KOUIGN AMAAN- DARING KITCHEN CHALLENGE

image

For those of you who don’t thing of bread beyond the yeasted dough or a breakfast toast and butter, here is a pastry from “bread-heaven”. A challenge to pronounce- Kwee-Ahmaan and a bigger challenge to control yourself from polishing it off in one go. Imagine the very French croissant’s coupling with buttery puff pastry and sweet Danish and voila! You have Kouign Amann- a round crusty pastry that originated in Brittany in the 1800s. History has it that a baker from a town of Douarnenez in the district of Finistère. in a desperate attempt to save a failed batch of bread dough added a significant amount of butter and sugar turning it into Kouign Amann. Bretons claim that the Kouign Amann is the “fattiest pastry in the world” (your thighs will hate you), its their answer to the Parisian Croissant.

image

The process involves making yeasted dough, resting it, beating down chilled butter to a flat, thin layer and encasing it in the dough. It is crucial for the success of the KA to keep the butter chilled at all times, as this is what forms those sugary sheets of fluff. Active time is barely 45 minutes but the resting and chilling can take up most part of your day. I always use cling film to line my counter when rolling and folding the dough. This serves a dual purpose, less mess and since the dough can get sticky and difficult, the film helps to lift it off the surface and fold. Wrap the dough in the same cling film and chill. This way I can carry on with my other mundane chores without having to constantly clean up the counter.

These buns are irresistible, flaky like puff pastry on the outside revealing soft layers of fluffy bread with every bite. I can promise you one is never enough. The filling can be anything from chocolate chip, nuts to Nuttela. I stuck with my favourite- sugar and cinnamon. This is rich, rich, buttery and mildly sweet and doesn’t need anymore fat or fancy but I will leave you to decide. A large mug of tea and a tray of these buns is enough to ruin any hopes you had of getting into those shorts this summer (LOL). As I sweat it out on the treadmill a large poster with a bikini bod reads, “Workout till you are proud of yourself”…… ha …Ha..it will take a lot of workout for me to be proud!!

RECIPE

KOUIGN AMAAN

Servings: 12

Ingredients:

300 grams strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 ½ tsp instant yeast OR 2 ½ tsp active dry yeast

1 tsp salt

200ml warm water

25g / 1 ¾ Tbsp unsalted butter, melted

250grams cold unsalted butter, in a block

75 grams caster sugar,(mixed with ½ tsp cinnamon, plus extra sugar for sprinkling

  • Put the flour into the bowl of a freestanding mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast to one side of the bowl and the salt to the other. Add the water and melted butter and mix on a slow speed for two minutes, then on a medium speed for six minutes. Can be made by your good old hands too. NOTE: If using active dry yeast, activate it in the water for 5 minutes first.
  • Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape into a ball. Put into a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for one hour.
  • Sandwich the butter between two sheets of grease-proof paper and bash with a rolling pin, then roll out to a 14 cm / 5½” square. Place in the fridge to keep chilled.
  • On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a 20cm / 8” square. Place the butter in the center of the dough diagonally, so that each side of butter faces a corner of the dough. Fold the corners of the dough over the butter to enclose like an envelope.
  • Roll the dough into a 45 x 15cm / 18 x 6” rectangle. Fold the bottom third of dough up over the middle, then fold the top third of the dough over. You will now have a sandwich of three layers of butter and three layers of dough. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes. This completes one turn.
  • image
  • Repeat this process twice more, so you have completed a total of three turns, chilling the dough for 30 minutes between turns.
  • Roll the dough into a rectangle as before. Sprinkle the dough with the caster sugar and fold into thirds again. Working quickly, roll the dough into a large 40 x 30cm / 16 x 12” rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with additional caster sugar and cut the dough into 12 squares.
  • Grease a 12-cup muffin tin well with oil. Gather the dough squares up by their four corners and place in the muffin tins, pulling the four corners towards the centre of the muffin tin, so that it gathers up like a four-leaf clover. Sprinkle with additional caster sugar and leave to rise, covered with a clean tea towel, for 30 minutes until slightly puffed up.
  •  Preheat oven to 220°C / 200°C (fan). Bake the pastries for 30 – 40 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cover with foil halfway through if beginning to brown too much. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes before turning out onto a wire rack. Be careful not to burn yourself on the caramelized sugar, but don’t leave them to cool for too long, or the caramelised sugar will harden and they will be stuck in the tin.
  • Serve warm or cold.
Advertisements

PIZZA PINWHEELS

imageIt is such an uphill task competing with the famous neighbourhood pizza delivery guy. He has invaded every nook and cranny of our city, streets, malls, business areas with his presence. He sends in mailers with attractive discounts, weird Wednesday offers (to get over the mid week slump), gigantic weekend deals and all the gimmicky stuff you can think of. So, how is a stay-at-home mom supposed to fight with this omnipresent monster who has made a fan out of son, father and herself (I am no saint), strictly in that order. Reasoning with the boys to eat healthy during the cricket season is no mean task. The horrors of trans fat, bleached flour, MSG and all the preservatives that come as additional toppings to the extra cheese, are lost in the taste.

