DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE- FOCACCIA

DARING BAKERS’ CHALLLENGE

FOCCACIA

For the April challenge Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hand at making focaccia from scratch.

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The 1st of the month and I was so excited to find out what the Daring Bakers had in store for us…..FOCCACIA!!!

It’s bread and I was super excited. I have baked bread quite a few times, but Foccacia in particular …No. I planned to save it for a day when I was free from other worldly distractions so that I could attend to the challenge in an almost Zen-like state. But women who run around like headless chickens can hardly be expected to look serene, unfazed and least of all Zen-like. Its been a chaotic month with the exams scheduled next week which brings with it hungrier mouths and “make something Nice/ Yum/ Unhealthy/ Fried” demands, which I try to meet in my own style and early morning swims which have their own set of demands. Before I know it I am just 5 days away from posting my challenge and light years away from the peaceful aura that I wished for. I checked on the yeast and it had passed its best before date, I had run out of herbs…. but I was determined not to let go of this challenge.

imageBread is such an alive food. You can actually watch it grow as you go along. The way the dough rises in the glass bowl makes me feel like “bread-Mum” watching her baby grow. The feelings that kneading a dough awaken in you depend on which side of the bed you have got off. Slapping the dough around a few times calms those frazzled nerves, soothes a few frustrations and maybe drives away the Grays (Blue is my favourite colour!)….its the journey that is exciting, unknown and calming all at the same time.

Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise have hosted the Focaccia challenge and in true Daring Bakers’ Style they have given 4 options and detailed explanations. I attempted only one and plan to have a go at another next month. Focaccia is an Italian flatbread and the term is derived from the latin Panis Focacius which means bread baked in the ashes. Fugazza is the Argentinian relative  and is indicative of the influence of Italian cuisine in South America.  There is a choice of 4 different focaccia- a traditional Italian yeasted Focaccia, a sourdough Focaccia, an Argentinian yeasted Fugazza and a South American unleavened focaccia de recco.

I was initially tempted to go with the focaccia de recco for its pizza like quality and oozing cheesiness but it looked too easy, no yeast (and whats a bread with no yeast), the sourdough focaccia did not fit my time constraints and I was naturally attracted to the traditional one with herb toppings and a little bit of cheese and loads of flavour (I sensed).

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I went ahead and made 2 batches of dough as I wanted to top one with herbs, chiillies and caramalised onions and the other one with sun-dried tomatoes, and herbs. I had no garlic powder so decided to go with crushed garlic. I also substituted dried herbs with freshly crushed ones in the dough and that really got the 2 men calling it the best “bread” I had ever baked. The other little trick that I picked up from Audax Artifex one of the Daring Bakers was to use mashed potato in the dough. Super idea! It made the bread light and soft.

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Baking bread at home is never a wasted effort. Some would say why go through the hassle of kneading and proving and baking when you can grab it off the shelf. Take the time out and do it……you will feel a Happy tired feeling. I am glad I made the time to bake this beautiful Italian treat. I missed a session of Yoga much to the trainer’s chagrin…..but made up by doing my own brand of bread meditation and almost attaining Nirvana with the first bite.

RECIPE

FOCACCIA

Prep: 20 min; Total Time: 2 hours

Servings: 8 slices

Ingredients

2-3/4 cups  (385 gm)  all-purpose (plain) flour

1 teaspoon  salt

1 teaspoon  white sugar

1 tablespoon (8½ gm) active dry yeast

1 teaspoon  garlic powder

1 teaspoon  dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1 pinch ground black pepper

1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil

1¼ cups (300 ml) milk

¾ cup mashed potato

2 tablespoon  grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

Olive oil for greasing the baking sheet

* Instead of the dried herbs and garlic powder I suggest using; 2 pods garlic, 4-5 leaves basil, 2 sprigs oregano, 2 sprigs thyme, 2 sprigs rosemary. Crush them together into a coarse paste, using a mortar and pestle.

Topping 1:

Sun-dried tomatoes,  Parmesan, Rosemary, Thyme, Salt, pepper, olive oil

Topping 2:

Caramalised onions, Fresh red chillies chopped, Parmesan, Thyme, salt, pepper, olive oil

  • In a bowl mix the milk, yeast and sugar and wait until it becomes foamy and bubbly (This indicates that your yeast is active, if the yeast doesn’t bubble and foam it has gone bad and you can’t use it)
  • In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, , garlic , oregano, thyme, basil, 2 tablespoon parmesan cheese and black pepper.
  • Mix in the vegetable oil, mashed potato, incorporate them into the flour. Then add the milk-yeast mixture.
  • Stir with a wooden spoon till the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic (around 10 minutes)
  • Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil.
  • Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. (If you are tight on time you could heat your oven to moderate 350°F/180°C/gas mark 4 then turn it off and place the bowl with the dough in it)
  • Center your oven rack, preheat oven to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8.
  • Punch dough down; place on a well greased baking sheet. Pat into a ½ -inch (15 mm) thick rectangle or any shape you desire.
  • To give the dough the dimpled effect, use your fingertips , pushing gently all over the surface of the dough
  • Place your selected toppings making sure to embed them into the dough or they will loosen as the dough rises in the oven. Before using the toppings oil them generously or they will burn.
  • Brush (slather) top generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and salt.
  • Allow the dough to rest for 10-15 minutes
  • Bake in preheated hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8 oven for 15 minutes, or until the sides and top begin to brown. If you find the top has not browned to your liking put it under a broiler for browning.
  • Serve warm
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