Saturday, May 10, 2008

Focaccia Failures

Focaccia – that delicious Italian bread seasoned and soaked in olive oil. Last weekend we tried to create that authentic taste, and I rediscovered that I have (at least) one serious culinary weakness – baking! I ended up with a crisp flat hard crust, with a delicious topping, whereas my friend Øyvind succeeded in how to make the real thing, light and tasty.

Baking is serious chemistry. Good bakers have the same intuition on quantities and ingredients as good cooks. They know how the ingredients interact and how to make them do what you want. I tried to follow a simple recipe. It said, flour, olive oil, salt, herbs. Looking back, the ultimate failure was the fact that I did not read the recipe. I took all the ingredients in one bowl and started working them together. As it soon became obvious that the ingredients did not act the way they were supposed to, then I sat down to read the recipe. It said something like “add half the olive oil (20 cl) to the flour, then use enough water to create a light dough. Use the second half to drizzle on top.”

Water? Where the hell did the water come from?

I did not use water and even though I pressed the dough into an oven tray, creating kind of a pizza crust shape, it ended up with a biscuit texture and it tasted flour.

My friend Øyvind knew better. He found another recipe, stating that foccacia was made more or less from the same dough used for pizza and white bread; he made his focaccia with yeast and hardly any oil – and water, then drizzled olive oil, Parmigiano, herbs, and salt on top. No failures there.

Through that process we found quite a few, highly different recipes for focaccia. The commonsense here is – know your ingredients, use water, use oil on top – and not in dough, and add yeast! Then you are in for a focaccia feast and not a focaccia failure.

Bon Apetito!!

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