I bought a new book.
Nothing new in that.
A cook book.
Still nothing new in that. I have a life time of cookbooks coming out of my ears.
It is called “the bread bible”. Great. I love home cooked bread.
I didn’t look at it closely enough.
I got it home and curled up to read it. As you do with cookbooks. Or at least, as you do if you are me.
And then I was shocked.
I love to mix and play when I cook. I sense. I intuit. I create. I mix and match as surely as an artist plays with colours on a palette and a poet plays with words. It has to “feel” right. It has to smell right. It has to have an energy that is right. Cooking takes me to another world.
Cooking is an act of giving. To yourself. To others. It is a way of nurturing yourself and others. Of keeping yourself and others healthy. Of spoiling, of gluing, of making them happy.
What it is not (to me) is scientific.
Yes I know that there is a whole heap of science that goes on. (I have a science background.) I know that this reacts with this to create something else. I know that rice and lentils create a nutritional synergy that is hard to explain.
But when I am in the kitchen, it is more an inner sense that guides, not an outer intellectual knowledge.
You can tell who uses which approach. The former touch and feel their food. They mix by hand. There is flour on their hands, under their nails, in their hair. They smell. They know. How do they know? (shrugs shoulders.) How do I know exactly how much salt this will take, without tasting. How much crushed rosemary to sprinkle. How much water to mix with that? How to tweak, adjust, play. Never know quite what the end result will be, except fantastic.
The intellectual approach is to weigh, count, sort, measure. Mix with implements. Tell you exactly what speed to put the mixer on. Know to the second how long to let something cook. Know the outcome in advance. Expect perfection. Try again and again and again until it is right. Perfect. Wonderful.
There is nothing wrong with this approach. Well, I use it myself in the other parts of my life and my work. BUT in the kitchen, it is not me.
well there I am curled up with this bible of a book, and I open the page and it is SO SCREAMINGLY exact and precise that I inwardly scream.
I read a bit.
I put the book away.
I wanted the book to transport me, to inspire me, to take me into that head space where I want to zip into the kitchen and whizz something up.
The book sat on the shelf, looking terrific, for weeks.
But today, for some reason, I picked it up again, read past the intellect, and created a focaccia using some rosemary flavoured salt that I had whizzed up in the morning, after being inspired by some blogs.
It was not perfect. It sort of wasn’t flat like theirs. It varied in thickness, but, oh my goodness, it was good.
AND I have to admit, that following their directions, it was the best dough that I have made for a while.
You be the judge.
The book tells me that the percentage of water is 113.5%. (sigh) This makes a great texture. It explains exactly what that does to the gluten. (yawn). The long beating time makes it do some stretchy stuff with the dough, being a very soupy dough for much of its beating. (yeah, alright.) What she doesn’t say at that point, but I know (ha ha) is that the longer rising time also develops the gluten more and requires less yeast. If you haven’t got that much time and you feel comfortable breaking her rules, throw in a bit of extra yeast. It will alter the dough but it will be Ok.
It is a (exactly) 1 inch high focaccia. (YAaaawwwnnnN).
BUT IT IS SO SO VERY GOOD.
I have taken some of the exactness out of the recipe, but left enough in for you to make the same bread and make it fantastically!
Rosemary Focaccia Sheet
source: The Bread Bible
prep time: 5.5 hours including rising times
cooking time: 12 minutes
serves: 6 – 8 people, depending how you use it
2.75 cups flour
3/8 tspn yeast (1.2 grams) (!)
2 liquid cups minus 2 Tblspns slightly warm water (!)
0.75 tspn sugar
0.75 tspn salt
2 Tbslpn plus 2 tspn extra virgin olive oil
2 tspn fresh rosemary needles
0.25 tspn sea salt
In the mixer bowl, using a paddle or bread dough attachment, on low speed (#2) combine the yeast and the flour. Gradually add the water, mixing just till the dough comes together, about 3 minutes. It will be very soupy.
Increase the speed to medium (#4 speed) and beat until the dough is transformed into a smooth, shiny ball, about 20 minutes.
Add the sugar and salt, and beat until well combined, about 3 minutes.
The dough will look like melted mozzarella. Scrape it into a 2.5 litre bowl for rising, lightly greasing the top of the dough with oil. Cover with plastic wrap. Mark the side of the bowl at approx. twice the height of the dough (!!!) so you will know when the dough has risen sufficiently.
Allow to rise in a warm space for up to 4 hours.
Coat a sheet pan or oven tray with olive oil and some flour to avoid sticking. Pour the dough onto it. It will pour, but be very stretchy. Spread the dough as thin as possible without tearing (about 0.25″ – 0.5″). Let it relax for 10 minutes, then spread it to fill the tray. If it is still very elastic and not spreading, allow to rest for another 10 minutes.
When spread, cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise until it is doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Turn the oven on now, at 230 degrees C and heat for an hour with the rack at the lowest position. Use a baking stone if you have one. Heat for at least an hour.
Uncover the dough. Sprinkle olive oil evenly over the dough, sprinkle with rosemary salt or with crushed rosemary and sea salt.
Place it in the oven on the hot stone or on the lowest rack. Bake for 12 minutes or until the top is golden. Remove from the oven, drizzle some olive oil over if you desire, and serve immediately.
I slid it onto a large cutting board and took it to the table to cut.
if you want to, you could roast some garlic using a whole head in the oven in the hour you are waiting for it to heat up sufficiently. Or cover the garlic with oil and cook in the oven. Use the garlic infused oil for the focaccia and the garlic to stud.
Stud the focaccia with the garlic before baking.
Read some more:
- A Chicken in Every Granny Cart talks of her experience of making this bread. It is an amazing blog – make sure that you visit.
- Try my no knead “in an hour” focaccia as well.