Mid-20s Malaise

Struggling against the inevitable since 1986!

Recipe: Olive and rosemary focaccia

While I’m on a cooking-and-blogging bender, I thought I’d share this focaccia recipe. It comes courtesy of my friend Ellie, who bought it to a pot-luck dinner party at a friend’s place. I’ve always been quite confident in the kitchen, especially when it comes to baking, but I’ve always been a bit scared of breads, for some reason. I did once make a fairly successful Irish soda bread, but that’s not a real bread: it’s made with bicarb instead of yeast, so it’s basically a savoury cake.

Anyway, my fears were mislaid. This recipe is so easy. It’s a bit time-consuming, because the dough needs to rise three times, but that gives you time to clean up after yourself (or so my mother would have me believe). It’s tasty, versatile, and very impressive when you bring it to a dinner party. (I know, I was one of those impressed individuals.) Furthermore, it’s so satisfying to make something like this. It always seemed like the kind of thing I’d buy, its manufacture beyond my abilities, but I’ve mastered it! I often serve it to accompany my veggie meatballs, or devour it greedily on its own.

Olive and rosemary focaccia

1 1/3 cups grated or mashed potatoes (Don’t add butter or milk or the stuff that you add when serving mashed potato as a side – just boil them, peel them and grate or mash them. I’ve tried it with grated and mashed, and it makes no difference to the resulting texture.)
1 tsp dried yeast
2 tbsp olive oil (+ 2 tbsp for oiling the bowl and pan)
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups plain flour
fresh rosemary, kalamata olives, whatever you want, really: this would be nice  topped with finely sliced sweet potato, for example

Make sure your potatoes are ready to go before making the starter. Just combine the yeast with 1/2 cup of the flour and 1/2 cup of very warm water. Whisk it with a fork, cover it and set it aside in a warm place. (It’s winter and I live in a draughty apartment, so I put my oven on for a few minutes, turn it off and then put the bowl in there.) After 20 minutes, it will have started to bubble and look like this.

Add another 1/2 cup of warm water, 2 tbsp olive oil, the mashed potato, the salt and the remaining 3 cups of flour. Your arms are going to get a workout at this point! Once it’s all combined and looks doughy, transfer it to a floured surface i.e. a bread board dusted and rubbed with flour. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and elastic. (I don’t know what kneading really is. I just punch and drop and massage and throw the dough around on the board. You’ll probably need to reflour the board a couple of times during this process.)

When you can roll the dough into a large ball without it sticking to your fingers, put 1 tbsp olive oil in the bowl then add the dough ball. Roll it around to coat it with oil, then put it somewhere warm for 20 minutes or so to rise again.

Oil a baking tray a further 1 tbsp olive oil. Once the dough has doubled in size, put it in the tray and push it to the corners. Let it rise again (!!!) and, when it’s fluffy, poke your fingers all over it, making little dents. Sprinkle it with sea salt and rosemary, stud it with the olives and you’re good to go!

Whack it in a 220 degree oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Let it cool, flip it out, slice it up and guzzle it like the greedy guts you are.


Filed under: food,

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