Bread. A mix of flour, water and yeast, has become a staple in many parts of the world. Bread making has made its way throughout history, changing with times, revolutionizing the very basics of bread making.
Focaccia, a popular Italian flatbread is what we are looking at today. It is a yeasted flat bread, usually plain, but topped with olive oil and herbs or spices. Focaccia is believed to have originated with the Etruscans whose culture was also believed to be influenced by Ancient Greek. Thus, Focaccia is believed to have been around before the formation of the Roman Empire that assimilated Etruscan into the Roman Empire via the Roman-Etruscan war.
As with other bread, focaccia has been adapted with the addition of different ingredients due to its versatile recipe. One of our favourite is the recipe by Gennaro Contaldo, a focaccia with basil and cherry tomatoes. It is just amazing.
Here is a breakdown of the recipe:
500g of flour
2 tablespoon of dried yeast
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
12 Cherry tomatoes (halved)
12 Fresh Basil Leaves
Coarse Sea Salt
3 cloves of garlic (chopped finely)
Some rosemary leaves (chopped finely)
Measure out 500g of strong flour and place into a large bowl. Sprinkle in a bit of salt and mix well. Add into the flour also a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin oil. In a separate bowl, activate 2 tablespoons of dried yeast by adding about one and a half cups of water and mix well.
Once the yeast is well mixed into the water, mix the yeast slowly into the flour mixture. Once it forms a wet dough, knead the dough lightly (fold it a few times) and leave to rise for 30 minutes. This is important to ensure that the gluten in the flour is well stretched and able to trap the air later. Meanwhile, line a baking tray with parchment paper. Mix the finely chopped garlic with some extra virgin olive oil and set them aside.
After 30 minutes, the dough would have swell to about 1.5 times its original size. The dough would also feel rather stretchy Remove from the bowl and rest the dough on the baking tray. While resting for a few minutes, massage some garlic infused extra virgin olive oil that you have prepared earlier on the dough.
Next, shape the dough by flattening the dough evenly on the baking tray. Pour the garlic infused oil and garlic onto the dough. Then make small holes or pits in the dough and fill the pits with basil leaves and the halved cherry tomatoes. After filling the huge pits with basil and tomatoes, spread the rosemary around the dough. Work through the dough again by making small holes throughout the dough. Later, sprinkle on the dough some coarse sea salt and leave to rise for a further 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 230oC. Baked the focaccia for another 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the focaccia from the baking tray and rest the focaccia for a few minutes before cutting into it and serving it.
Joanna and I enjoy our focaccia by dipping them into a mix of olive oil, a pinch of black pepper and balsamic vinegar. But, it is so good, it's amazing on its own.