My fellow food blogger and new friend Astrid of Paulchen’s Food Blog ?! sent me the link to a fabulous Bread Challenge: Bread Baking Day. This food blog event was originally created by Zorra of Kochtopf AKA 1x Umrühren bitte.
“Your mission, should you choose to accept it….”
This month’s Challenge - #17 - is hosted by Lien of Lien’s Notes, and her challenge for February was BREAD AND POTATOES. I decided that I was up to the challenge.
As you know, I make pizza every Friday with a pretty basic bread recipe. With any and all leftover dough, I throw together a Focaccia, brushed with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and freshly ground pepper. It comes out golden on top, tender and dense inside, the perfect bread for any meal. But over the past few months, Clem has been complaining that my focaccia isn’t “real”, the kind of focaccia we ate in Italy. Well! First of all, I would like to know how he remembers the quality of the focaccia we ate in Italy so well, as we moved when he was 10 years old, and, as far as I know, has not been back these 10 years!
Well, this kind of criticism is hard for me to take. I had noticed a beautiful photo of what appears to be the perfect focaccia hovering over a recipe for Potato Focaccia in my copy of the New York Cookbook by Molly O’Neill. Now, I don’t know if the bread shown in the photo is the result of Ms. O’Neill following the recipe given to her by Maria Behr of Jackson Heights, but “Grandma’s Focaccia” is apparently a true Italian recipe of her Nonnas’. And it contains mashed potatoes. Yes! First Challenge recipe found!
So, I settled on this recipe (tweaking it just a bit) as my first challenge. “Aha,” I thought, “I’ll show Clem!”
REAL ITALIAN POTATO FOCACCIA WITH OLIVES
for one 8" focaccia loaf
2 all-purpose potatoes (I used 2 medium-sized Marabel potatoes)
1 package (about 2 tsps, 7 g) active dry yeast
1 ½ cups (375 ml) warm water (body temperature)
2 Tbs brown sugar
4 cups (about 1 lb, ½ kg) flour
2 tsps salt
2 Tbs olive oil
Green olives (about a teacup full)
Dried oregano, freshly ground black pepper and coarse salt for the top
Peel then boil the potatoes until tender. Drain well, then mash or rice while they are still hot.
Put the sugar and the yeast in a small bowl with the warm water and let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes to dissolve and froth up.
In a large mixing bowl, mix the riced potatoes, salt, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and the yeast mixture until blended. Stir in the flour until it forms a slightly sticky dough.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly, incorporating the olives just until you have a smooth, homogeneous dough and the olives are evenly distributed.
Place on an oiled baking sheet, turning to coat, cover with a clean cloth, and set aside to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. (Don't forget that I doubled the recipe and made two loaves, so if you follow this recipe, you should only form one bread.)
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
Line a baking sheet with a piece of parchment or oven paper. Place the dough on the paper and, with floured hands, gently press the dough out into a circle roughly 8” in diameter (the size of an 8”-square or round pan).
Brush the surface of the dough with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Press more olives into the surface of the bread, sprinkle with dried oregano, coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the top is a deep golden brown, and when you gently lift up one side you see that the bottom is browned as well.
Remove from the oven, slide off of the baking tray onto a cutting board, let cool only slightly. Cut and serve while toasty and warm.
I found this focaccia fantastic: the crust was crispy while the inside was dense, moist and tender. I have to agree with Clem on this; my usually recipe produces a focaccia that is beautiful but much more like a “normal” white bread than this one, which gave a fabulous and special texture. The potatoes also gave the focaccia a wonderful, delicious, tastier flavor than the simple bread usually found on my table.
The Verdict? Simon thought that there wasn’t enough salt, and I do agree with him. I also made the mistake of mashing the potatoes by hand instead of ricing them in my food mill which left some small chunks of cooked potato in the bread, and Simon noticed this (he is anti-chunk). I will most definitely rice the potatoes in the mill the next time (because this was so delicious, that I will make it again and again). All in all, Simon preferred this to the one I usually serve.
Clem gave it the thumbs up. “Well?” I asked. “Is it what you were looking for?” “Closer, mom,” he answered. “It’s pretty close!”
To be continued....