Recently I have been outfoxed by focaccia. Enthusiastically I set my sights on creating the salty, doughy, Mediterranean bread but round one went badly.
It resembled concrete in weight, consistency and flavour – olive oil and balsamic could not salvage the disastrous attempt.
Frustration took me to forums where I have been on an educational foccacia making journey and I now understand there are oodles of reasons for poor results. Many stem from having the instincts to know if your dough is ready and so here are two great tests I picked up to try whilst baking any breads:
“Knowing when you have kneaded enough”
Two helpful tests for knowing if your bread is ready for baking:
- The windowpane test – Knowing when you’ve kneaded your bread enough, after 5 minutes of arm action the dough will start to have a stretchy consistency. This is the time to test – take a small piece of dough and gently spread your fingers and thumbs apart, stretching the dough into a thin translucent membrane (ie, a windowpane). If it tears easily, just continue kneading and try the test again until you reach the desired results. Thekitchn has a great step by step explanations.
- The Punch-In Test. When you’ve given the dough what you think is the proper amount of time in final rise or proofing, poke the dough very gently with your finger, going in about 1/4 to 3/8 inch / 6 to 10 mm and then withdraw your finger. If the dough pushes back out very slowly, you probably have a properly risen dough. Just for a frame of reference, perform the test when you first put the dough down for rising and watch the dough spring back fairly quickly. If the dough is fully risen, it will barely spring back at all.
Other reasons discovered where;- my yeast had died (how utterly sad), my room wasn’t warm enough and the effects of over and under proving. Baking 911 has a comprehensive list of bread problems & solutions, although for reference, I did find the two tests of more benefit. I tested everything out on the following recipe…
Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia recipe
- 500g strong white flour
- 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
- 350ml lukewarm water (maybe more maybe less)
- 5 tbsp x olive oil
- 2 x red onion, thinly sliced
- Handful rosemary sprigs (get rid of thick stalks)
- 1 tsp x sea salt flakes
How long will it take to make focaccia:
- Preparation time : 1 hour
- Cooking time: 30 mins
How to bake focaccia
1. Ingredients in one bowl – Put the flour, salt & dried yeast into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in 3 tbsp of the olive oil and warm water – do this gradually mix the flour into the oil and water (hands or wooden spoon) to make a soft dough (I found it was a tad sticky, but workable).
2. Time to knead the dough – Get ready for arm ache…10 mins is & was tough going. Pop the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and work it for around 10 minutes– recipes suggest you’re looking for smooth and elastic.
Keep the dough moving by turning, punching and folding it to prevent it from sticking
4. Knocking, stretching, greasing & poking – Knock back the dough by tipping it back onto a floured surface and pushing the air out.Grease the baking sheet, stretch, pull, push the dough onto the greased backing tray.
Poke dimples into the dough then leave it alone again – more rise & shine time.
5. Don’t forget to heat the oven – Preheat to 220ºC (gas mark 8)
6. Topping off – Whilst you’re waiting fry off the onion, I sweated them off with a little balsamic & a sprinkling of sugar
7. Ready steady pour and sprinkle – When the dough is ready, pour the remaining olive oil over the bread and sprinkle with the coarse salt, cooked onions and rosemary spring. Press your fingers into the dough to make dimples, drizzle the remaining oil over and scatter over the salt, then bake for 30 mins until golden. Leave to cool, then serve cut or torn into squares.
Experimenting in the kitchen is my way of letting off steam and the more you have a go, and the more you create inedible food, the more determination you have to try again. If you have any other blogs or ideas to share on bread making disasters please share, I’m genuinely interested.