Bake 8 – Focaccia – Season 2 Episode 3
You will know you’re reaching culinary heights when you have multiple forms of salt in one recipe. Yes, it makes a difference. Finer, iodized salt (pictured above receiving the blessing of the baking princess) mixes in better. Sea salt or Kosher salt, with larger flakes, provide a nicer aesthetic and a pleasing crunch sprinkled on top of a loaf.
-Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and most of the water into a large bowl. Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.
Oh so messy!! A big hurdle for me has been getting my hands dirty while cooking. When I was a teenager I had very bad eczema on my hands. Washing my hands hurt. So I kept my hands as clean as I could. I didn’t mix things by hand, I didn’t touch food while I was cooking.
Then I started watching Gordon Ramsay cook. That dude is all about touching food, especially meat, in the pan! Won’t he get burnt??? I’ve watched Paul Hollywood make cake frosting with just his hand.
I’m getting to the point where getting messy is part of the game not something to be avoided at all costs. You make bread – take off your rings and get sticky. The more I accept that there will be a mess, the less messy the mess seems. Clean up goes quicker when I accept that it’s just another step in the recipe. (You do clean up as you go, right?)
-Stretch the dough by hand in the bowl, tuck the sides into the centre, turn the bowl 80 degrees and repeat the process for about five minutes.
It really grinds my gears when the recipe and the how-to video differ. I default to the video. If Mary Berry tells me to do it, her recipe editor can go hang.
This dough is very wet, so it’s best to keep it in the bowl until you have some of the gluten developed. But if you pull it out earlier – it’s no biggie. And your loaf won’t fail if you turn the bowl 82 degrees :P.
-Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.
Oil, oil, more oil. I’ve experienced two kinds of bread so far: flour for kneading and oil for kneading. I certainly didn’t need any moisturizer after I finished this. If it sticks – more oil. Don’t bother with the high quality stuff for the mixing and the kneading. Use decent stuff tho.
-Line two large baking sheets with baking paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and divide into two portions. Flatten each portion onto a baking sheet, pushing to the corners, then leave to prove for one hour.
I used one half sheet pan because I didn’t have jelly roll sized pans – which is what they ask for. One big one worked great. Less crust overall, if that’s important to you.
Getting the dough stretched all the way out was a challenge. There was a lot of gluten going on here and it kept springing back. Foccacia is very close to pizza dough, so keep that in mind and you wrestle it out to the corners – be rough! The video instructs you to stab the dough with your fingers to push some air out and to make divots for the oil, don’t skip that step.
-Drizzle the loaves with oil, sprinkle with fine sea salt then bake. When cooked, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve hot or warm.
This is the time for the good oil and the crunchy salt. Don’t be shy, oil that bad boy up and whack it in the oven. I still use a thermometer every time I bake. My oven is inconsistent in how inaccurate it is and how long it takes to pre-heat.
I actually put the how to video up to the oven to check the color of the bread before I pulled it out.
We are it while it was still warm. It was good but very plain. I ended up discussing this bake with my sister in law’s mother, who is from Sardinia. I got grilled on my Focaccia by an Italian mama. It was nerve wracking! She asked me if it was Northern or Southern. I told it was from an English guy. She approved of the color and the crumb and suggested I add herbs next time.
Verdict: A – would bake again. Easy, satisfying, very simple to convert to a pizza by adding toppings. You should definitely learn to bake this. I can see this as an easy weekend lunch with plenty of leftovers, especially if you do have two pans or just hold half back for later in the week.
Bonus: It’s not all sunshine and tiaras when I bake with a four year old. We both learn – she learns to bake and I learn to calm down and enjoy the time we spend together.