I love bread! I love it so much! Any kind of bread really, white, sourdough, buns, bagels anything with gluten. And I especially love focaccia. It’s perfectly flavoured, with big chunks of salt, just enough oil that it doesn’t need any extra butter and you can really go all out with cheese and herbs if you’re feeling crazy.
Becuase of my love for this flat, salty loaf I had made it a few times before attempting Paul’s recipe. My first memory of making focaccia was in high school. My Uncle lived with us for a couple of years while he went to culinary school and I remember making all kinds of food with him. Or really just requesting he make different dishes for me to eat. But I think I participated in the focaccia…at least that’s what I’m going to claim. Since then I’ve tried it a few more times on my own with different recipes and although the results vary it’s always delicious! And Paul’s recipe was no exception!
Focaccia dough is supposed to be really wet. I don’t know the science behind it, something about irregular crumb. I really should start looking into these things while doing these bakes. Regardless, this recipe made a WET dough. It was almost a batter and kneading it was quite the experience. Paul is adamant that all his bread be kneaded using oil rather than flour so there was no way this mixture was getting any less wet along the way. It was messy and sticking to everything. It was awesome!
I only kneaded the batter/dough for a few minutes since I was worried I could lose my bowl scraper and hands into the blob of gluten at any minute. I plopped the whole thing into a bowl and let it rest until doubled in size. I was at a hotel this past weekend I snatched that little plastic shower cap they give you and now I have a “bread cap” perfect for proofing. I bet Paul Hollywood doesn’t have a dedicated shower cap for resting dough!
First proof took about an hour and a half and left me with and an even bigger blob of gluten. Yum! I could see the strands of gluten as I pulled the dough out of the bowl. I felt like this was a good sign. Although I was a little worried I hadn’t oiled my bowl enough.
Getting the dough onto the pan was by far the hardest part of this whole bake. If you read Paul’s recipe you’re supposed to split the dough in two and stretch if onto two baking trays. Well, that didn’t really happen for me. Maybe my pans were too big (pan size would have been useful Paul!) but my dough was nowhere near the corners. So I scrapped one pan and put all the dough on the other. The other thing I abandoned was the parchment. According to the recipe, you are supposed to line the pan with parchment and then stretch the dough on top. Well, as soon as my dough touched the parchment it tried to absorb the whole piece. I was left with a ball of dough wrapped in parchment nowhere near a pan. I carefully extracted all the paper from my insatiable dough ball and oiled the pan. I wrestled my dough into the corners and left it to think about what it had done (prove round 2).
Instead of feeling sorry for trying to consume the parchment my dough fought back again. After resting for an hour I went back to find the plastic wrap had been sucked into the focaccia vortex. I peeled off the plastic wrap and jamed my fingers into the dough to get the traditional oil-fillable dimples. I sprinkled the whole thing liberally with salt and rosemary from my husband’s herb garden.
After only 20 minutes in the oven, the unruly dough had turned into mouthwatering focaccia. It could have probably stayed in the oven for another 3 minutes but I was hungry and afraid of over baking my lunch. A pleasant side effect of the abandoned parchment was that the oiled pan kind of fried the bottom crust to a perfect golden brown.
As always I couldn’t wait for the bread to cool and I cut into it much too soon. It’s a little hard to tell from the pictures but I would say the inside had perfect irregular bubbles.
Next time I would put even more herbs on top but even with the scant amount of rosemary this bread was scrummy! So scrummy that we ate half of the loaf in about 20 minutes. And I don’t regret it at all.