Everyone knows I practically live on Facebook and I'm fairly active on a few food groups and have loads of food obsessed friends. I started noticing the same breads appearing on my timeline last year. Once it was a Hokkaido Milk Bread, the next time it was Bialys, then suddenly everyone was making doughnuts! I asked Saee about it because she seemed to be part of these mass baking events, and she told me about the We Knead to Bake group.
Some time last year I attended a bread class conducted by Saee at the APB Cook Studio run by Rushina and it was there that I finally realised that bread was not such a scary animal after all. In fact, bread was more flexible than cake which needs more precision. I tried out a bread or two now and then but on the whole I gave in to my lazy self and didn't stir too much.
Then suddenly we acquired a KitchenAid Stand Mixer. There was no way I could leave that just sitting on the kitchen counter doing nothing - I had to find things to make where I could use it. Bread and the We Knead to Bake group popped back in my mind and I dashed off a request to join. Aparna told me I had to wait for the new year to begin as that was when the round of bread baking would start.
2014 finally came and I was part of one more activity. A new bread every month sounded reasonably doable and since I lacked neither equipment nor easy access to ingredients, I was more than ready. Luckily for me the first bread for the year was a focaccia - an easy bread, perfect for beginners.
Aparna chose Focaccia Caprese as the bread for January.
I followed the recipe to the T and pressed the KA into service to do the kneading. I looked on in delight as the dough came together. However, as I watched in wonder, I did have some doubts. I remember stretching the dough in the bread class and though the KA was twisting the dough I didn't feel convinced that that was good enough.
I was right. I ended up with a disastrous leathery bread. My bread mad husband ate every last crumb but I knew that it hadn't worked. So I attempted it again on the next weekend. This time I just did the very initial mixing in the KA and once the ingredients had come together I took it out and hand kneaded the dough for a good 15 minutes. What a difference it made!
Here's the original recipe from The Kitchen Whisperer that inspired Aparna to choose this focaccia.
This is what I did.
For the Bread -
3.5 cups maida
1.5 tbsp sugar
2 tsp Instant Yeast
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup very good EVOO
1.5 cups warm water
Herbed Oil for brushing -
1/4 cup very good EVOO
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp minced fresh garlic
For the topping -
1 large ripe tomato
1 pack Amul Mozarella/Pizza Cheese
Fresh Basil leaves
In a clean bowl simply whisk together the herbed oil ingredients and keep aside.
I put all the bread ingredients barring the warm water into the mixing bowl of my stand mixer. First I started the machine on the Stir mode using the Dough Hook just to mix things gently and to prevent the flour from flying around in a cloud. After a minute I increased the speed to 2 and poured in a cup of warm water in two batches. I added a little more than another quarter cup of water till the dough came together into a ball and didn't stick to the sides of the bowl. I switched off the mixer and took out the dough to knead it by hand.
I kept warm water with me as I kneaded, pushing and stretching the dough and wetting my finger tips just a little to keep things going. After about 15 minutes of kneading I felt the dough was soft and just very slightly sticky, and quite smooth. I could stretch it about a foot without it snapping into two.
I oiled the mixer bowl with some EVOO and put my ball of dough to rise, covered with a pretty kitchen towel. The weather being slightly chilly I put the bowl in the microwave and left it there undisturbed. I DID NOT put on the microwave - just parked the dough inside.
After an hour or so the dough was nicely risen and as instructed, I divided the dough into two, flattened them out two cookie sheets and left them to rise again. In 20 minutes they were nicely puffed up. I poked dimples into the bread and slathered them liberally with the herbed oil mix.
The focaccia took about 17 minutes (at 200C ) to get a beautiful golden sheen. I forgot to take it out early enough to add the topping so the final bread was a little darker than I would have liked. Anyway, the bread was taken out of the oven and slices of mozarella and then tomatoes were piled on with a further lashing of herbed oil. The breads went back into the oven, this time at 220C for another 5 minutes.
I had perfect Focaccia Caprese and we had just that for dinner. The olive oil is the backbone of this bread - use the best you can find and I promise you, you will be quite happy to eat this bread on it's own.