January 24, 2014

We Knead To Bake #13 : Focaccia Caprese (Focaccia Topped With Tomatoes, Mozarella & Basil)


W

hen I started this group for baking bread, my only thought was that it would be nice to bake with others who loved baking bread as much as I did. Activities of this sort are always more fun when done with others, even if virtually. I never thought we would get to be quite a large group or that we would be baking beyond 2013.
This month, the “We Knead To Bake” group has some new members who have joined to bake with us for the next twelve months. Sometime in November there was an idea that for January, we could bake a bread that the majority of members wanted to bake. We put this idea to the poll, and by popular demand it was decided to to bake Focaccia.
 
 



 I have baked a Focaccia Pugliese before and this time I thought of trying another variation – a Focaccia Caprese. Focaccia is a type of flatbread from Italy, thought to have originated in ancient Greece but now associated with the north eastern part of Italy. Today however, it is a flatbread that is found all over Italy and baked in a variety of ways.
While most of us think (at least I do) think of Focaccia as a savoury flatbread, there is also a sweet variation called the Focaccia Veneta (also called Focaccia Pasquale Veneta , Focaccia Dolce Veneta or the Fugassa Veneta) that is baked in Venetia at Easter time and made with wheat, eggs, butter, sugar and flavours. 
The name Focaccia originates from the ancient Roman “Panis Focacius” which was originally a flatbread that was baked on the hearth.


 
A lot of people feel that the Focaccia is not much different from the Pizza and even go as far thinking it is a kind of square shaped Pizza! However, the Focaccia is different from the Pizza in more than just shape. Traditionally, Focaccia has the topping ingredients kneaded into the dough while Pizza has it on top of the dough.
Also, an Italian Pizza crust is on the thinner side, rarely more than 1/2" thick whereas a Focaccia is at least about 3/4" thick. Focaccia therefore, tends to be “spongier” and softer whereas a Pizza is crisper. A lot of oil into the Focaccia dough after which it is shaped and then more oil is brushed/ drizzled on whereas in a Pizza, oil is not kneaded into the dough and only used on top.
Focaccia maybe served warm or cold (at room temperature) but a Pizza is always served hot and never cold.
In the old days, Focaccia rarely had any toppings except oil and herbs (and garlic as well) for flavour though this has changed. Perhaps this is why there is this confusion between the Focaccia and the Pizza!



 
Focaccia Caprese is nothing but a basic Focaccia dough topped Caprese style. "Caprese" refers to something that comes from or is in the style of Capri, an island off the Italian coast near Naples. Capri is famous mostly for its villas, grottos and jutting limestone towers, and also for the salad named after it – “Insalata Caprese” whose signature is fresh tomatoes, basil and fresh buffalo mozzarella (Mozzarella di Buffala).

This means that the topping of the Focaccia Caprese is sliced tomatoes, mozzarella and basil, in addition to the usual olive oil and herbs that are typically used in this flatbread.
Though it is fresh mozzarella that is the best in this Focaccia, if one cannot find it like in my case, then one must use whatever one has on hand. I used regular mozzarella that I use on my Pizza, and you can also use any other “melty” cheese if you have no choice.



 
If any of you would rather use different toppings, then please go ahead and use whatever you like. You can try using rosemary and potatoes like I did for the Focaccia Pugliese. Just remember two things - that it is a good idea to keep to traditional toppings used on Italian Focaccia for the best results and also to use as few as possible because less is always more.
The Focaccia is usually served either as a light snack, can be made into sandwiches or be served with a soup or salad to make a meal.


Focaccia Caprese
(Adapted from The Kitchen Whisperer 
 

Ingredients:

For the Dough:

2 tsp instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp sugar
3 1/2 cups bread flour*
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup oil (preferably olive oil)
1 to 1 1/2 cups warm water
A little more olive oil for brushing dough

For the Topping:

4-5 larg-ish tomatoes, sliced thin
1 6-7” round piece of fresh buffalo mozzarella, cut into1/4” slices**
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips

For the Herbed Oil:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1/4 to 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
1/2 tsp finely minced garlic/ paste
Salt to taste 

Fresh basil leaves for garnishing 

Note:

* If you cannot find bread flour, you can add 1 tbsp of Vital Wheat Gluten to 3 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and mix together well. Otherwise just use 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour.
**I don’t get fresh buffalo mozzarella where I live. So I used regular mozzarella instead, the kind we use on pizzas. I used the Kodai Diary brand of mozzarella but Amul should do as well. Otherwise, use any “melty/ stringy” kind of cheese you can find.
 

Method:

First make the herbed oil. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together. Keep aside till required.
Then make the dough. The dough can be mixed and kneaded by hand or machine. Put the yeast, sugar flour, salt and oil in the bowl of the processor and pulse a couple of times to mix well. Then add 1 cup of warm water (and as much more as you need) and knead until you have a soft elastic dough that is just short of sticky.
Remove the dough from the processor bowl, shape into a round and place in a well oiled bowl turning the dough around so it is coated. Cover and let it rise till almost double in volume. This should take about an hour.
You can make this as 2 medium sized Focaccia or 4 smaller ones like I did. For the rectangular Focaccia, take two rectangular pans/ jelly or Swiss roll pans (I used an 11" by 7" tins) and oil them well. Then divide the dough into two equal portions and lightly roll them (or press out) out into approximately 11” by 7”. If making 4 Focaccia, then divide the dough into 4 equal portions. Roll each portion out (or press out) evenly into approximately 5” by 7”. It alright if it’s an odd shape because Focaccia is really a “rustic” bread.


 
Transfer the dough to the baking tins. The dough will shrink a little. Use your fingers and push it out a bit making sure it’s evenly thick throughout. Let it rise for 20 minutes. Lightly oil your finger tips and press into the dough creating evenly spaced “dimples” in it. Generously brush the surface with oil.
Bake at 210C (410F) for about 18 to 20 minutes till it is almost done and is beginning to turn golden brown. Take the Focaccia out and turn up the heat of your oven to 230C (450F).
Lightly drizzle some of the Herbed Oil over the Focaccia and then evenly arrange some slices of mozzarella over the bread, leaving very little space between them. Arrange the tomato slices over this and a little sprinkle the chopped basil over this. The topping should cover most of the surface of the bread.



 
Drizzle some more Herbed Oil over the topping and return the bread to the oven. Bake the Focaccia for 5 to 8 minutes or until the cheese has just melted. Remove from the oven and garnish with fresh basil leaves.
Cut the Focaccia into slices and serve while it is still hot. This recipe should serve 4 if served alone or 6 if served with a side.
 
This Focaccia Caprese is being YeastSpotted!

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