Monday, 2 July 2012

The Bake-a-thon begins: Perfect Olive Oil Focaccia

Monsoons have finally hit our country... 

Though I hate the infrastructural damage this season gets with it to the city, I enjoy the beautiful view from my window which shows greenery all around!! I love the fact that it is time for me to put on my hostess shoes and have friends over for cocktails & barbeque parties along the hills. (So yeah, lots of grilled and BBQ recipes to follow!! yay!!)

But I just cant understand the Indian sentiments towards deep fried dough dipped veggies, very fondly known as ‘pakoras’. I mean who wants to spend the beautiful rainy evening cooped up in the hot kitchen, deep frying veggies. Don’t you have better things to do like read a perfectly romantic paperback in the balcony or on the window sill, or enjoy the rainy views while sipping some hot tea/red wine?? I am a traditionalist, but I break away from these deep frying thoughts. It is not acceptable to me, to be served cold ‘pakoras’ or be sweating on a ‘kadai’ (wok) of hot oil. And for a solution, I give you baked goodies. Now you must wonder, why baked? Because, in the hot climate of india, baking is the perfect solution to everything; like, no sweat cooking, crispy cooking (reads, alternative fried), healthy and less fat cooking. So if you have a decent power back up at your place, then you should leap forward to this mode of cooking, and the results you get out of your first attempt will be enough of an encouragement for life!!

Ok, baking is great, but why should I bake bread? Well frankly, you don’t! We get awesome breads in many bakeries around the country and an Indian ‘chapati’ or ‘roti’ is a great alternative to the yeasty breads. But for me, baking my own bread is a thrill. I just simply love the way it fluffs, comes to live and then becomes a perfectly amazing loaf of bread. Bread making is a sure shot way to get your confidence up in the kitchen. If you follow the precise measurements, nothing can stop you from getting that ‘market-wala’ feel that we all love and enjoy! Mostly for my family, I make 100% whole wheat bread loaf, to be had for breakfasts or dinner rolls for later. But then focaccia is best made with white flour and so I heeded. Also, in the rainy seasons of Mumbai, it is best to use up the long stored white flour in my kitchen, rather than wasting it later. This  is my first attempt, and I have already fallen in love with this delicately flavoured bread!!

2 cups All Purpose Flour or 'maida'
1/8 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Tbsp Salt
1/2 cup + extra Warm Water (just enough that its slightly warm to touch. Don’t keep it too hot or the yeast will die or too cold that the yeast wont rise. Aim for 40 degrees c)
1 Tbsp Sugar
1 ½ tsp active dry yeast or 1 tsp instant yeast
Dried Rosemary for sprinkling
2-4 Cloves Garlic Thinly Sliced
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for Drizzling
Salt and fresh Ground Black Pepper for sprinkling

Proof the yeast by combining it with the warm water and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve and let stand for 3 minutes or until foam appears on the surface. If using instant yeast, you don’t need to wait, straightway go to the next step.
Slowly add in the flour and salt to the bowl. As soon as dough forms which separates from the sides of the bowl (extra water might be needed), pour in 1/8 cup olive oil and knead well. The dough should come to a consistency where it springs back on touch and doesn’t stick to your hands.

Form the dough into a round ball and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn't form a skin. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place until double in size, for about 1 hour and 10 minutes.

Once the dough is doubled and domed, turn it out onto an oiled cookie sheet. Stretch the dough out to fit the sheet, about 1/2-inch thick. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for another 15-20 minutes.

Once rested, uncover, poke a few dents on the surface, and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil. Depending on your taste, sprinkle on as much or as little of dried rosemary, sliced garlic, salt and pepper. But do remember that the expensive extra virgin olive oil has a delicate flavour, which should not be compromised with these additional spices. Cover once again and let it rest for another 15-20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees C and bake the bread on the bottom rack for 20-25 minutes, or until its golden brown and crisp on the edges, but remains soft and fluffy inside.
Perfect extra virgin olive oil Foccacio every time!!  This is best served warm along with a side of fresh green pesto, recipe of which will follow soon!


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