So out of sheer desperation and the need to fight the friendly neighbourhood pizza guy, I have twisted the pizza (literally) into a pinwheel and given it a healthier, super tasty look and taste.

image

These pinwheels are 100% homemade except for the cheese (so make it 85% homemade). The bread is super tasty, seasoned with herbs, part healthy, with wheat flour and olive oil. The sauce is homemade with real tomatoes, onions and herbs and no MSG!! You can play around with the cheese and add goat’s cheese or cottage cheese instead of pizza cheese or mozzarella. The topping options are endless. The bread is an adaptation of a focaccia recipe I followed from the Bread Bible by Christine Ingram and Jeannie Shapter. Half of the bread I turned into a Focaccia and the other half into Pizza Pinwheels. The idea for the pinwheels is not mine entirely and comes from a Youtube video I saw a few months back.

After reading the recipe some might argue- that’s too much effort for a mere pizza! Yes it is, but the sauce can be pre made in large quantities and only the bread needs to be made fresh. The effort is worth the oohs and aahs and then we all know, that nothing good and wholesome comes out of a cardboard box and gets delivered in half an hour! Hah!

RECIPE

PIZZA PINWHEELS

Makes 20- 25

Pizza Bread

200 garms whole wheat flour

300 grams all purpose flour

2 tsp salt

2 teaspoons dried yeast

325-300 ml lukewarm water

2 teaspoons salt

45 ml/ 3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon each thyme and rosemary finely chopped

  • Dissolve the yeast in the water ( use about 325 ml leaving the rest for later if you require)and set aside for 5 -10 minutes until it starts to bubble on the surface. Add in the oil.
  • Sift the flours and salt together in a large bowl. Make a well in the centra and add in the yeast mixture. Mix to form a soft dough.
  • Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes until soft and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a lightly oiled cling wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for 1-1 ½ hours or until doubled in bulk.
  • Once risen turn out the dough onto a floured surface, knock out the air and knead in the herbs.

 

 

Sauce

3 large ripe tomatoes

1 medium sized onion

4-5 cloves garlic

Fistful of fresh basil leaves (broken into rough pieces or cut fine)

1 teaspoon red chilli flakes

3 tablespoons ketchup

½ teaspoon sugar

Salt to taste

½ teaspoon pepper

  • Cut the tomatoes, onions and garlic into rough pieces. Put them in a pot and pour over water to just about cover (submerge ) them. Boil on medium heat until the veges have softened and the water has almost dried out. It’s alright if there is some water left behind.
  • With a hand blender, blend the mix to a smooth mixture and return to the pot. Add in the other ingredients and boil on medium –low heat until the sauce is thick. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

 

 

Toppings

8-9 green/black Olives (chopped)

3-4 cloves garlis finely chopped

1 onion thinely sliced and sautéed in olive oil

2-3 slices of smoked ham

Mozarella cheese/ Pizza cheese

Assembling

  • Divide the dough into 2 parts.
  • On a floured surface stretch out the dough into a rectangle about 11x 6 inches and 3 mm thick. It doesn’t need to be perfect or evenly thick. The longer side of the rectangle should be towards you.
  • Spread 3-4 tablespoons of sauce on the surface of the dough, leaving a ½ inch margin on the top and bottom (broad) side. Use the sauce sparingly or it may leak out.

 

  • Spread the toppings, grate the cheese.
  • Start rolling the long side of the rectangle (closest to you), away from you to form a long tube, like a swiss roll.
  • With a floured knife gently cut the roll into 11-12 slices (about 1 inch thick). Hold the roll and cut slowly with a sawing (back and forth) motion. Do not panic if the dough breaks open and the filling spills out. Carefully seal it and put it in the baking tray. The pinwheels will stick together on baking.
  • Gently lift each piece and arrange it in an 8×8 inch well oiled tin. Leave half an inch gap between the pinwheels. Grate a tablespoon or 2 of cheese on top and cover with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm place. ½ hour to 45 mins.
  • Meanwhile preheat oven to 200oC. Bake for 25-28 minutes until golden brown. Remove from tin and cool on wire rack. They are best eaten warm but stay well in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in cling film for 4-5 days.

