Monday, 21 July 2008

Sage focaccia

It’s about time I finally got round to posting about the herby breads I made before I went away last week. As I mentioned, I was given some free sage, rosemary and thyme when we went to the Birmingham Taste Festival last week (yes, I noticed the Simon and Garfunkel song in there too -watch this space). With only a couple of days’ potential cooking time before going away for a week, I went mad baking as many different herby breads as I could. This is actually the last one I made that night: sage focaccia, made for a lunch with The Scientist’s parents the next day.

I'd already made three breads by the time I got to this one and I was somewhat weary, so I tried out an overnight rise in the fridge. It worked really well and had the added advantage that the bread could come straight out of the oven for lunch. That’s got to be worth some daughter-not-in-law points, right? I’m so used to being careful with getting the water you add to the yeast warm enough to activate it that it didn’t seem right that rising could happen at such a low temperature, but I suppose it’s because the yeast has already been activated before it goes in the fridge. Anyway, it worked a treat, and I just let it sit on the counter for a while to return to room temperature the next day before shaping and baking it.

The recipe for this bread was a mixture of two Nigella recipes from How to Be a Domestic Goddess. I based it on her schiacciata with gorgonzola and pine nuts because I liked it that it used some ‘00’ flour which was a bit different from the other breads I’d been mixing, but got inspiration for the focaccia style from her garlic and parsley hearthbreads. Somehow a schiacciata/hearthbread cross became a focaccia in my mind, which I imagine just shows I don't know one flat bread from another :) All it took was a bit of stirring up, an overnight stay in the fridge, and then some pulling and shaping the next day. The other focaccia I’ve made recently was a potato one from the Wednesday Chef (and in fact I made this again with rosemary on the top as part of my bread marathon). I really liked that one but The Scientist found it a bit doughy in the middle and that happened again this time even though I was alert to it. The Nigella version (which doesn’t use potato) was crispy all the way through and I was happy to serve it to guests (even ones who aren’t obliged to like me because I live with their son!). We ate it with spinach and thyme soup and some salad out on the deck. The bread was pleasantly thick without being too chewy and the sage gave it a really nice aroma. I love the feel of fresh sage, with its lovely velvety leaves. It’s almost a shame to cook with it but I suppose the leaves wouldn’t stay velvety for long in the fridge!

The rosemary potato focaccia - for comparison!

Sage focaccia (schiacciata/hearthbread, whatever) adapted from Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess

350g strong white flour
150g plain flour, preferably Italian 00
7g/1 sachet instant yeast or 15g fresh
2 tsp salt
300-400 ml warm water
3 tbsp olive oil
handful of sage leaves
Red onion, chopped into thin slivers

Combine the flours, yeast and salt in a bowl. Pour 300ml of the warm water into a measuring jug and stir in the 2 tbsp olive oil. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and mix to form a soft but firm dough, adding more water as necessary.

Now start kneading until smooth, supple and 'full of elastic life'. Form into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise for an hour or so until doubled in size - or overnight in the fridge.

If you've let it rise in the fridge, take it out and let it come back to room temperature before shaping. Now sit it in a roasting tin and press to fit, letting it rest for a few minutes if it looks as if it's never going to stretch to all four corners (it will). Cover the dough with a tea towel and preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7. After 30 mins or so, the dough should be puffy and ready to be topped.

Poke your fingers all over the dough to dimple it and scatter torn sage leaves and onion over the top. Bake ten minutes, then reduce the heat to 190C/Gas 5 and cook for a further 15-25 mins until it's golden brown. Remove from the tin and cut into big slices

Other topping ideas: other fresh herbs, garlic (roasted and smushed, if you like), or mashed up gorgonzola and pine nuts, as Nigella suggests.


Johanna said...

looks delicious - I like the idea of leaving the dough in the fridge overnight - haven't done this before as, like you, I think I have trouble believing it will work - and can you clarify what 00 flour is - does this mean quite a light cake or all-purpose flour?

Lysy said...

Hi Johanna! It seems weird doesn't it, but it really does work!

00 flour is the sort you use to make pasta, and Nigella quite often uses it in pastry as well. Apparently it's made from coarsely ground durum wheat, and holds it shape well. According to a website I just found in Italy pasta flour is commonly known as semolina, but we do get that here too, so I'm not absolutely certain if it's the same thing. Not sure if that helped at all!

LisaRene said...

Oh, Lovely Focaccia! As you may have noticed bread is one of my very favorite foods to eat :) Love the addition of the fresh herbs in both loaves, they not only add to the flavor but make the focaccia look extremely appealing!

I'm certain you scored some points with the Scientists parents with the lovely lunch you prepared. How nice to have the chance to show of your cooking and baking skills.