Sunday, August 26, 2012

Making Focaccia

Ahhh, the goodness of bread. Next to cheese, bread, pretty much any kind, makes me swoon. And focaccia, well, one bite of that dense, olive oil drizzled, slightly salty slab just does me in. Back in the States, I relied on this focaccia recipe from Anne Burrell and thought I would give it a go now that we’re here.

Finding the ingredients in our local grocery stores was easy. However, you need to get used to the textures of both flours and sugars.  A company called ADM produces all the flour for Belize. Their flour mill produces a baker's flour (Bebe Agua), an all-purpose counter flour (la Gitana), a premium low-ash cake flour (Purity) and a whole-wheat flour (Hi-Rise).  

I find the Bebe Agua a bit too fine for bread making purposes, but want to experiment with adding some whole wheat flour to see what happens. The all-purpose flour feels, at least to me, a bit denser than a brand like Gold Medal that I would use in the States. The whole wheat flour also seems to be a coarser grind, but is very good.

The white sugar here is also a bit coarser, and the brown sugar doesn’t have whatever the ingredient is that allows you to pack it in a measuring cup. So you experiment and learn as you go.

I got used to using a scale to measure out all my baking ingredients, but it died an untimely death on the trip down here. Turns out that I find it works better to rely on the look and feel of whatever dough I’m making than ensuring that everything is measured to the last gram.

Anyway, back to the focaccia. I started with the first cast of characters who came to the party: water, yeast, and sugar. 

I warmed the water in a saucepan until it reached about 110 degrees (we don’t have a microwave). I stirred in the sugar until it dissolved, then stirred in the yeast. While that mixture was proofing, I measured out the flour, olive oil, and salt and put all that in the bowl of my standing mixer.

Once the yeast was ready (look at how nice and bubbly it is!)...

... I poured it into the mixing bowl and let the KitchenAid do its thing. 

After about five minutes, the dough was smooth and silky. However, it was still on the sticky side, so I added some more flour while kneading the dough by hand a few times.

Then it was off to take a lovely nap in a oiled bowl for about an hour. 

While it dozed away, I poured the remaining oil into a baking pan and got that all lubed up. Can you tell that this pan gets used a lot?

Here’s the dough after about an hour; nice and puffy, just the way we like it.

I plopped the dough on the baking sheet and started pressing it out, putting as many dimples as possible on the surface. The sheet was then covered with a damp towel and it was off for another one hour snooze while the oven preheated to 425 degrees.

Ready for the oven!

Oh my. Will you look at that? I would say it’s too pretty to eat, but the crumbs all over my face give away the fact that I already dived in.

While I’ll be freezing some of this, I plan to make some sandwiches in the coming week. How does focaccia schmeared with basil pesto, topped with a crepe, tomato, bacon, and cheese sound? Yup, thought you might like that.

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