Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Non-Traditional Focaccia

In our households we don’t do hints – we use loud direction or loud swearing. One of these things must have worked, as Mr Ranty got fed up with me and have ordered me a shiny new oven to replace a rubbish gas one that came with our new house. The house is Victorian, and I am pretty sure the oven was near-Victorian as well – a split level gas oven that managed to burn everything on top while keeping bottom completely raw. Anyway, you get the picture, and now, thanks to my lovely Ranty Man I have a shiny new Smeg oven – massive gas burners and a large electricity powered oven. I am in love, that’s all I can say.
 
To test the new oven I wanted to do nice and simple bread – focaccia seemed like a good option. I must admit that most of the focaccia recipes I see online I am not impressed with. I have a book by Mr Silver Fox, aka Mr Great British Bake Off, aka Paul Hollywood, but his focaccia looks quite thin with tight crust. What I look for in focaccia is fluffy, textured dough with steaks of olive oil running through. I know its not “proper” focaccia, as an Italian friend of mine pointed out to me, you now what? I don’t care, I like it, so there!
 
THE best focaccia I have ever tried and I take my inspiration from is from Lupa restaurant in New York. I swear, I must have demolished an entire loaf of it while I was waiting for my food to arrive. And it in no way indicates the speed of their service, but rather the quality of their food in general and especially their breads (and perhaps exposes me as Ms Greedy Guts).
I have tried begging and bribing the chef to let me have his recipe, but the only secret he was prepared to reveal is that he makes his dough very wet, so wet in fact that he has to pour it into a tin.
 
With that in mind, here is my recipe
 
Lupa Focaccia
280ml water
70ml olive oil
500g white bread flour
1 pack (7g) dried yeast
1 tsp sea salt
 
Topping
Fresh rosemary
Sea salt
Olive oil
 
Place water, oil, flour and yeast in a standing mixer and mix on low speed (speed 1 on KitchenAid) with a dough hook for 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with a towel and leave to rest for 20 minutes – the dough will be looking quite wet at this stage – don’t worry about it, that’s the idea. Add salt and mix on medium to high speed (speed 2 on KitchenAid) for further 2 minutes.
The dough is still going to look really wet, you really need to mix it in a mixer as it could be very frustrating doing it by hand.
 
Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with cling film (or a clean shower cap in my case) and leave in a warm place for 1½  – 2 hours, until the dough doubles in size. I baked it last Saturday, on a rare sunny day in London, and I just left the dough at room temperature, so use your better judgement, as long as you see it doubling.
 
Rub a bit of oil on a kitchen bench to prevent the dough from sticking; pour the dough out of a bowl and stretch it out in a rectangular shape, about an inch thick. Fold the dough on itself – left side over the middle and right side over the middle to get a thick rectangular shape.
Line a large square or rectangular tin with baking parchment. Place the shaped dough in the tin and press it down, stretch to get to the right shape – to fill the entire tin. Cover the tin with cling film (or place it inside a plastic bag) and leave in a warm place for ¾ - 1 hour, until it has nearly doubled in size and is looking quite puffy.
Oil your fingertips and “dimple” the bread – don’t be shy, you want the “dimples” to be quite deep and make quite a few of them.
If you want to go all fancy, as I did this time, tear off springs of rosemary an push them inside “dimples”.
 
Pre-head the oven to 180C (fan oven) and bake focaccia for 25 minutes, until light-golden on top and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.
Place the focaccia on a cooling rack, with a tray underneath. Pour a generous amount of olive oil all over the top, paying particular attention to the edges. After 15 minutes or so, cover the focaccia with a towel (it will be ruined after this, I keep a separate “bread towel” for this) and leave for another 20-30 minutes before its ready to be slices and served.
 



 




I sliced half of the focaccia in hot dog buns shape and it worked like a dream. The next day the bread still remained fresh and moist, so I guess it keeps well – cant confirmed, it was all gone by Sunday.
 

 

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