Throughout my life, I'm slowing ticking off things that are on my bucket list. Most of them are food and travel related and one of the items I have been trying to master is how to make the fluffiest, lightest, crispiest focaccia. You know the kind that you get in some restaurants where the bread is so soft with enormous air bubbles. I've tried plenty of times and while they've been decent they haven't been that pillowy soft sponge but then one day I was lucky enough to be taught how to make this incredible bread.
The woman that taught me how to make it was Gili Gold from Bake Bar in Sydney, an organic artisan bakery that is located in Randwick, Double Bay and Alexandria. Long time readers will remember that she also taught me how to make gluten free hot cross buns (and they were awesome and actually bread-like). Gili's passion really does show through when she talks about how she develops recipes. Originally from Russia and growing up in Israel her grandmother used to make cakes, pastries and baked goods. A lot of her items have flavours like za'atar and on Saturdays she also makes Russian rye loaves but the rest of the menu is regular sourdough, salads, sandwiches and coffees as well as a help yourself cabinet of pastries.
The method to this focaccia is unusual too and when reading through it I realised that all of my experiments to find the ultimate fluffy focaccia bread were doomed as I was heading in the wrong direction. I was adding too much yeast in the hopes of getting those big bubbles and I was adding oil into my dough. A regular amount of yeast is necessary for a focaccia but what it has is a high amount of water and you knead the dough for a total of 17 minutes slowly adding in more water towards the end! It's a similar method to brioche dough except instead of butter we use water.
Speaking of failed experiments, for the last 6 months I've been trying to try to get Mr NQN to be a more organised. This is only as far as putting away laundry. I was certain he adhered to the adage that if you do a bad job at something, people will never ask you to do it again. Every time he put away the laundry, no matter how many times I explained what of mine went in which drawer I'd find socks in the wrong drawer, bras and underwear wedged in with pyjamas and I don't know about you but sometimes I need a particular bra for a particular outfit and I would mind myself silently cursing while riffling through my drawers. "What are my socks doing here?" I'd mutter sorting them from the bras.
"I'm going to show him," I said to myself. So for the next 6 months I decided to put the laundry away. Except this time I would put his things in all different drawers. I'm pretty sure I even let out an evil cackle at some stage, I can't be sure (that's what happens when you work from home by yourself, you become truly weird). I was sure that at some stage he'd be as equally frustrated and wonder why his things were no longer in an easy to find order.
And you know what?
He didn't even notice. Not a single complaint. Not a peep. Experiment fail. 0 points to me. I think I'll stick with food experimentation...
So tell me Dear Reader, is there a recipe you'd like to perfect? Maybe I can help! And any tips on the laundry thing?
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Ingredients - dough
- 500g/1.lbs. premium bakers white, plus extra for dusting
- 10g/0.35ozs. sea salt / bakers salt
- 5g/0.18ozs of fresh yeast (you can use dried yeast, just use half the amount so about 1 teaspoon)
- 400ml/13.53 fl ozs. water, cold
- Olive oil to grease bowl
You will also need a benchtop mixer with a dough hook and a spray bottle with water
Step 1 - Place 250ml of cold water in a mixer bowl. Keep the remaining 150ml for later. Add the yeast, salt and flour. Start mixing for 3 minutes on slow, then continue mixing for 10 minutes on fast speed. After 10 minutes of fast mixing slowly add 40ml of cold water and mix for 1 minute. Repeat 4 times. Total mixing 17 minutes. You need to watch your mixer because the mixer may shift or walk off your bench because you're mixing for so long.
Step 2 - Add olive oil to bowl and coat sides. Transfer the dough to the bowl, cover and keep it on the bench for 1 hour until double in size. Knock all the air out and fold the dough with your hand 3-4 times, cover and put it in the fridge for 12 hours. Remove the dough and keep at room temperature for 5 hours before baking.
Step 3 - Cut the dough into 3 x 300g pieces and shape with your hands into an oval shape. Transfer to a tray lined with baking paper, cover with a tea towel and store in a moist area until double in size.
Step 4 - To cook the focaccia, preheat your oven to 220°C. Spray the inside of the oven 10 times with the water spray (this makes steam which makes the bread crispy). Bake in 220°C oven for 20 minutes until golden colour and soft in the middle. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes and drizzle with olive oil.
Cherry Tomato, Basil & Bocconcini Focaccia
Ingredients – cherry tomato, basil & bocconcini topping
- 1 bunch fresh basil leaves
- 1 large handful ripe cherry tomatoes halved
- Pink salt
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon crushed garlic
- 3 balls of bocconcini cheese
Step 1 - Spread olive oil on the focaccia and with your fingers pushing it on top of the focaccia. Add the basil, cherry tomato and bocconcini and push it into the dough. Sprinkle with pink salt on top. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.