 

Notes: The other half of the dough was used to make a Focaccia.

DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE- IRISH SODA BREAD

DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE- IRISH SODA BREAD

The thing I like about the Daring Bakers’ Challenges is that you are always on this roller-coaster ride, one month you are in “mode excess” baking a sweet, oozy caramelly dessert, the next you are thrown into the unknown world of gluten free baking and just when you have got to know your gluts from your gluten you are baking an Irish Soda Bread !! Whew!!

Blog-checking lines:  For the month of September Meredith from the Poco Loco Olsons challenged us to experiment with soda bread.

image

Folks, this is so easy, that a novice baker, with no experience whatsoever can put it together in a jiffy and turn out smelling victorious, without breaking a sweat. Its a few simple ingredients, dumped in the bowl, liquid in, a hefty stir to bring it all imagetogether, a mix with your hands so that you feel like you have laboured, pat it down and shove it in the oven……that’s it! Its really so quick.

The bread relies on chemical reactions between baking soda and the acid in buttermilk (sour milk),  these two merry chemicals combine and act as leavening agents, eliminating the need for yeast. The baking soda, because of its alkanity hastens the browning process adding colour and flavour.

image

Please note, you can use this recipe to lecture your teen on the chemistry involved (at your own risk 🙂 ) and pray that he is interested in the process more than the end result.

According to Meredith, the host of the challenge, soda bread wasn’t invented by Irish bakers. In fact, the credit for using soda to leaven bread goes to the Native Americans, who used pearl ash to help their breads rise. Over the years, the Irish people have made this delicious treat their own. Traditionally, Irish soda bread can be white or brown, sometimes contains raisins, and often has a cross in the top of each loaf.

image

In the original recipe posted by Meredith the flours used are whole wheat and all purpose flours in the ratio 1:2. I wanted to add a little more character to my bread so I have cut down on the white flour and used a cup of Pearl wheat flour and millet (mixed). I have added some rosemary, dried sage and watermelon seeds ( leftover from last month’s challenge). Sage (ajwain) was a masterstroke and in some bites the almost spicy, sharp flavour enhanced the bread’s taste. The bread came out super fragrant, rustic looking, like it was baked in the Flintstones’ kitchen. The crumb crisp and the inside chewy and flavourful. The flavours seemed to be better a few hours later and we enjoyed it toasted in a pan with butter.Surprisingly, though the chemistry lesson didn’t go down well with Mr.13, the big chunks heavily buttered seem to have no trouble.

RECIPE

Irish Country Bread

Servings: 1 large loaf (about 12 large slices)

Ingredients

2½ cups (625 ml) sour milk or buttermilk

2 cups /300 grams whole wheat flour

3 cups all-purpose (plain) flour

1 cup mix of pearl wheat flour and Millet flour (optional, you can use all purpose flour instead)

1 teaspoon (6 gm) salt

2 teaspoons baking soda

Herbs of your choice ( I used 1 tsp sage, 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to hot 230°C/gas mark 8 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Mix the dry ingredients in a medium-sized bowl.
  • Add the herbs and half the seeds, leaving the rest for topping
  • Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients.
  • Pour the sour milk/buttermilk into the well.
  • Mix the dough until the flour is completely incorporated. Knead the dough by hand a few times while it is still in the bowl to make sure all of the flour is incorporated before moving on to the next step. The dough will be sticky and rough.
  • Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet.
  • Pat or roll the dough into a circle shape that is approximately 1 inch (2½ cm) thick.
  • Using your fingertips or the blunt end of a wooden spoon handle, make several dimples in the top of the dough or cut a cross on the top with a knife. Sprinkle the remaining seeds on top of the loaf making sure they stick on.
  • Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated hot oven and bake for 30 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to moderately hot 200°C/gas mark 6. Pull the baking sheet out from under the dough, so the parchment is directly on the oven rack. Bake for 10 more minutes or until the top is golden brown.cut a cross on the top with a knife
  • Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated hot oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Reduce the heat to moderately hot 200°C/gas mark 6. Pull the baking sheet out from under the dough, so the parchment is directly on the oven rack. Bake for 10 more minutes or until the top is golden brown.

