The other day, I’d left the shaped bread dough out in the balcony early in the morning for the second rise. Silly me, I left it at ground level (the pan sitting on a folded blanket as the sun up yet that day) and went about with my morning chores. A while later, I rushed to the balcony on hearing some sounds from that end. “Has a crow managed to get in through the bars? Will it ruin my bread?” The thought raced through my mind in the couple of seconds it took to me to reach the balcony. And I see my sleepy little guy playing with a nice big bit of dough and a large portion missing from my bread pan! Ah well, some things are meant to be that way. And kids are meant to create little disasters for us mommies to tear our hair apart as it happens but laugh away thinking about it all later.
Hello reader! I’m back after a six-month blogging hiatus! Missed deadlines, missed calls, family functions missed because of forgetfulness, dishes that get clicked and never get uploaded, posts that are written but never see the light of day…most things in my life seems to be only half-done these days. The only thing I am in full measure is ‘maaaaa’. I know I’m no longer a ‘new’ mommy, who can safely take cover under the wraps of mommyhood for everything (I had more than my fair share of it!). But how do I brush away the little fellow who seems to be interested in everything ‘amma’ is doing? Any venturing near the oven, and he asks if amma is making “cay” (he can’t say cake yet) or biki/kiki (biscuit/cookie).
He’s not so much into cakes. He prefers to help his ‘maaaaaa’ do the batter taste test instead. He likes the breads though. All of it. The kneading, the shaping and the eating. I know I’ve ranted enough about my little cupcake’s help around the kitchen especially when I’m baking breads. Thankfully, I didn’t have a ‘mauled’ bread moment with this focaccia. It would have been a shame. Really. We had it with our evening tea on a lazy Sunday.
The recipe for this wonderful and simple bread came from Aparna who, in adapted it from The Kitchen Whisperer. She organises a monthly yeasted bakes event – We Knead To Bake – at her blog and I’m hoping to learn and bake some lovely stuff along the way.
The bread is a lovely one. It is quite a basic dough recipe that adapts well to other form of bread too – buns and small loaves, for instance. In fact, while I did make the full recipe for the dough, I baked only half of it as focaccia. I refrigerated the rest and baked the leftover dough into a small loaf and a couple of buns. All of it was wonderful. It helped that I had a large pack of whole grain bread flour thanks to hubby’s recent travel to London. And that’s what I’ve used here. The only place I’ve diverged from the original recipe is in adding some chopped black olives that I wanted to use up. I baked the half recipe in an 8” by 8” pan I have.
For the Dough:
Active dry yeast – 2.5 tsp.
Sugar – 1.5 tbsp.
Whole grain Bread flour – 3.5 cups (you can use APF/maida if you can’t get bread flour. Or you could add 1 tbsp of vital wheat gluten to 3.5 cups APF/maida if you have access to gluten)
Salt – 1 tsp
Oil – ¼ cup (olive oil preferably) + more for brushing
Warm water -1.5 cups
For the Topping:
Mozzarella cheese – cut into 1/4” slices (use fresh buffalo mozzarella if available. I used Amul brand mozzarella cheese)
Tomatoes – 4 large, sliced (I used a dozen or so halved cherry tomatoes)
Fresh basil leaves – 1/2 cup, chopped into thin strips
For the Herbed Oil:
Olive oil – 1/4 cup
1 tsp each of dried oregano and dried basil
Red chilli flakes – ½ tsp
Finely minced garlic – 1/2 tsp
Salt to taste
Fresh basil leaves for garnishing
Mix all the ingredients for the herbed oil in a small bowl and set aside
For the dough:
Take ½ cup of warm water in a bowl and add in sugar and dried yeast. Whisk a couple of times and leave it covered for 10-15 minutes for yeast to prove
Mix flour and salt in a big, wide bowl. Add the oil and rub with your fingertips. When the yeast water turns frothy, add that into the flour along with the remaining 1 cup warm water and knead until you have a soft elastic dough that isn’t sticky anymore
Shape the dough into a ball and coat it with a tsp of oil, place it back into the bowl and leave covered in warm place till nearly double in volume. This may take about an hour or longer depending on the weather
You could use the dough to make two medium sized focaccia, or 4 smaller ones. I used half the dough to make one focaccia and refrigerated the rest. The balance dough got baked into a small loaf and some buns the next day
Aparna suggests dividing the dough into two halves and rolling each portion out into roughly 11 inch by 7 inch size. Or dividing the dough into four equal portions and shaping each into 5 inch by 7 inch size approx. I used half the dough for the focaccia and patted it out into my 8 inch square pan.
Let the dough rise for 20 minutes, then oil your fingertips and mark ‘dimples’ into the dough Brush the surface generously with oil.
Bake at 210 deg C for about 20 minutes till almost done and starts turning golden brown. Remove the focaccia from the oven. Drizzle some of the Herbed Oil over the focaccia and then evenly arrange some slices of mozzarella over the bread, leaving very little space between them. Arrange the tomato slices over this and sprinkle the chopped basil on top. The toppings must cover most of the surface of the bread.
Drizzle some more Herbed Oil over the topping. Return the bread to the oven. Turn up the oven temperature to 230 deg. C and bake the focaccia for a further 5 to 8 minutes or until the cheese melts. Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh basil leaves.