For someone who loves bread, I've always wanted to bake something on my own. From scratch.
On the other hand, E thinks baking is boring because one needs to follow a recipe precisely - how much flour is needed, how long to knead and bake. Unlike in cooking, one can't really just "freestyle".
But somehow, I find it therapeutic. Especially the kneading part, yes it is a lot of work, but there is something about the routine that calms me. And in every pull of the dough, I imagine the work and love I put in for the people I am making it for.
Maybe that's why E always loves what comes out of the oven.
Especially my Focaccia.
Our many trips in Italy, and particularly our last holiday in Puglia, made me more obsessed with this beautiful bread.
I love that I can also play with the toppings. Anything goes - rosemary, garlic, oregano, or just the classic combination of tomato and basil - like in Pizza. Well actually, if bread and pizza have a kid, that would have to be Focaccia!
There are a number of ways to make it - some like it thin-crust (like in Puglia) for example.
But in Cocina Ferri, I make it crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. And oozing with good olive oil.
We eat it on its own, as an antipasto (with something light after like soup) or with good ol' Mozzarella and Parma Ham!
What you need...
500 grams Flour
7 grams Yeast
325 ml Water (combine boiling and room temperature)
15 pieces Cherry Tomatoes (halved)
30 pieces Basil Leaves
What to do...
Add a couple of tablespoons olive oil and salt on the flour. Combine the yeast and water. And add this to the flour. Mix with a spoon until combined. When it becomes too hard, dust your hands with some flour and start kneading. I use the pull and push technique – pull it back and push it away. Knead for 15 minutes until it is elastic and rubber band-like.
Leave it to prove for 2 hours.
After, it becomes soft, silky and stretchy. Shape your dough using a rectangular pan. It is critical to oil the whole pan first. Then oil the dough as well, pressing with your fingers to create deep pockets so the oil can seep through.
Cut the tomatoes into halves. Stick a basil leaf into the dough (make sure it is deeply inserted) with a piece of tomato. I try to just place them all over randomly until I finish everything. Sometimes, I even add a couple more. Who does not want more basil and tomatoes anyway?
Wet a cloth (big enough to cover the pan) with hot water. Cover the pan and leave for at least 2 hours.
Sometimes I do this overnight, so we have fresh Focaccia for breakfast. Oh what a beautiful way to wake up to this smell!
You will see that it doubles in size after. Sprinkle with some salt. Set the oven to 200C and bake for around 20 minutes. Once you take it out of the oven, drizzle it with some olive oil. And leave it to rest for at least 10 minutes.
That's it, you have your fresh Focaccia! Buon Appetito!