DARING BAKERS’ CHALLENGE- NUT AND SEED LOAF

NUT & SEED LOAF (with onions and spices)

image

Every month I look into the Daring Bakers’ home with great expectations and trepidation. Once I have the challenge lodged in my head I go about life waiting for tomorrow to happen and yet by the 15th I haven’t moved a muscle or given it a thought and by the 20th, I yet feel like the” last minute conquer-ess” and on the 24th I am in mode panic. This has become a monthly ritual with me and I think, I am almost testing my ability to function when pushed against the wall. This month it wasn’t any different. After a few initial readings I knew I was in unknown territory, that a “gluten-free anything” wasn’t up my alley. I almost wished for a bout of maybe, cold or flu so that I had a legit excuse to avoid the challenge. But when I realised none of the above was happening I got on the job and decided to give it my all (literally)

For the August challenge Susan from The Kiwi Cook dared us to make Seed & Nut Loaf – a super-healthy and gluten-free alternative to standard wheat-based bread.

Gluten-free??? Low gluten…. maybe I can handle, but this was not what I had bargained for in the midst of Parsi New year excesses. This was really a “Challenge”. When you haven’t thought about allergies, yours or anyone’s and don’t need gluten free stuff, you just don’t tread the path except when forced to and Susan did just that. A Seed and Nut Loaf with no wheat or flour …how was it going to hold together? I was sure it was going to fall apart like a landslide on the mountain. Then I went and read the recipe closely and Oh My God!! The lady had used Psyllium Husk Powder (Isabgol in India), I almost rolled over on the floor and had a coronary. Susan, my dear I remember using Psyllium Husk for some very unappetising  purposes(LOL!!). I resolved to avoid the psyllium husk. That was the binding agent and now I was in a bind.

image

imageTo bind the loaf I ground half the nuts and seeds in the recipe to provide for the lack of “flour” and also used a wee bit of rice flour (gluten free). Concerned about the taste I  added an Indian essence to the loaf with lightly fried onions, garlic, shredded curry leaves, cumin and coriander. Since the last minute prep did not allow me time, I  had to settle for cucumber seeds which look like the cousins of sunflower seeds. I was tempted to add half an egg but held back and sent out a prayer instead. Its so versatile you can add peanuts or pine nuts or walnuts in place of almonds and cashews. Make a Mediterranean version with olives, basil and thyme. The fun is in making it to your taste. The end result??? Its almost like a savoury granola bar.

imageimageimage

This has been revelation to me, gluten free, so tasty and filling and imagesuper chewy, dense, very, very nutritious. When paired with humus and basil garlic pesto it’s a meal in itself. Cut into slices and toast them in a pan with a dab of butter and you are in gluten (or is it guilt!) free heaven. 🙂

RECIPE

SAVOURY SEED AND NUT LOAF (WITH ONION AND SPICES)

¼ cup + 1/4 cup cucumber/ sunflower/ melon seeds

100 grams flax seeds

¼ cup cashews

¼ cup almonds, chopped

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon ground pepper

3 heaped tablespoons rice flour

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion sliced thin

1 green chilly, deseeded and finely chopped

3-4 pods garlic, finely chopped

A fistful of coriander/ parsley, finely chopped

4 curry leaves, finely shredded

  • Oil and line with parchment paper a loaf tin 4” by 8”. Oil the parchment as well. Preheat the oven to 180oC
  • Gently roast and then grind together- ¼ cup cucumber seeds, 50 grams flax seeds, ¼ cup cashews. Empty into a medium sized glass bowl.
  • Add the whole seeds, almonds, oats, chia seeds, salt, cumin, pepper and rice flour to the above mix.
  • Fry the onions lightly in 1 tablespoon olive oil till transculent, add the garlic and sauté for a few seconds more. Add this mix and the remaining oil and chopped curry leaves, coriander to the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon.
  • Add in 1 1/4 cup water to the mix to form a firm but not dry mixture. Make sure there is no excess water and the mixture doesn’t turn runny. Its better to pour the last ¼ cup of water slowly. You may not need all of it.
  • Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin and smoothen it out with an oiled spatula or your fingers. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and invert onto a wire rack. Remove the parchment and bake for another 35 minutes till its browned and a knock on it sounds hollow.
  • Remove and cool to room temperature. Slice and toast it in a pan with a dab of butter for a couple of minutes. Serve with a slathering of humus and basil-garlic pesto, tomato chutney or just plain butter.

TIP: To make a sweet version add dates and prunes a tablespoon or two of raw sugar or palm sugar. Use 3 tablespoons honey mixed into the water.

