I’ve stepped into the wonderful world of baking. Breads, that is. I’m a baker of desserts at heart. This is one term that’s always been a bit ambiguous to me, because baker implies breads, but there’s also a baker of desserts. And I don’t think that’s always the same as pastry chef, which to me means fancy desserts, we’ll call them. Something that has multiple components, and all must be assembled perfectly, and it would be topped of with some-flavor-or-other foam, etc. You get the point. I don’t feel like a pastry chef. I’m a baker. Of desserts. Down-home desserts. But I’m starting to break that boundary, and am crossing over to breads. My first feat? Foccacia.
Who doesn’t love focaccia, and being so close to Italy (in Spain) yet still so far from Italian food, it was an obvious choice for me. You really can’t find many products that aren’t Spanish here. Same goes for Italian products outside of Italy. And I’m sure it’s similar for other countries here. They’re not like America where you have your pick of all kinds of products. They’re very proud of their local specialties and that’s the majority of what’s on the market. So it was time for focaccia.
Fanny at Foodbeam has been a good source for lots of recipes for me, namely the plaisir sucre and now her focaccia. I found another one I thought I liked, but they had me refrigerating the dough overnight, and you know what cold can do to yeast. The recipe I used was very detailed with lots of pictures, so I thought it was great. My Italian roommate even approved. He said it was like being in an Italian home (he also said that this morning when he smelled coffee). His one suggestion? Make more air bubbles in it, so I guess that would be a bit more kneading and folding, for next time. But there will definitely be a next time, as this was a keeper.
Oh and p.s. this was my first time to use fresh yeast, as in the States it’s much more common to find the dry stuff. It was a weird little sandy-colored chunky, moist substance. But it worked great. A good experiment would be to see how it would turn out with dry yeast.
Adapted from Foodbeam
200 g warm water
150 g bread flour
7 g fresh yeast, crumbled up
150 g warm water
15 ml olive oil (and lots extra for kneading and folding and sprinkling)
375 bread flour
10 g salt (plus some for sprinkling)
rosemary (fresh or dried, fresh is probably a stronger taste)
First mix the first three ingredients (the starter) together in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave at warm room temperature (or if you don’t have warm room temperature, heat the oven up just a tiny bit, then turn off and put your starter in there) for 2 hours, stirring the mixture after about an hour. The mixture should be a bit bubbly.
Now whisk in the water and oil, then the flour and salt until everything is roughly combined. Cover again and let rest for 10 minutes. Now is where it gets a little bit messy. Find a nice smooth table or something large where you can knead your dough, and cover it with oil, then put the dough on it, splash some oil on the dough and your hands. Now pull the dough with one hand while the other hand holds it in place, fold it back onto itself and turn (ya know, knead it…just pull it apart and put back together, turning every now and then). It’ll start sticking to the surface, so when it does, stop. You should only be kneading for less than a minute. Do this two more times at 10-minute intervals, covering with a cloth in between kneading. After the third time, cover with the cloth and leave for 40 minutes (make sure everything is well oiled, the surface and the dough, otherwise it will stick to everything). Now you stretch and fold the dough (this is apparently what makes the air bubbles in the final product). So pull it out into a big rectangle, it doesn’t have to be perfect, and fold into thirds, and then fold that new smaller rectangle into thirds also. You’ll do this two more times also, but at 40-minute intervals. And remember to splash on a bit of oil and cover with a cloth between stretching/folding. After the last time, you let it rest for 30 more minutes, and then you’re almost ready to bake. Put olive oil in the bottom and sides of a baking tray, then stretch the dough out into the shape of the tray so you get a rectangle, then using your fingers punch into it and pull apart, so you get those indents from your finger tips. Cover with a cloth (I know, again) and let rest for 20 minutes in a warm place (yes, last time). Now pull the corners of the dough to edges of the tray if they’ve pulled in a bit, and sprinkle some olive oil, a nice helping of salt, rosemary, and a tiny bit of water all over the top. Bake at 220 C for 15 minutes, then turn down the heat to 200 C and cook 15 more minutes. Let cool a bit and enjoy. And remember, the leftovers are great the next day for a sandwich of prosciutto, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, and basil or arugula.