from Kris B.
It’s King Arthur Flour Bakealong week again already! This month’s challenge is Golden Focaccia. In all of my bread baking experience, I have never made focaccia. I always enjoy trying something new so was excited for this challenge.
As I read through the recipe for the Golden Focaccia the first time, I was surprised at how simple this bread really is. The dough calls for minimal ingredients – flour, yeast, olive oil, water, and salt. Like the Classic Baguette that was the June Bakealong Challenge, the Golden Focaccia demands a little bit of forethought in that it uses an overnight starter. This consists of only flour, yeast, and water and can be put together quickly.
I had a plan. My day was scheduled such that I could make the focaccia, homemade spaghetti sauce, and put together a nice salad using ingredients from our garden. I’d photograph the focaccia and then we would sit down to a nice dinner. Note: I had to buy the tomatoes for the spaghetti sauce because all of the beautiful tomatoes that I grew were “claimed” by our resident squirrels just before they were ripe enough to be picked. That aside, my plan was perfect and I even had plenty of time with which to execute it.
We all know what happens when we think that we have fail proof plans…
Let’s just say that I am vying for the job of cook on Noah’s ark because I seem to be, on a regular basis, making recipes for these blog posts two times!
Even having to use canned tomato sauce, the spaghetti sauce was delicious. It’s almost impossible to make a bad green salad so there were no problems there. That leaves the focaccia…It was terrible! Despite cooking it the minimum time suggested by the recipe, my focaccia was way overdone, having a texture more like that of dry toast than the moist chewy consistency that I expected. In trying to troubleshoot, the two things I knew would result in this kind of failure were overcooking and too much flour. My oven cooks “cool.” Most of the time when a range is given for cooking time, I have to leave things in the maximum time and sometimes then some. If the focaccia was overcooked, which it seemed to be, I have to think that was an inaccuracy in the recipe in some way.
With regard to the problem being the use of too much flour, I weigh my flour rather than measuring by volume because this gives a more accurate amount. And, no extra flour is necessary to knead this dough, so I was fairly sure that too much flour wasn’t the issue. Solving my problem was going to take some more thought.
Dinner that night consisted of pasta and salad…no bread!
Not to be defeated, I tried again with the recipe for Golden Focaccia. On my second attempt, I made two changes: I used bread flour instead of all-purpose flour and I cooked the bread only fifteen minutes. Bread flour has a higher protein content and generally yields a higher rise and less crumb. Success! This time was much better! I suspect the reduction in cooking time made the real difference. I probably could have left the focaccia in the oven another minute or two and it would have perhaps gotten a little more crispy, but under no circumstances would I leave it in the oven for the 20-25 minutes as indicated in the recipe!
One other “substitution” that I made to the recipe as written is rather than using dried rosemary, in combination with salt in pepper, to season the focaccia, I used King Arthur Flour’s Pizza Seasoning. Yum!
I’m glad that I gave this recipe a second chance. It is a tasty bread that makes an excellent side to your favorite Italian dish. As we discovered with my second batch, it also makes the perfect snack as the bread disappeared slice by slice from the counter once it was photographed. It would also make great sandwich bread if you are looking for a change.
Speaking of photographing the Golden Focaccia…This was challenging also!
Tracey and I have a running joke about brown food and how much of it there is and how difficult it is to photograph said brown food such that it looks appetizing. Don’t let the name Golden Focaccia fool you. It is brown food! The challenge in photographing it comes in trying to plate the food in such a way that it remains the definite subject of the photo, but the overall photo is not boring. Yes, you can add all kind of props to liven up an image. Often though, in the end the viewer’s eye is drawn to the pretty bowl or vase of flowers rather than the food item itself.
I will be the first to say that my photo of the Golden Focaccia is rather boring. I will also admit that I struggled with exactly how to photograph it. Perhaps I could have used a colored basket liner rather than white. But, had I done that, the image would have been more clearly bisected. I think that might have been distracting. Maybe I would have been better off using a bottle of olive oil in the background instead of the remaining uncut bread. Or maybe some nice green herbs in some water. Here’s the deal…olive oil is also brown(ish). If you happen to have one of those colorful display bottles for your olive oil, it will definitely add a pop of color to your photo…and likely will pull the viewer’s eye away from the bread. The same would be true of green herbs. So there’s the dilemma. And unlike many other photo subjects, food photography cannot really be “saved” with processing. It must look real. It must look edible. Obviously I came up with no real solution to this whole issue with my photo this week, but this second batch tasted delicious!
from Tracey G
I have truly come to love the King Arthur Flour Bakealong Challenge that they present every month. I’m also extremely happy to see that they are continuing it – I was afraid it would only last a year. This month marks the start of a new year of Bakealong Challenges, hard to believe we’ve done it for a year already! It has challenged me and stretched my knowledge and abilities more than I expected! Plus, it’s just downright fun! Yes, there have been frustrations along the way, the first one, off the top of my head, was the Berry Blitz Torte. That one pushed my perfectionist buttons to the breaking point, when in the end, I ended up deciding that the weather was just working too much against me, and it will be one I revisit in the winter, by golly, because I will get it the way I want it! LOL
This month’s KAF Bakealong Challenge, Golden Focaccia is super easy. But it also was a bit of challenge to get “right”. I know that makes it sound ominous, and it’s really not, lol. It IS easy. I just had issues when it came to baking it off. 🙂 There’s also a gluten-free version of the recipe, and I’ll include a link to it at the end of the post!
As Kris stated, the ingredients are simple: flour, yeast, water, salt and olive oil, plus herbs of choice for seasoning it before baking. There is only the one part that makes it something you need to plan ahead for – the overnight starter. It helps jump-start your yeast AND it helps flavor the dough a bit. But it does need to sit for about 14 hours, so plan accordingly.
After you get it all mixed up, there’s a rising time in a bowl for about 30 min. Then, you prepare whatever pan you’ve decided to use, they do list a regular sheet pan, 9×13″ sheet pans or even round cake pans as options. I chose two 9×13″ sheet pans. There are a couple of rising times after you get the dough onto the pan, first one is 30 minutes, second rise is approximately 1 hour. To prepare it to bake, you spritz it with warm water, then drizzle with olive oil. I too chose to use the KAF Pizza Seasoning on one, and the other was the traditional rosemary, salt and pepper.
After it was all spritzed, oiled and seasoned, into the oven it went. And out of the oven it came like a really tasty, light as air – crouton. I overbaked it. It was still lovely, and Jeremy and I pretty much ate both of the breads quickly despite the crunchy texture. I knew then, that it was something I’d likely make quite often, just to have it to nibble on. So, I decided to make it again, and adjust the baking time to see what I ended up with. Second batch was just as tasty, but, I experimented with the baking times – one pan I baked 17 minutes, and the other was 20-21 minutes. I preferred the 20-21 minute version – it had the perfect crunch and chewy texture. But, the bright side of the slightly under-done 17 minute version, is, that it crisps up nicely when reheated in the toaster oven!
All in all, I am so glad for this month’s Bakealong Recipe for Golden Focaccia, it’s something I too have never ever made in my own kitchen, and I am pleased to know how easy it is now to do it. It just seems to be one that you have to mess around with once or twice to get it the way YOU want it to be. And in all honesty, it’s so easy and inexpensive to make that’s not a problem at all, it’s an easy thing to whip up! Just don’t overbake it… LOL
Here’s a link right to the recipe: Golden Focaccia
And if you’re baking gluten-free, they’ve got you covered with a gluten-free version: Gluten Free Focaccia