Fantastic Focaccia

The weather over the past week had made us wonder if we could get home for Christmas. There were all these weather warnings telling us not to travel unless it was absolutely essential.

Essential? This is Christmas. Of course it is essential.

When I got up on Christmas Eve morning and looked out of the bedroom window there was thick, freezing fog and snow

We should be able to manage, we thought….. and after packing the car to the roof with food and general essentials (we were going back to my empty house… with its empty kitchen) we set off.

Christmas traffic wasn’t as bad as the motoring organisations and the police made out.

It was snowy and foggy but everyone else seemed to have paid attention to the warnings and stayed at home. It was probably the fastest time we had ever made it north

You really know you are getting somewhere when you see signs for Scotch Corner.

For a Northerner living in the Midlands (which seems like the Deep South to me) getting to Scotch Corner is the first part of the true north. It always makes me smile because I know I am nearly home.

We arrived back in the village to an empty kitchen… luckily I had packed boxes of food and essential ingredients.

I’d brought olive oil, garlic, eggs, flour, yeast, white truffle balsamic glaze, potatoes, carrots, broccoli, salt, tea bags, coffee, tinned tomatoes, chickpeas and chorizo.

A pork pie made by our butcher, some bacon, cream (single and double), butter, champagne, white, red and rose wine.

Vegetable juice, pomegranate juice, fig molasses, Marmite, Parma ham, leeks, cheeses and pickles. All essentials, as you can see.

I could make anything…. anything but a cup of tea. I’d forgotten  to bring the milk,  so I had to drive to the next village to buy some so we could make a cup of tea. And there was me thinking I had all the essentials covered…….

Thing is, I hadn’t really thought of what we would eat that night. I know we had some left over cold sausages that I had put in a plastic box but we really needed something more than that.

I decided that if I made some foccacia that would help the situation…..

Usual thing… 300g of strong bread flour

7 g of instant yeast, (that’s a teaspoon and a half, I suppose, if you aren’t using the sachets)

Maldon salt

150 ml of warm water

2 tablespoons of olive oil.

Now, I was in a kitchen that I had more or less stripped of equipment, so instead of leaving it to the Kitchen Aid to mix for me, I had to do it myself

Just goes to show how easy it is to make this. One large bowl, a wooden spoon and off you go.

It comes together quickly enough.

A quick squirt of garlic puree wouldn’t go amiss

And then knead it…. dust a board with flour and stretch it, pull it, roll it and fold it.

You will feel it changing in texture… there’s sort of lumps and bumps in the dough at first and then it becomes smoother and silkier.

It’s still not perfect though and you have to let it relax. Only then do you get really good smooth dough.

At this point you have to let it rest and rise. You need to stop it drying out so either cover it in cling film or, do as I do, and put the bowl over it. That keeps the dough moist and stops it forming a crusty outside which is certainly something you don’t want while it is loitering about

It will take maybe half an hour or so

You can feel the difference as well as see it… it is resilient and springy… the lumps have disappeared and it is smooth and silky to touch.

Wipe down the bench and spread some oil on it and then put the dough down.. stretching it into shape with your fingers if you haven’t a rolling pin at hand.

You can see how wonderfully puffy it is becoming.

Heat the oven to 200 degrees C.

It needs to have fingers poked into it to get the dimpled foccacia look and some oil drizzled over it.

And this is when I had the idea…. add bacon!

I snipped two rashers of bacon and scattered the bits over the dough.

Now that is a way to stretch your ingredients. A bacon sandwich would have used those two rashers for one sandwich. This makes it stretch over a lovely big bit of bread….

Then just put the whole thing onto a baking sheet – the oil in the dough will prevent it sticking, so don’t worry if you don’t have one of the incredibly useful silicone sheets

Stretch it out to fit and then just put it in the oven for 15 minutes or so…See? Minimal ingredients, minimal work and the shortest time in the oven.

Waiting those 15 minutes gave me enough time to have a quick wipe down of the benches and open a bottle of wine and pour us both a glass

We sat there, eating garlicky bacon scattered bread, fresh from the oven and sipping a glass of wine.

It was Christmas Eve, the snow was whirling round outside and we had driven hundreds of miles to get back home. We sat on either side of the kitchen table and toasted each other.

Merry Christmas!

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