Wednesday 22 January 2014

Breaking Bread With Foccacia Caprese


My love affair with baking breads started almost 20 years back when, as a newly wed, I took baking classes to enhance my non-existent cooking skills. These classes were held for the army wives by Mrs. Kikky Sihota, an extremely talented lady,  who won us over not only by her charisma and magnetic personality but also her exceptional baking skills. An alumni of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, she introduced us to the wonderful, magical world of breads and roulades, tarts, pies, pastries and quiches something which I had only read about in magazines earlier. She has been a great inspiration to me to learn and enjoy baking and I will always remain thankful to her for that.  Recently Mrs.Kikky Sihota has also published two cookery books, "The Ultimate Army Cookbook: The Memsahib Cooks" and the "Continental Cuisine" which would be an excellent addition to one's cookbook collection.
After a couple of short courses my interest in continental cuisine and baking grew and I tried to gather more experience by buying books and trying out new recipes. Of course, it helped that at that time, my husband was posted in Mhow where I had ample opportunities to practice my skills (read experiments) on friends and bachelors who were always ready to oblige to becoming guinea pigs for my food trials.
Many moons later, my interest in baking still remains strong and I am always looking for opportunities where I can expand my learning skills in this area. Recently on Facebook, I came across this interesting group, We Knead To Bake, a baking group run by Aparna Balasubramanium, in which every member has to bake the shared recipe of one yeast bread every month and then post the pictures and share their experiences. Seeing it as an excellent opportunity to learn some great new stuff, I jumped right in and joined the group. 
This month's recipe that we all had to bake was Foccacia Caprese and this also happens to be my first post with this group.
I had recently made an Olive and Rosemary Foccacia but what I liked about Aparna's recipe was the generous use of herbed oil on the bread which yielded in a softer, more flavourful bread. Also the use of tomatoes lend an extremely fresh taste which was really appealing to my taste buds. Unfortunately I did not have fresh basil, so I substituted it with dried basil leaves. I also sprinkled some dried Rosemary to add in some extra flavor.
Go ahead and try it out. It is real comfort food along with a nice hot bowl of soup.

Focaccia Caprese is nothing but a basic Focaccia dough topped Caprese style. "Caprese" refers to something that comes from or is in the style of Capri, an island off the Italian coast near Naples. Capri is famous mostly for its villas, grottos and jutting limestone towers, and also for the salad named after it – “InsalataCaprese” whose signature is fresh tomatoes, basil and fresh buffalo mozzarella (Mozzarella di Buffala).
This means that the topping of the Focaccia Caprese is sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, in addition to the usual olive oil and herbs that are typically used in this flatbread.
Though it is fresh mozzarella that is the best in this Focaccia, if one cannot find it like in my case, then one must use whatever one has on hand. I used regular mozzarella that I use on my Pizza, and you can also use any other “melty” cheese if you have no choice.The Focaccia is usually served either as a light snack, can be made into sandwiches or be served with a soup or salad to make a meal.

Recipe Source: Aparna from My Diverse Kitchen
Original recipe adapted from The Kitchen Whisperer 

For the Dough:
2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
3 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water
A little more olive oil for brushing dough
For the Topping:
4-5 tomatoes, sliced thin
1 cup mozzarella cheese, grated (you can use fresh Mozzarella cheese if available)
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
For the Herbed Oil:
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
1/2 tsp finely minced garlic
Salt to taste
Fresh basil leaves for garnishing

First make the herbed oil
Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together. Keep aside till required.
The dough can be mixed and kneaded by hand or machine. 
Put the yeast, sugar flour, salt and oil in the bowl of the processor and pulse a couple of times to mix well. 
Then add 1 cup of warm water (and as much more as you need) and knead until you have a soft elastic dough that is just short of sticky.
Remove the dough from the processor bowl, shape into a round and place in a well oiled bowl turning the dough around so it is coated.
Cover and let it rise till almost double in volume. This should take about an hour.
You can make this as 2 medium sized Focaccia or 4 smaller ones. 
For the rectangular Focaccia, take two rectangular pans/ jelly or Swiss roll pans (I used an 11" by 7" tins)and oil them well. 
Then divide the dough into two equal portions and lightly roll them (or press out) out into approximately 11” by 7”. 
If making 4 Focaccia, then divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Roll each portion out (or press out) evenly into approximately 5” by 7”. It alright if it’s an odd shape because Focaccia is really a “rustic” bread.
Transfer the dough to the baking tins. The dough will shrink a little. Use your fingers and push it out a bit making sure it’s evenly thick throughout. 
Let it rise for 20 minutes. 
Lightly oil your finger tips and press into the dough creating evenly spaced “dimples” in it. Generously brush the surface with oil.
Bake at 210C (410F) for about 18 to 20 minutes till it is almost done and is beginning to turn golden brown. Take the Focaccia out and turn up the heat of your oven to 230C (450F).
Lightly drizzle some of the Herbed Oil over the Focaccia and then evenly arrange some slices of mozzarella over the bread, leaving very little space between them. 
Arrange the tomato slices over this and a little sprinkle the chopped basil over this. The topping should cover most of the surface of the bread.
Drizzle some more Herbed Oil over the topping and return the bread to the oven. 
Bake the Focaccia for 5 to 8 minutes or until the cheese has just melted. 
Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh basil leaves.
Cut the Focaccia into slices and serve while it is still hot. 
This recipe should serve 4 if served alone or 6 if served with a side.

1 comment:

  1. What an interesting story you shared with your bread. So much love for baking!! I love baking with We knead to bake! It's been a fun journey this past year.

    Great looking bread.