For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
Psalm 30:5

Thursday, December 12, 2013

BFF Focaccia

I thought I'd share my focaccia recipe, since that was what I made last weekend, and what we just ate for breakfast this morning. The first focaccia I ever made was using a breadmaker, following the recipe in the recipe booklet that came with the machine. It turned out well enough for me to fall in love with focaccia as a type of bread, so when I came across this focaccia recipe in The Best of, I had to try it.

This has been my go-to focaccia recipe since. First, it was just roasted garlic and rosemary. Then, a friend made focaccia and gave me a thick slab, stuffed full of sundried tomatoes, olives, caramelized onions and slatherings of olive oil. So a jar of sundried tomatoes and a jar of olives came to lodge (permanently) in my fridge, because who knows when you'll want to have foccacia? 

Loaves and loaves later, after artisanal bakeries and trendy cafes started blooming all over Singapore, I began encountering loaves of focaccia other than the ones which emerge from my oven. Wow, fancy focaccias with exotic toppings! For a moment, I felt silly - to have loaf in, loaf out, put together the very same focaccia time and time again. I suddenly felt like a Super Boring Person. I mean, why didn't I even think to try a different kind of focaccia? 

In response, I googled "authentic focaccia", and made a mental note that a friend had done focaccia with biga, and that since that sounds Italian, I should give it a go. Especially with my recent (re)discovery of the wonders of preferment. One sunny morning, figs were in season and therefore on sale and said hello to me during grocery shopping. And so a loaf of fresh fig focaccia transpired the next day. There was even the time I ventured so far as to bake a loaf of grape schiacciata. 

They were alright... but not as good as that focaccia, chewy, crusted with semolina and studded with savoury bits of sundried tomatoes and olives I'd come to love. Who says fancy is best? We all know what they say about that seasoned pair of jeans we've worn for the past ten years... and which we still regard as our favourite pair. That's how it is with this recipe - my favourite focaccia. Best friends forever!
Focaccia with Olives and Sundried Tomatoes
Adapted from The Best of
1 cup lukewarm water (should be slightly warm to the touch)
2 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp honey
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp semolina
1 tbsp italian herbs (dried)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
Olive oil, for drizzling
Semolina, for dusting
50 g sundried tomatoes, diced
50 g pitted green olives, diced
6-8 large cloves of garlic, roasted in their skins, diced
Salt and pepper

Hand-whisk the yeast and water in the bowl wherein you will be kneading the dough, and let it stand for 2 minutes.

Add the honey, salt, olive oil, semolina, herbs, and flours. Mix, then knead to form a soft elastic dough (I use my trusty KitchenAid. This forms a soft-ish dough, so it's hard to obtain the windowpane texture, especially with the presence of all-purpose flour with its lower gluten content, but don't worry. You'll know the dough is ready when it feels like your earlobe when a bit of it is pinched between your floured thumb and index finger. Mix in the tomatoes, olives, and garlic.

Once the dough is ready, leave it in a large, lightly oiled mixing bowl for 45 min, until almost doubled.

Next, give the dough a good punch-down. Simply punch out all the gas. Let it rest for a further 15 min. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius. Prepare the baking sheet or pan you would be using by dusting generously with semolina.

Tip the dough out onto a lightly oiled worktop, and shape it however you please. Generally, this involves pressing the dough out to about a 1 inch thickness into your desired shape.

I like my focaccia as a single ovalish, rustic-looking loaf, but you might like to use a rectagular/square pan instead, so you can end up with focaccia squares instead of 4 odd-shaped pieces...

Finally, dimple the dough with your finger all over, and drizzle extra virgin olive oil generously all over, letting olive oil pool in the indentations. Season with salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

Bake for about 15 min (this is for a single loaf of focaccia. If you're having two smaller loaves, you'd probably need to check after 12 min).

Let cool on a cooling rack before cutting. Enjoy the oliv-ey goodness waft through your house and pretend you're in Tuscany...

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