Saturday, 24 November 2012
Flippin' Fabulous Focaccia! - Focaccia Con Pancetta e Cipolle, of Focaccia with Crispy Pancetta and Onions
I am so loving making bread at the moment. I really can't put my finger on why but I out of all the cooking disciplines that might exist, making and baking a loaf of bread gives a real boost to this person's culinary ego and, cliche ridden though it may be, it's hard not to feel some sort of heart warming emotion as you carefully remove your loaf from the oven, all risen and golden and smelling just divine. If you're anything like me you are nicking a bit off the side with a knife before it is even cool enough to eat, but that's bread for you. It's the staff of life and if you are not on one of those carb free diets, (perish the thought!) then bread makes you extraordinarily happy.
Regular readers of this blog may know that some of my recent bread making exploits have come from 'Italian Home Baking' by Gino D'Acampo and this is also one of his wonderful recipes. I had intended to just make his Gorgonzola and walnut rolls but a flick over a few pages and this recipe was just 'speaking' to me. What the hell, I'll make both. So I did. I am sure the rolls will make an appearance in a blog near you sometime soon, for they were also gorgeously tasty and sustained me this week by being dunked into soup whilst on my lunch break. But more of them another time.
I think this is the best bread I have made in a long time. I think, on occasion, my bread is sometimes a little doughy but I am still very much a novice and I know that there is so much nurturing and cajoling needed to produce a decent loaf. This one though had an amazing texture, heavier than anything you might buy at the supermarket but not oppressively so. I think 'satisfying' is the word I am looking for. The addition of the bacon and the onion was to die for. My mum used to make cheese and onion bread in terracotta pots (no wonder I am deranged) and the way that the sweet sauteed onion almost melts into the bread is seriously divine. Amazingly good. And even when the bread is no longer warm it is a joy to eat. I spread some soft cheese on it and I was happy all over again.
Make this bread. It's 'buonissimo!' And Lola and Finn were crazy for it too.
Focaccia con Pancetta e Cipolle, or Focaccia with Crispy Pancetta and Onions, from 'Italian Home Baking' by Gino D'Acampo
Serves about 10 if you've a crowd coming round.
2 tbsp salted butter
250g diced pancetta
1 large onion, finely chopped
7g fast action yeast (one of those sachets, basically)
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for brushing
300ml of warm water
2 tsp fine salt
1 tbsp sea salt
Start by brushing a large baking tray and a bowl with oil.
Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry off the pancetta and onions. This should take about 10 minutes. You could of course do this whilst the dough is rising, if you are of a mind to.
Sift the flour into a large bowl (not the oiled one) and stir in the yeast. Make a well in the centre and pour in three tablespoons with the water (actually, I just added the oil to the water and then poured it in) then add the fine salt and bring the mixture together with a wooden spoon until well combined.
Transfer the mixture to a floured surface and begin to knead the dough. Knead for about 10 minutes and by then you should have a smooth, soft and elastic dough. if the dough is still sticky, then add a little more flour.
Once kneaded, mould the dough into a dome shape, tucking the ends in underneath as much as possible. Place the dough into the oiled bowl and brush the top with oil. Cover with cling film and then leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or so until it doubles in size. Mine took an hour and 15 minutes.
Slide the dough onto the oiled baking tray and work the onion and pancetta mixture into the dough as evenly as you can.
Use your fingertips to make indentations into the dough and at the same time flatten and shape the dough into an oval shape which is about 3cm thick. Leave to rise again for about 40 minutes or so until the dough has doubled in size once more.
Preheat the oven to 220c. Gas 7.
Once the dough has risen, make some more indentations into the top and then drizzle the remaining olive oil over it. Sprinkle with the sea salt.
Bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes until golden all over. (A confession - I did this, and the top was golden and evidently cooked, but the bottom was a bit soggy. I flipped the focaccia over and put it back into the oven for about five minutes and everything was just fine. You are obviously a better baker than me and you won't need to do this...)
Serve warm. We, being an unsophisticated lot, had this with lasagne and we dunked it into the tomatoey, meaty, cheesy mixture. With what was left over the next day, we spread cheese on it, dunked it in minestrone soup - and it was all good.