yes, Linda! I will put lots of my focaccia dough all over my path, just in case Colin Firth should come trick or treating, in his LOVELY Darcy costume. Then, maybe, I might be able to rescue and catch him, put him in a cage and keep him, just like Ansel and Gretel! What am I saying? Oh... I hope my lovely husband doesn't see this: he's so jealous of Colin Firth, he says he (Colin) is gay! He makes me laugh! Truth is Colin has a very beautiful Italian wife!

    Thank you for the compliments and the dough suggestion... I'll think about it...

    Enjoy the rest of the day in beautiful Ireland.

    ANNA
    x

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  5. Yummy!!! This looks delicious, Anna!!! Mouthwatering photos, really! Have a beautiful Thursday!

    Kristin xo

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  6. O gosh...you should be proud...I am proud of you! : )

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  7. Hi Kristin! I had a good Thursday at home... very nice, sunny and quite warm, thank you! I'm glad you find my photos "appetizing!" Yes, the little piece of focaccia I had tasted good.

    Good night

    ANNA

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  8. MrsLittleJeans,

    You know, I was actually going to get rid of that sentence (about being proud of a focaccia!)but now that you said you are proud of me... how can I do it? I really don't want to upset you, do I?

    Good night to you, too... Buona notte...

    ANNA

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  9. Hello Anna

    So delicious looking and I particularly loved the last image, I want to taste it so bad and that is just being greedy as we just finished dinner.

    Your mother sounded like a delightful woman and so lovely to read stories about her life. She instinctively knew how to cook and bake (my mother did too, I think she could bake with her eyes closed) Hope you have a great weekend. I love how you can charm the butcher for pig cheeks and now the baker for yeast. What else? Ha Ha

    Ciao
    Helenxx

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  10. Dear Anna, that looks so lovely. When we were in Lucca, last Autumn, it was our favourite treat (far better than any sweet treat to my mind) and we bought some freshly made every day. I've never made it myself but perhaps this weekend I should try... Jane x
    ps. Your Mother's Spag Bol recipe is now a family favourite, I use it every time.

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  11. Dear Helen,

    My mother was a fantastic woman and my father was so happy with her. She had a wonderful laugh, was very clever, an insinctive feminist and the best mother ever!

    When I was at the cemetery, for her burial, I thought my heart was going to be broken. Then, this little box came out of the crypt where she was going to be put to rest. My dad's bones were in it. I stroked it, as if I were stroking him. It felt comforting. After all those years, i was near him! Then, my mum's coffin arrived, in a lift. It was covered in beautiful red roses. I stroked the coffin, before it was placed in the cript and said :"Ciao" her coffin went in, then my dad followed. I cried, but felt that, at last, their dream had come true: Together again, at last!
    We walked out and wondered round the cemetery. My brother opened his wallet and showed me a beautiful photo of a very young Rosa, wearing a pretty hat. The inscription, on the back: "YOURS FOREVER. ROSA" Her wish had finally come true! I have the photo. She looks nothing like me! Her hair was so dark! I've always been blond like my father. You are right, Helen... she was pretty special... that's way I won't let her go!

    On a lighter note, Helen...and we must be able to be happy... the pig's head was alright, but... do you know where I could get my hands on some "nachos?"

    Ciao Ciao

    ANNA
    x

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  12. Dear Jane,

    Like you, I don't have a sweet tooth. Being of Norman descent, though, I am very partial to Creme Brulee and profiteroles... anything with cream, light and not too big. In Bari, our wedding cake is Saint Honore` Gateau, which I like very much. My Christmas project is to make struffoli, for my husband, and French Croquembouche, for myself! A bit ambitious, but I'll make a massive one! It's my project and ambition.

    I am so glad you share my love of focaccia, though you should really come to my beautiful Bari to taste an excellent one. Don't you just have to love Italy, Jane?

    Thank you for contributing to my blog. I love seeing you here!

    Buon pomeriggio, "signora dei libri" (that means booklady!)

    ANNA

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  13. Carlo...

    Ah, che bello, posso scrivere in italiano! La focaccia dovrebbe essere considerata un patrimonio culturale, come Berlusconi (ma che dico? Poveri noi!) Altro che la pizza, usata e abusata da tutti. Ci mettono su anche l'ananas,che porcheria!

    Buon fine settimana!

    ANNA

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  14. you should be REALLY proud, your focaccia looks amazing!!! e l'ultima foto... oddio sto praticamente leccando lo schermo!!! fame fame!!!

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  15. Gaijina,

    Thank you very much for your comment! Ti diro` la pura verita`: ERA BUONA e ho dovuto congelarne la maggior parte per non "distruggerla" in due minuti, alla Ugo Fantozzi!

    Ci rendiamo affamate a vicenda!

    CIAO!

    ANNA

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