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Thursday, 11 February 2016

Baking Focaccia with a Sourdough Starter (alternatives given)

We are mostly familiar with Focaccia being a pizza without the toppings in South Africa. Really it is a very delicious yeast bread that is served flat, like pizza, flavoured with toppings of your choice, but recognizably without the melted cheese indulgence. In today's blog I show you how to use your sourdough starter to bake this Italian delicacy as a perfect side dish. I give tips for using alternative raising agents as well, if you do not have a sourdough starter ready.

Start by adding 6 cups (6 x 250 ml) white bread flour to a large mixing bowl.

Add a teaspoon (5 ml) salt.

Add 2 teaspoons (10 ml) of dried parsley.
Option 1: If you are using instant yeast, you should add a packet to the dry ingredients.

Add 1 teaspoon (5 ml) paprika. Mix all the dry ingredients so it is evenly distributed.

Add two cups (500 ml) of your sourdough starter to the bowl.

Add 1/4 cup (65 ml) olive oil to the bowl.

Add a tablespoon (12,5 ml) sugar. I used brown sugar, but white will work equally well.

Add two cups (500 ml) lukewarm water.
Option 2: If you are using active dry yeast, you should dissolve a packet in the lukewarm water and sugar. Let it sit for 15 minutes to develop before adding it the dough.

Bring everything together by mixing it through. If it is too dry, add water at a teaspoonful at a time. If it is too wet, add a little bit of flour at a time.

You will need to get your hands in there, unless you are using an electric mixer.

Once the dough has come together, lightly flour your working surface. Knead the dough for about 15 minutes until it become elastic.

Return the dough to the bowl.

Cover with plastic and allow it to rise to double it's size.

When the dough has risen, knock it back, and knead for another 5 minutes. Then divide the dough into two equally sized balls.

At this moment, I had some helpers who arrived and they could not believe how much fun it was to 'knead' the sticky dough.

I used the opportunity to prepare two baking sheets with non-stick spray and a thin dusting of flour.

 With the kids taken out of the dough ;-), I kneaded it properly and placed the balls on the baking sheets.

Flatten the balls out with the palms of your hands.

Rub some olive oil onto the dough.

Cover with plastic and allow it to rise in a warm dry place.

Once it starts to rise, poke some large holes into the dough.

Cover again, and leave to rise to double it's size.

Once the dough is fully risen, preheat an oven to 200°C.

Your choice of toppings depend entirely on yourself, but traditionally Focaccia gets only one or two toppings. I start with a sprinkling of crushed garlic.

I then sprinkle some roughly chopped onions on top.

A generous sprinkling of olive oil follows this.

This is followed by salt.

You can add any salt, but I chose this Black Sea Salt to add a little colour to mine.

It is important to sprinkle water over the dough to prevent it from forming a hard crust on top.

At the last minute I decided to sprinkle some dried rosemary on top as well.

Bake for about 15 minutes in your preheated oven. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with water again. Continue baking for about 10 more minutes. Total baking time is therefore 25 minutes at 200°C.

When baked, allow it to cool on a wire rack.

Serve hot. (Reheat in a 200°C oven for about 10 minutes, if you have leftovers the next day. But how about sprinkling some grated Cheddar over it before reheating?)

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Remember to keep nurturing your TALENT for making PRETTY things.
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