Friday, January 24, 2014

Focaccia Caprese - My grand entrance into the We Knead to Bake baking group

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.


yumlicious said...

Lovely Bread....

sunita rohira said...

Great looking bread. Yes you are right about bread being easier to bake than cakes.

Sonya Balasubramanyam said...

Your focaccia looks delicious. And I can so relate to your first attempt with the focaccia. I have made bread that was so hard they could be labelled Weapons of Mass Destruction :)

Kurush F Dalal said...

Batch two we dispensed with the tomatoes and it was even better :)