Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Ligurian foccacia


My dad is BIG into bread. So his recent visit seemed a good excuse to try out a recipe I'd seen on the wonderfully engaging Samin Nosrat's Netflix series Salt Fat Acid Heat (based on her cookbook of the same name). In Italy, in the first episode, she'd made a foccacia bathed in a salty brine and baked til golden brown. The dough was dimpled with indents made from the three middle fingers of her hand, little wells for the olive oil drizzled on top when it's out of the oven. The oil does double duty - making the inside of the foccacia pillowy and soft and the base crisp. It couldn't be easier and this is coming from someone with a terrible track record with yeast. Begun the night before you want to bake, you simply combine dry ingredients with wet - no kneading - and leave to proof. The next day you gently stretch out the dough - now doubled in size - onto an oiled oven tray. Then dimple and brine (this just means pour over some salty water), proof again while the oven is heating and then slide in. Half an hour later out comes lunch. For an army. Or just your dad who really, REALLY loves bread.

Ligurian foccacia
Adapted from Salt Fat Acid Heat by Samin Nosrat

I am somewhat dyslexic with reverse time calculations and made the dough 24 hours ahead of time rather than the 12-14 suggested by the recipe. Rather than stay up til midnight just to bake, I stashed the partially proofed dough in the fridge to slow down the rise. The next morning I took it out, let it return to room temperature and the end result was perfect so take heart fellow recipe misreaders, there is always a solution. But ideally, don't do as I did - just start this after dinner for lunch the next day.

2½ cups (600g) lukewarm water
½ teaspoon active dry yeast (I used instant yeast and it was fine)
2½ teaspoons (15g) honey
5 1/3 cups (800g) flour
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
¼ cup (50g) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan and finishing
Flaky salt for finishing

3/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
⅓ cup (80g) lukewarm water

Dissolve yeast and honey with water in a medium bowl. In a very large bowl, whisk flour and salt together, then pour in yeast mixture. Stir with a rubber spatula til just incorporated then scrape down sides of bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to proof at room temperature til doubled in size - about 12-14 hours.

Spread 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil a rimmed baking sheet (46 x 33cm / 8 x 13 inch). Tip proofed dough out onto it with a spatula or just use your hand. Pour an additional 2 tablespoons olive oil over dough and use your hands to gently spread to fill sheet by placing your hands underneath and pulling outward. The dough will shrink back so you may need to keep gently shaping it over a half hour period. Just once or twice.

Use the middle three fingers of your hand at an angle to dimple the dough evenly over its surface. Make brine by combining the water and salt and pour liquid over dough to fill dimples. Leave to proof (cover with plastic rather than a tea towel to avoid the liquid soaking into the cloth and not the dough) for 45 minutes. At the thirty minute mark, adjust rack to centre position in oven and preheat to 450 deg F / 235 deg C. If you have a baking stone, place it on the rack or just invert another baking tray upon the rack and allow to heat up with oven.

Sprinkle foccacia with flaky salt and bake for 25-30 minutes directly on top of stone/inverted tray til bottom is crisp and golden brown (use a metal spatula to check). To finish browning top, place foccacia on upper rack and bake for 5-7 minutes more.

Remove from oven and drizzle over 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, allowing it to pool in the wells created by your fingers. It will be absorbed as it cools. After five minutes, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Leftovers (should there be any) are excellent toasted the next day.

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