I am relatively a beginner in bread baking and this is probably the only bread I have baked more than the fingers on my hand! I tasted focaccia only when I came to Dubai and that was the first time I even heard of it. Back in India, I knew 4 types of bread - white bread, brown bread, multigrain bread and fruit bread - that was my extent of bread knowledge. I would not label bread baking as difficult - it is only time consuming - so if you have the time in hand - Foccacia is definitely worth a try.
Focaccia is an Italian bread with a generous amount of olive oil - topped with herbs, olives, onions, sun-dried tomatoes or any other vegetables that goes along. Focaccia, I realised recntly makes a good sandwich bread too! I have tried topping with olives , tomato and onions but the best for me was the shallots. It is easier to chop them into cute little rounds - it caramelizes well and the looks quite pretty on the bread too. I read an article today by Nandita Iyer from the Saffron Trail in the Hindu where she outlines the need to eat with your senses and we did just that with focaccia!
- All Purpose Flour - 1½ cup + extra for dusting
- Water - ½ cup warm
- Instant yeast - 11 gm sachet
- Olive oil - ½ cup (¼ +¼ divided)
- Shallots - ¼ cup
- Sugar - 3 tbsp
- Garlic and Herb seasoning - 1½ tsp
- Semolina - 2 tsp
- Dissolve the yeast and sugar in warm water. Let it rest for 5 minutes.
- Sieve together the flour and salt into a bowl. Make a well at the center of the bowl and slowly add the warm water mixing it together using a fork.
- Now add olive oil - ¼ cup in small batches till the dough holds itself together. The dough is going to be sticky at this point.
- Dust your work surface with a little flour and tip the dough over. Knead for roughly 5 to 10 minutes. The dough should not be very hard to knead, it should be smooth and easy to stretch.
- Grease a bowl with a little olive oil - cover with a cling film and let it rest for 45 minutes to 1 hour in a warm place to double itself.
- Meanwhile, chop the shallots into rounds and add a tsp of olive oil to this and give it a good mix.
- Take a baking tray and sprinkle semolina at the base of the tray.
- The dough in one hour would double itself and would have a very smooth texture. Punch it down and tip it over into the tray and firmly press down with your hand to attain the shape of the tray uniformly. Poke into the dough using your finger tips to create random patterns as you can see on the bread .( Trust me it is superb fun to do that!!)
- Sprinkle the seasoning and spread the shallots over the surface. Give it a light press so that it holds itself to the dough but doesn't insert itself.
- Sprinkle a little bit of salt all over and be generous with you olive oil on the surface.
- Cover it with a cling film and let it stand for 45 minutes.
- Pre-heat your oven to 220 degree centigrade and place in the tray. Bake for 30 minutes till the top of the bread begins to brown.
- Remove it from the oven and let it cool for 5 minutes before you dig in you knife:)
- Focaccia is a breakfast or snack in itself that goes well along with your coffee or tea. The herbs and the olive oil gets infused into the bread and the caramelized shallots give the focaccia a lovely aroma.
- You could also try this with a chilli chutney which I thought was a lovely combo!
You may also note -
- It is necessary to knead the dough well and leave it for proofing. Ensure that the dough has risen - approximately an hour should do but colder areas may require more time.
- Usual recipes call for 20 minutes bake time - I got mine done in 30 minutes so keep checking yours to ensure the lovely brown color on top.
- Avoid opening the oven too many times to check - check at the 20 minute mark first.