This year I decided to embark on a mission to improve on my baking skills because I really do want to improve the odds of having a bakery after this ( a really good one at that!). I do not know where I will be after this PhD but I am deciding to keep all my options open and do as much exploration into what I like, what I am passionate about and what I believe I am good at.
Baking and using an oven is just therapeutic for me as well so whenever I have the opportunity (and time!!!) to do it, I will take it.
The aim is to bake once a month until the end of my PhD and in June, a lovely friend of mine and I got together to make focaccia. I fell in love with this Italian recipe after watching several shows on the Food Channel, one of them being from Jamie Oliver. I have always been intimidated by bread and so baking it is something I told myself I would never easily manage but it is interesting how life can through you into the deep end sometimes. I thought I would take the opportunity to give it a try, seeing as I have found myself already doing soo many things I never thought I would (good things) . I want to make sure that when I do open up this bakery (eventually), I am fully aware of everything I want to make and can bake.
This bake happened in June but because of the busyness of this life, this has been the only time a human being has been in position to write this process down and share it with you. My friend and I adopted a recipe from this website with a few alterations here and there: https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/rosemary-focaccia-bread/ .
HEADS-UP! My process seems quite detailed, and I think it comes from working in a lab setting and having to write SOPs (standard operating procedures) for a couple of experiments. If the layout resembles anything close to that, bear with me emoji
- Self-raising flour (3 cups)
- Yeast (1 pack)
- Rosemary (can be dried or fresh)
- Thyme (can be dried or fresh)
- Dried tomatoes
- Salt (2 teaspoons)
- Warm water (1 cup)
- Olive oil
PS: If you follow https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/focaccia/ on Instagram, you will see soo many variations of ingredients to try out. I think that one of the most important things for focaccia though is to have it rise well and not be dense otherwise you would have missed the point entirely, in my opinion. I would therefore be cautious about overloading the dough with toppings, but to each their own baking journey. Pleas proceed as you wish 🙂 .
- Measure 3 cups of self-raising flour
- Add about 1 and a half to 2 teaspoons of salt to the flour
- To one cup of warm water, add in one pack of yeast. To know that the yeast is working, you should see bubbles form in the cup after stirring in the yeast. We decided to use cups to measure out the flour and water so it was 1 cup of warm water to 3 cups of self-raising flour.
- Add your flour into a bowl and make a big-enough hole in the middle.
- Add in one tablespoon of olive oil for every cup of flour
- Add in the water to the flour in phases. Use a mix things together. Try to incorporate flour from the sides of the bowl as this goes on.
- Begin to knead the dough afterwards, which would be better done on a flat surface like a kitchen tabletop, but you can still knead the dough while it is in the bowl. NB: Add in water or flour as needed depending on how sticky the dough is. What you want to see at the end of the kneading process is dough that is soft and smooth but is not sticking to your hands. The dough should also be able to all come together and hold shape in the form of a ball or dome. You can form a small cut in the middle of the dough to check for the presence of bubbles forming. This is how you know that the kneading process worked and that you have been in position to “activate” the yeast.
- Let the dough rise for about 35 -60 minutes. This can be aided by covering the dough with a damp cloth or placing it in a warm part of your kitchen (but not the oven emoji). NB: What you want to see at the end of the day is that your dough has been able to double in size.
- You can take the dough out the bowl and place in an oven pan with some olive oil spread over the pan for the rest of the proving process (e.g. half way the time) so that the dough can prove and rise while taking on the shape of the oven pan you will be using.
- After this time period you can then begin to do the really cool part (It is the coolest part for me at least) and begin to use your fingers to form depressions in the dough (try to make the holes a bit deep so that they can be visible and hold once you place the dough in the oven). You can then put on your toppings of choice. You can sprinkle on some salt and drizzle some olive oil on the top, especially in the depressions.
- Your oven should ideally be pre-heated and I think we used a temperature between 180 – 200°c
- You can then proceed to bake for about 20 -35 minutes depending on the type of oven you are using and whether you are using top or bottom heat settings. We used 30 minutes and switched to bake using top heat half-way the baking time. PS: If you plan on adding in dried tomatoes instead of fresh ones, I would suggest this as the best time to add them on top so that they do not get scorched.
- Drizzle some olive oil on it afterwards because that is what makes focaccia thrive. It needs to be light and soft; literally almost spongy and olive oil helps so much with that.