Mandira: I have eaten bread all my life but never baked it. Recently Lakshmi introduced me to Focaccia. I wasn’t too kicked about it. A bread with a name I couldn’t pronounce wouldn’t be easy to make I was sure. As it turned out, I was wrong! Not only was it easy, it was pretty quick too! So without further ado, we present to you the bread of the month-Focaccia!
Lakshmi: I insist there be further “ado” or the likes of it :D .
Mandira and I first met at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. We were two harrowed individuals, with a particular “forever” expression of “What have we gotten ourselves into?”. We bonded on our first rural camp visit where we were one of the four girls to be banished to a remote “pada” called Dhengarchuan in a village called Dharama in Chattisgarh. We bonded over several things from missing loos, scary bears, 10 unsuccessful ways to avoid yet another steaming cup of sugar water that goes by the name chai, explaining how we continue to live inspite of having rice portions that looked like “starvation unto death protests” to people living in the village, 100 unsuccessful ways to avoid bamboo delicacies specially served to guests and so on. But we never ever broke bread together. And we never ever ever ever discussed cooking or baking. Our only discussion on food was to come up with innovative ways to thrash the stuff that was dished out at the Canteen in the name of food.
Thank god for the internet, Gmail and WordPress – our “buddiness” has grown, we’ve moved beyond our temporary obsession with social work and some related and unrelated sarcasm to doing more useful things like baking together! :D
Now after all that unrelated “ado” that hopefully made for some good reading, let’s get back to the Focaccia. Follow this link for Focaccia pronounciation. Foe-Ka-Che-Ya. I’ve made several focaccia recipes but this is the one that I use most frequently followed by a Poolish Whole Wheat Focaccia (that takes more planning in advance).
Ingredients and Method: The ingredients and method can be found here
Source: Lakshmi found this recipe at Delicious Days.
Lakshmi’s notes: I have made this recipe multiple times with success each of those times. Its super delicious, rustic looking focaccia, with a crunchy crust and airy texture.
The dough is super sticky and super loose. It looks like a cartoon monster of sorts – a big blop. You won’t be able to knead it. Oil the container that you use for proofing the dough well.
The bread can be made after a few hours in a warm place outside. But the most important thing about getting the perfect flavour in this recipe is to get the dough to rise slowly. Cold fermentation helps in getting that crunchy crust. I would recommend keeping the dough out for 2 hours or until doubled in volume, followed by overnight refridgeration, followed by 1- 2 hours outside in a warm place. I was in Bangalore when I made it this time – at amma’s place. And the outside seemed far too cool for the dough to rise if it was kept immediately in the fridge and taken out later two hours before bake. I kept oscillating between putting it in the fridge and keeping it outside. I wasn’t sure if it would rise inside the fridge (which it usually does, slowly, when I’m in Chennai :D ). So I kept it for 2 hours until it doubled outside and then put it in the fridge overnight. When I took it out the next day the dough hadn’t risen a millimeter beyond last night. Thank god, I proofed it before it went inside the fridge!!!
I add 1 tbsp of honey to the tepid water before dissolving the yeast. Apart from feeding the yeast, it also helps retain sweetness in the bread. Yeast sometimes tends to mop around if there’s too much to eat. If your yeast is of the lazy variety (!!!), who’ll slouch around instead of working on the dough, I’d recommend adding the 1 tbsp honey after the yeast has frothed and has been dissolved in the tepid water. I have usually not had any issues with fresh yeast or dry yeast that’s less than 2 weeks old refridgerated. Beyond this yeast, I think yeast just gets spoilt with the cold comforts of refridgeration.
Traditionally Focaccia is topped with sea salt and rosemary. But you can top Focaccia with almost anything you fancy. This link provides an idea of when to top focaccia with what. It helps you develop combinations based on your taste and preference. The recipe we followed has no final proofing, so it can be topped with almost anything just before bake. I usually don’t add lots of veggies, instead I roast them separately and top while serving. My favourite is garlic and rosemary or basil with 4-5 tbsp olive oil.
Mandira’s notes: I got this bread right in the second attempt. The first time I tried keeping it in the fridge overnight and then baking it (after keeping it in a warm place for about 2 hours) but it didn’t rise too much. The next time I tried it I placed the dough in a warm place for about 5 hours and then refrigerated it -mainly cause I dint want to bake at 10 pm!!. I baked the bread the next morning(after keeping it out for 2 hours) and the results were good. I modified the recipe and replaced about 50% of the all purpose flour with wheat flour(atta). I found the bread a little dry on the inside and I think this can be improved by adding more water and adding a teaspoon or two of olive oil in the dough itself, instead of only pouring some on top prior to baking.
I used garlic and oregano to top the bread.