I think my love for carbs has been well documented here so it will be no surprise to my readers that my weekend plans involve baking focaccia. I have had little success finding a satisfactory focaccia for purchase – until Farm to Hearth opened a shop of course – so many years ago I decided to make it myself. For me, there is something so satisfying about the bread-making process. I am not talking about bread in a bread maker which involves throwing ingredients in and pushing a button. Focaccia requires time, love and patience. The process begins with a starter (biga, in Italian) and includes several rising stages. A word of caution for any readers with a labrador retriever in the house: apparently the smell of rising focaccia dough is irresistible. If your dough is resting on the counter, make sure your pooch does not have access to it. Those of you who knew our beloved Odin know how this story ends. Lots of rising dough made its way into Odin’s belly where it continued to rise and made for a most unpleasant evening in the Turney house.
After many trials, I settled on my favorite focaccia recipe. My Carol Field Focaccia cookbook is dog-eared, taped together and splattered with olive oil but I will not get rid of it. From this book, I have made focaccia that has been complemented by friends who are serious about their food, chefs with whom I have worked and most importantly, my family who will wait (somewhat) patiently for the pan to come out of the oven. If you are going to make focaccia, here are five secrets to success.
Always use a starter or sponge
This step makes all the difference and gives the focaccia a depth of flavor that will set your final product apart.
Weigh, don’t measure your ingredients
Strangely, a one-cup measure is different depending on which one you purchase. For most recipes, the difference is small enough that it does not affect the outcome but I find that I have had much more success by weighing rather than measuring.
Take your time
The making of focaccia is not something you try to squeeze in an hour before you leave for a potluck. Think of it as a project and lose yourself in the process. The mixing, rising and kneading are therapeutic and allowing time for the process will definitely pay off with a gorgeous focaccia that will have everyone swooning.
The most unusual equipment that you will need while making focaccia is a spray bottle filled with water. Once the focaccia is placed in the oven, you will spray the walls of the piping hot oven three times in the first 10 minutes of cooking. This produces steam inside the oven which will result in the wonderful crust and beautiful chewy inside texture that is essential in a perfect focaccia.
Once again, there are only four ingredients in a basic focaccia so make sure those ingredients are of the highest quality. Most important is an excellent extra virgin olive oil and a good quality sea salt. Once the focaccia is prepared, it is a wonderful addition to a bread basket, can be used for sandwiches or topped with a variety of toppings for an appetizer. Some of my favorite varieties include garlic and tomatoes, rosemary and olive oil, caramelized onions, olives. I hope you take some time to try making focaccia – it is most definitely worth the effort. Tastefully yours,