Saturday Night Treats (Part 2 of 3)… Feta and Olive Herb Focaccia

… to continue where I left off from my previous post (Skewered Prawns with Zataar, Cumin and Red Chilli) I’ll move on to part 2 of my dinner…

A Feta and Olive Herb Focaccia

The baker’s wage… a mini focaccia… all to myself.

I spread out the dough a bit thinner than I normally would (do take a look at my earlier post on Cheesy Herbed Focaccia with Sun-dried Tomatoes) and I spritzed the oven with water just to get that crusty finish to the top and sides of the bread.

Look at these plump olives… delicious!

Here’s a list of ingredients for the focaccia –

3 cups A.P. Flour

12gms fresh yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup + 2 tablespoons tepid water

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon (+ extra for sprinkling over the focaccia b4 baking) dried parsley

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1/4 cup olive oil (+ extra for lining the bowl and brushing over the top of the focaccia)

3/4 cup chopped olives

3/4 cup feta (cubed)

pinch of sea salt (for sprinkling over the focaccia… not too much as the olives and feta are both salty… you can omit the salt too coz it’s not necessary in this recipe. But I love salt… and I have low blood pressure, so salt is often my best friend.)

Prepare the yeast the usual way (I used fresh yeast) … water, sugar and leave it for 15 minutes till it gets nice n foamy.

In a separate bowl sift the flour and add salt and the dried herbs. Mix it with the yeast, adding the 1/4 cup of olive oil and knead to form a soft dough. Leave the dough to prove for about 2 hours then knock back and knead again, dividing the dough into half. Using your hands shape the focaccia into the basic shape you like before transferring it onto a parchment lined baking tray. I made one oblong, one rectangular focaccia and a mini focaccia (I call it the baker’s wage :-)). Then using your fingertips punch and jab the dough to give it its dimpled look.

Generously sprinkle on the olives and dot the focaccia with feta, before leaving it to prove for another 1 1/2 hour, covered with a towel. Once the focaccia has risen, brush the top with olive oil, and sprinkle on some dried parsley and whole sea salt (optional).

Bake the bread in an oven pre-heated to 200°C for about 20 – 25 minutes…

Allow the focaccia to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing into it. I used a pizza cutter and we ate almost an entire focaccia right then and there… dipping it into some extra virgin olive oil mixed with a combination of zataar, parsley, oregano and whole salt. I should send this over to YeastSpotting

And served the rest with my platter of skewered prawns and potato salad…

Cheesy Herbed Focaccia with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

I suppose my love for bread comes from being Goan, and having experienced the joys of beautifully baked bread whenever we visited Goa during our yearly summer vacations. From the basic Pao and Poee (Poi) to the Bakri and the ring shaped Kanconn, to the numerous varieties that the village ‘poder’ or baker delivered to our doorstep morning and noon, just in time for breakfast and tea. Every one of those loaves of bread so distinct, so full of flavour, and still warm, they dance around the edges of my tongue and my mind as I relive those memories… So many varieties, I can’t recall all their names.

Even back home, Bandra where I grew up was dotted with numerous Irani and the odd Goan bakery or two that made both the soft pao and its crustier cousin the brun pao. None of those packed loaves of the flavourless sliced variety, sitting encased in plastic bags, waiting, characterless and forlorn for someone to pick them up from the corner store made it to our table, at least not very often.

I’ve always wanted to bake delicious bread… forming it into loaves, shaping it… my love for clay and working with it made me figure that it wouldn’t be such a difficult task. And despite being a fine art, the process is really quite simple, with the easiest of ingredients… flour, water, salt and yeast… in some cases without the yeast. All it takes is love and a pair of caring hands.

And then comes what’s known as artisan bread… which is really nothing but small batches of focaccia, ciabatta, country loaves, sour-dough and baguettes among others, all hand-crafted and at times combined with an array of scrumptious ingredients, ranging from cheese (Parmesan, Cheddar or Mozarella to name a few) to sun-dried tomatoes, caramelised onions, or even the finest olives… the list is endless.

Traditionally artisan bread is made in old-fashioned masonry ovens, but even a tiny regular home oven can produce the most amazing loaves of bread, and it isn’t all that difficult to make.

Here’s a Cheesy Herbed Focaccia with Sun-Dried Tomatoes. I had the sun-dried tomatoes sitting in rosemary and garlic  infused olive oil for a week, just to develop a few more flavours and I used both the olive oil and the tomatoes for this recipe along with a generous handful of Parmesan and some parsley while working the dough.

After almost 2 hours of letting the soft elastic dough prove or rise…

Proving the Dough

… I  knocked it back (in a quick punching motion) and worked it a bit before placing it onto the baking tray to sit for an additional twenty to twenty-five minutes (I lined the tray with a bit of oil).

Knocked back... but not out!

Finally stretching out the dough using my fingertips and finishing it up by making a few rapid jabbing motions into the dough to give it that dimpled effect…

All Dimpled!

Brushing the top with olive oil, a generous sprinkling of oregano, chopped rosemary and a bit of rock salt… and it was oven ready…

Snug as a bug!

I took a tip from a Lesley Waters recipe I came across and sprayed the top of the focaccia with water a couple of times to allow it to steam as it baked…

And here it is…

Cheesy Herbed Focaccia with Sun-dried Tomatoes

I wanted to eat it no sooner it was out of the oven, but I turned it onto a rack to cool before slicing it… and wow!