“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.”
Focaccia … bread that comforts. Just simple bread is good enough sometimes. I am constantly torn between my two crusty favourites, the fougasse and the focaccia, both flatbreads that are hearty, chewy, flavourful and earthy. Breads that bring alive words by Robert Browning “If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” Ottolenghis foccacia is one of my all time faves.
I needed to bake something soothing, something therapeutic. I lost a very dear maternal uncle over the weekend. He was the glue that held my mothers side of the family together. Intelligent, largehearted, a disciplinarian, always there, often intimidating, brutally honest, sometimes scathing, but a place we happily headed to year after year to spend two months of the summer vacations. It was routine, and we loved it as kids.
He passed away in Lucknow, the city of the Nawabs, over the weekend. That left a deep void, and restlessness. I knew I had to bake bread. I find comfort in food. It gives me an escape. Bread especially. Getting the dough going, seeing it rise, punching it down and then popping it into a hot oven. Always comforting and therapeutic.
Focaccia is a flat oven-baked Italian bread, which may be topped with herbs or other ingredients. Focaccia is popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil and salt, and sometimes herbs, and may be topped with onion, cheese and meat, or flavored with a number of vegetables.
I remember making a similar focaccia when the tsunami struck Japan. Roasted Garlic Focaccia for the ‘Fukushima 50‘. Those days were devastating even though we were miles away from Japan. The images that rolled over and over again made life look so vulnerable. I had a helpless feeling then and yes, I baked bread.
I added a little whole wheat to the dough this time. The recipe yields two loaves, or two round breads. I baked one for lunch and left the other to slow rise in the fridge. Baked it the next day. Worked fine. I like to flavour the dough. Garlic and herbs are normally part of my dough as I love the depth they lend.
Depending on time on hand, roasted garlic is my first choice. If not, then I throw in some garlic cloves and the Thermomix blends them in with the flour. You can add minced garlic instead. If you love garlic like we do I mean! Else just skip it!!
The rest is pretty much your palette to play with. Once dimpled and looking pretty, give it a glug of extra virgin olive oil. Then dress it up! You can either sprinkle on some fresh herbs and sea salt, or like me, load the bread a wee bit more. I like to add sliced red onions, olives, jalapenos, pickled peppers, cherry tomatoes, even nuts.
I have two Victoria sandwich tins which are perfect for my bread. It’s a nice accommodative dough and the end result is always rewarding. A focaccia sandwich is the perfect answer for any left over bread. Stuff it with balsamic roasted veggies, a relish, cheese, slices of salami. I sometimes grill it too.
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