|Mel and Sue (Picture credit: BBC)|
I happened to catch the bread episode a few weeks ago as this is probably the element of baking that interests me the most (I'm not a great cake or patisserie maker). When I stopped full-time work to have my son, I decided that one thing I would do while I was at home was learn how to make bread properly. It took awhile to perfect my loaf, but after some experimenting and tinkering - and the purchase of a heavy-duty Kitchenaid food mixer - I arrived at what I considered to be a pretty damn fine method resulting in an Italian-style loaf. Now bread making is just something I do each week, like practising the piano and teaching other people's kids how to play the piano. It's second-nature, and I rarely measure anything. I use the same method for any kind of loaf, unless I am making something really special, like Stollen, which requires a little more attention.
|Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry|
I tend not to put fancy toppings on my focaccia: the most fancy you're likely to get in my house is chopped fresh rosemary, or some black olives, or occasionally sun-dried tomatoes. I usually top it off with olive oil and Maldon sea salt.
When I was in Italy recently, I watched the cafe owner in Molini put the finishing touches to her focaccia (sea salt and sesame seeds, which is Ligurian style, apparently) before taking the big trays of bumpy dough up to the village bakery. There was one 'secret' thing she did to the dough, which I am not prepared to reveal until I have tried it myself, but the clue is steam - and not the tray of boiling water in the bottom of the oven, as Paul Hollywood recommends (which does work to produce a good crust).
You can get Paul Hollywood's recipe from the BBC website here (downloads as a PDF file). I don't use sachets of dried use, as I prefer Dove's Farm Quick Yeast (use 1 tsp to 500g strong white bread flour), and I make my bread entirely in the food mixer, except for the knocking back after proving, and shaping. You need a large, shallow baking tray for focaccia as the loaf should not be too deep. In Liguria, you sometimes see focaccia with a tomato, garlic and olive topping, but more often than not, it is kept simple, with oil and salt.