VATRUSHKA

imageVatrushka!!!  When I heard of this beauty the first time, my head filled with visions of a beautiful tanned belle walking down the street, shapely legs, hips swaying, smoky eyes, a smile to weaken the knees, wearing lacy lingerie under her jacket …..and then suddenly she whips out a dangerous looking gun the size of her palm and puts 2 holes through the head of the man on the pavement opposite. Well, well I am getting carried away , heading in the direction of 007.

Vatrushka (the one you can eat!) is a Russian open pie with a bread base and a filling of cream cheese with fruits like raspberry or blueberries embedded in the centre. I googled to looking for the best “sounding” recipe and settled on the bread from  allrecipe.com . I must mention here, that after all these years pottering around in the kitchen, when I read a recipe, I get this gut feeling if it will work for me or not. Its akin to reading music, you know what it will sound (in this case, taste) like and maybe feel too,  and usually I am bang on!  So out of the 6-7 that I went through here was one that challenged me enough in terms of time management and patience, so I took it on. But the filling proved to be an issue and I decided to go my own way since I had no berries in the fridge and I wanted to try a savoury version as well. I used homemade cream cheese which is simple to make and tastes great and is far easier on your pocket. Since I was experimenting with the filling, I must admit I added a bit too much egg to the cream cheese which turned it into scrambled egg on toast ( a comment made by Mr 40 something!). Cheeky but true J (LOL!!). So in this recipe I have reduced the egg.

The dough needs 3 risings which may keep you on your feet through half a day (4-5 hours approx), its not an “easy-to- follow on a sunny day recipe” but turns out beautiful. The buns are the true tanned beauties which hold the mysterious filling inside…..i can assure you that this maiden will add a few calories, but won’t kill. 🙂

image

imageimageimageimageimage

image

The dough needs 3 risings which may keep you on your feet through half a day (4-5 hours approx), its not an “easy-to- follow on a sunny day recipe” but turns out beautiful. The buns are the true tanned beauties which hold the mysterious filling inside…..I can assure you that this maiden will add a few calories, but won’t kill. J

RECIPE

VATRUSHKA

1st Stage

1 teaspoon active dry yeast

1/4 cup warm milk (no more than 100 degrees F/38 degrees C)

1 teaspoon all-purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons castor sugar or superfine sugar

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour

2nd Stage

1/4 cup warm milk (no more than 100 degrees F/38 degrees C)

3 1/2 tablespoons butter at room temperature

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons castor sugar or superfine sugar

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

Filling:

For 8 buns-Savoury Version

250 grms cream cheese

2 tblspoons egg (lightly beaten)

5 tblspoons cheddar (or any cheese of your choice)

½ tspn. Pepper

1 tsp finely chopped rosemary and thyme (fresh if Possible)

Pinch of salt

Mix the ingredients to a smooth consistency for  the filling.

Sweet version-For 8 Buns-

250 grms. Cream Cheese

2 tblspoons heaped nuttela

2 tspns castor sugar

2 tblspns lightly beaten egg

Mix the above ingredients for filling.

Directions

Stage 1

  • Sprinkle yeast over 1/4 cup of warm milk in a small bowl. Stir in 1 teaspoon flour and 1 1/2 teaspoon caster sugar; stir to dissolve. Let stand until the yeast softens and begins to form a creamy foam, about 10 minutes.
  • Combine 1 cup sifted flour and 1/4 cup warm milk in a large bowl. Pour in the yeast mixture and mix well to form a sticky dough. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and cover the plastic-wrapped bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Let the dough rise in a warm place for until doubled, 2 hours or more.

Stage 2

  • Beat butter, egg yolk, and 2 tablespoons caster sugar with an electric mixer until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the butter mixture to the dough; pour in 1 cup flour and 1/2 teaspoon salt.
  • Transfer the dough to a floured surface and knead until the dough is no longer sticky and feels smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and top it with the towel. Let the dough rise again for 1 hour.
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Return the dough to a floured work surface. Press down lightly with your hands to deflate it, and use a knife to cut the dough into 8-10 pieces.
  • Shape each piece into a ball and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet. Place two glasses on the baking sheet to hold up the towel, and arrange the towel over the rolls to prevent them from drying out. Let rise for 30 minutes.
  • Remove the towel and glasses. Dip the bottom of a 2-inch glass or jar in flour and press down in the center of each bun to form a hollow or a craator. Fill the buns with the filling. Brush the beaten egg white on the edges of the buns.
  • Bake in the preheated oven until the buns are golden brown, about 25-30 minutes.

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.

image

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).

imageimage

image

imageimage

image

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.

image

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