BBA Focaccia & New Beginnings

These bread images were captured over a span of 10 minutes, the shortest-ever photo shoot in the history of this blog. It was done while the living/kitchen/office space of our previous home was cluttered with a manic array of boxes, bags and countless knick-knacks that a patient and helpful friend was slowly carting out into the trunk of her car, destined for our new (and bigger) apartment a short ride away.

The past two months have been a crazy whirlwind of travelling and moving, so I am pretty relieved to be here in mid-February, with my sanity and all limbs intact. Preserving said sanity was also what inspired me to bake in the middle of a move. Completely counter-intuitive, I know. I was getting a little sentimental about bidding farewell to the world of gas stove cooking (I can be lame that way) and it had been some time since my last bread from the BBA Challenge. Peter Reinhart’s Focaccia recipe didn’t seem very daunting so it was simply a matter of getting off my cushy behind and setting to work. (Note: We’re not posting recipes as part of this challenge due to copyright issues; if you’re interested in joining in, get yourself a copy of the book and start baking!)

Top right: Our previous kitchen; Bottom left: Bay window in our new kitchen

The Focaccia turned out surprisingly easy, revealing the apprehension about baking during a move as mere constructs in my stream of consciousness. Of course, it could have turned out to be a week-long affair, but fortunately, for our oven and our plans, all it took was two days, some mixing, folding and stretching and lots of resting time. Which suited my schedule just fine.

Similar to Reinhart’s Ciabatta formula, the gluten in Focaccia is developed through the classic stretch and fold method. After mixing together the usual suspects of flour, yeast, a pinch of salt and water, the soft, pliable dough is stretched and folded four times over the course of two hours before being drenched in home-made herb oil and left to rest in the refrigerator. And I mean drenched. The recipe called for a quarter- to half-cup of herb oil, with the somewhat encouraging caveat that we were “not to worry” as the dough “would soak up all the excess oil”. Proceeding cautiously (to avoid a massive oil spill on our already tiny kitchen counter – see picture above), I successfully emptied half a cup’s worth on the baking tray without fuss, dimpled the dough as much as I could to create pockets of herb oil before sliding the mammoth tray into the fridge.

"Airplane-esque" oven controls in our new kitchen

Using Reinhart’s suggested formula for herb oil, I took the opportunity to clear out our fridge and trim our rosemary’s expansive ambitions to take over the garden. Into two cups of hot olive oil went a large handful of rosemary, chopped parsley, some leftover coriander, a heaping spoonful of dried herbs de Provence and a smattering of fennel seeds. Some chopped garlic, coarse sea salt and ground black pepper completed the mix, which was then cooled and dimpled into the inflated dough. Those little dents on the surface of a Focaccia loaf? Product of someone’s prodding fingers.

The transformation from bloated, oily dough to deliciously crisp and soft Italian bread took a mere 15 minutes, but not before our entire living/kitchen/office space was smoked thoroughly with aromatic herb oil. The excess oil that collected on the tray around the dough bubbled away energetically in the 450 F/ 230 C oven, producing clouds of smoke that seeped through every crevice of our tiny stove. It would have made for a cute picture (a smokin’ stove!!) if not for the fact that I was too busy opening all the doors and windows to avoid choking on the fumes.

Close shave, that was. But thoroughly worth it. Especially after a few hours’ worth of carting the crazy number of items that we seem to have accumulated over the past two years, these light and airy squares of Focaccia were the perfect reward for a late lunch, a pause from the relentless packing, unpacking and logistical planning that comes with every move. A tasty (and memorable) way to close the chapter of our life in this modest cottage. While I’ll miss the challenge of working in a seriously tight kitchen to churn out another month’s worth of desserts, for now, we’re just enjoying the expanded space in our new home. With a slice of home-made Focaccia of course.

For more BBA Focaccia stories, check out these variations:

I’m submitting this Focaccia to YeastSpotting, a weekly round-up of all things good and yeasty by Susan at Wild Yeast.

23 Comments

  1. josh

    i had to look into this for a project at work. the reasoning is that there are only so many combinations of ingredients and measurements that no one can claim ownership of a particular combination. so, recipes themselves aren’t subject to copyright (at least in the US), it’s how the author words the explanations.

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