I love this time of the year, after a long winter when you start seeing flowers blossoming on the bare tree branches, you see birds busy building nests and the mercury starts going up. So this is the time when I am again motivated to cook a few dishes that need fermentation. In India the weather is always warm and you dont have to think if your batter will ferment or not, or if your bread will rise or not, but here one has to plan. It can be quite frustrating when you plan to make Dosa ( Indian crepe made from ground rice & lentil batter) and the batter does not ferment or when you are trying to make Yogurt and it does not set because you forgot to keep it in the oven and so on.
So as soon as I found out that it is going to be warm I decided to make my favorite Focaccia. I lvoe Focaccia especially when it is topped with sea salt and some fragrant herbs. I like it plain just out of the oven or with some nice vinegar. I love fruity vinegars like Fig Vinegar. There is a shop in the Ferry Building and they have some amazing varieties of Olive oils & Vinegars. I love their Meyer Lemon loive oil with Fig Balsamic…I could eat a whole loaf of bread with that.
Coming back to focaccia, as you may know I like making things from scratch, I feel it makes me appreciate what I am eating more and appreciate all the efforts when someone makes it for me. I like to bake breads but it does not come naturally. Growing up in India, most of the breads are made without any yeast and don’t require any proofing, so I started baking breads when I came to California.
This is a very simple recipe but needs patience. There may be a shorter way to make this but I like the way this turns out so I don’t mind spending the time. It is funny where I got this recipe. I had gone to London for work and it was frigid cold. I still remember that I went out to grab a bite and I thought my fingers are going to fall off, it was that cold. Anyway, since it was cold I was in my hotel room watching TV. A cooking show came on and how can I forget, it was an Italian Chef. I did not understand what he was saying but he was so cute that I decided to watch the program any way. He had made this focaccia and to my surprise at the end of the show they shared the recipe in English..I have made this recipe quite a few times with variations of toppings and each time it comes out good.
Focaccia with fennel seeds & caramelized onions
2 cups of bread flour ( I have made it with regular flour and it is not bad)
1/2 cup Semolina ( Rava/Sooji)
1 packet Regular Yeast
3/4 cup water at 75F
1/4 cup olive oil
Mix all the dry ingredients.
Add half of the olive oil, add water and knead a soft dough. Knead for 5 mins, this is absolutely critical for the gluten to develop.
First Rise: Oil a large bowl and out the ball of dough in it. Cover and keep in a warm place to rise for 45 mins.
Second rise: After 45 mins, take out the dough on a board and flatten it out. Make a sort of envelope and out it back in the bowl for another 45 mins
Third Rise: After 45 mins, take the dough and place it in the skillet or baking tray you plan to bake it in. Let it rise again for 45 mins
Fourth Rise: You will see that the dough is again doubled. Using the fingers poke holes in eat and spread it around to the edges of the skillet. Spread a couple of tsp of olive oil to keep the dough moist. Let it rise for another 45 mins.
Bake: Now take a toothpick and pierce the dough in a few places to release the air. Brush more oilve oil on top. Sprinkle with sea salt & herbs, I used Fennel seeds, crushed red pepper.
Bake it at 500F for 15-18 mins until it is golden brown