Sunday, April 30, 2006

pomodoro focaccia

I had bought the Bread Book by Sara Lewis a few weeks ago during an MPH book sale. Flipping through the pages just makes my mouth water with all those delicious breads, ranging from basic whites, to rustic and flavoured breads, as well as festive ones. I'd wanted to try something a little different other than the usual loaves I've been making, so after checking out a few options, I settled for the Tomato Focaccia.

LB had the easy way out - the supermarkets in Italy sell focaccia dough! He only had to roll it out and rest for 10 minutes before baking. I had to make mine from scratch and let it proof for some time, so I had to have an hour's head start before he woke up. Yet despite all that, he could catch up with the thawing and baking of his "instant" focaccia, and he was already eating it by the time mine just came out from the oven!

475g (15 oz, 4 1/2 cups) strong white flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fast-action dried yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
275ml (9 fl oz, heaping 1 cup) warm water

For the topping:
200g (7 oz, scant 1 cup) cherry tomatoes
a few sprigs of rosemary
a few black olives
1 teaspoon salt flakes
3 tablespoons olive oil

Put the flour, sugar, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Add the olive oil then gradually mix in enough warm water to make a soft dough.

Knead the dough well on a lightly floured surface for 5 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Put the doubh back into the bowl, cover loosely with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Tip the dough out on to a lightly floured surface, knead well then cut into 2 pieces. Press each into a rough oval shape a little larger than your hand.

Transfer the loaves to 2 greased baking sheets then make indentations in the surface of each bread with the end of a wooden spoon. Press the tomatoes into some of the indentations, add small sprigs of rosemary and olives to some of the others. Sprinkle with the salt flakes and leave to rise, uncovered, for 20 minutes.

Drizzle the loaves with a little of the oil and bake in a preheated oven, 200 degrees C (400 degrees F) for 15 minutes. Swap shelf positions during cooking, so that they both brown evenly. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and serve warm or cold, torn into pieces.

Hmmm. Does it look like focaccia to you? It certainly doesn't look anything like the picture in the book:

LB commented that focaccias are rather like flat pizza bread, not bulky chunks like these. Ok, so they didn't quite turn out flat... ha-ha-ha! Even I couldn't help but laugh at that!

Nevermind, the consolation is - the focaccia "bread" turned out really nice and soft. Way better than any of the other breads I've made! The others were a little chewy and rough-edged, but the texture on this one is moist and fluffy. Hmmm, maybe for me to bake a good loaf of bread, I'd have to not bake bread but bake something else instead...?

The bread goes very well with tomato-based stuff like baked beans, pesto sauce or even tomato soup. I liked mine with just yummy salted butter. Ok, time to finish off those pieces I tore out for the photoshoot!

In the meantime, if you want to see what an authentic (although refridgerated) focaccia ala-Italia looks like, check out LB's Buitoni Focaccia Day. (And please, be kind when you compare our creations... I know his is better yet again... *sigh*!)

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