There’s nothing like a challenge to get you going. Angie (The Novice Gardener), who already hosts the lovely Fiesta Friday link party, is throwing a monthly cooking challenge. The first one is to cook/bake something with both yeast and herbs. The obvious choice is some kind of bread, though I am very excited to see what the other participants have come up with.
I decided on focaccia. It has been on my ever-growing list of must-try-at-home recipes for a long time now. We get freshly baked jalapeno and cheese focaccia from a nearby Farmer’s Market store. They make them in individual 6-inch sizes. So cute and so delicious. What? A six-inch bread is not individual size? I can’t hear you! The focaccia from the store is not too thick, which I love. It has the right amount of chewiness and the edges are slightly crisped.
Baking bread is always an adventure for me. I don’t know what I’ll end up with, till the bread comes out of the oven. Most recipes I found online claimed that an authentic focaccia must be drenched in olive oil before baking. I decided to cut down on the amount used and instead infuse the oil with garlic. I used this recipe as the base for my focaccia and developed on it.
Before baking, I topped the dough with tomatoes, parsley and paneer or Indian cottage cheese. The fact that I have my own parsley plant now (yay!) sort of sealed the deal. Do I get extra points for growing my herbs too, Angie? In fact, there is chopped parsley in the dough too. How awesome is that?!!
I also wanted to show off a neat trick I learned for crumbling firm store-bought paneer. Just use your electric chopper. No grating, no dicing and chopping. Just cut off large chunks of paneer and push a button. Okay, maybe you knew that already, but I have my “aha!” moments. So bear with me!
The minute the dough came together in the mixing bowl, my heart sank. It seemed too tough. But once I started kneading it, the dough yielded and after resting for a little while, it rose beautifully. I had fun poking at the shaped dough with my fingertips. I will tell you why it is done in just a minute.
Once topped and baked to golden perfection, it was time to try a slice.
It was perfectly springy, with a nice crust on the bottom and sides. Each slice had a piece of tomato, some parsley and paneer on it. I served the bread with a mango-chili dip (from the store and not home-made, sorry). It was absolutely delicious!
FOCACCIA BREAD WITH TOMATO, PARSLEY & COTTAGE CHEESE (approximately 10″x9″ size)
You will need:
- Active dry yeast – 1 tbsp
- Sugar – 1 tsp
- Very warm water – 1 cup (not boiling, around 110 deg.F)
- Oil – 4 tbsp + a little extra for brushing (olive oil is best, you can use vegetable oil too)
- Garlic – 4 pods, crushed or chopped
- All purpose flour – 2 3/4 cups + a little extra for dusting
- Salt – 1 tsp + a little extra for sprinkling on the toppings
- Dried oregano – 1/2 tsp
- Black pepper powder – a pinch
- Fresh flat leaf parsley – a small handful
- Tomato – 1, thinly sliced
- Paneer or cottage cheese – 1 cup, crumbled
- Proof the yeast by mixing yeast and sugar in a cup of warm water. Mix well and allow to foam for 5-10 minutes.
- While the yeast does it’s thing, let us infuse the oil with garlic. Add the garlic to 4 tbsp oil and warm it till heated. You can easily do this in the microwave for 30-40 seconds or till you get a nice garlicky smell.
- On to the dough now. In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, dried oregano, black pepper powder and a few chopped parsley leaves (reserve some for topping the bread). Whisk well to combine. Add the yeast mixture and 2 tbsp of the garlic-infused oil and mix well. The dough will start to come together. Just when it forms a sticky mass, dump it onto a clean and floured surface. Knead well till is soft and elastic, around 5-8 minutes.
- Coat a bowl lightly with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning it so that every surface is coated completely with the oil (to prevent the dough from drying out). Cover with a damp towel and let it rise in a warm place for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 450 deg.F and prepare a baking pan or rimmed baking sheet with foil.
- Once the dough is risen, punch it down and turn it out on to the baking sheet. Shape it into a flat bread of 1/2 inch thickness. Make dimples or indentations all over with your fingertips and brush with the rest of the garlic oil. The indentations will help the dough to absorb the oil effectively. Cover with a damp towel and rest the dough for a further 20 minutes.
- After 20 minutes, top the dough with sliced tomatoes, torn parsley leaves and crumbled paneer. Lightly sprinkle more salt on top. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove and cool slightly on a wire rack. Serve warm with a dipping sauce of choice or have it as such.
- You can add any kind of herbs to the dough. I used dried oregano and fresh parsley. You can also use thyme, rosemary or a combination of your favorite herbs. The same goes for the topping as well. Olives, spiced eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms and peppers would work well.
- This is a quick focaccia bread recipe with very little rising time. More traditional recipes require almost 18-24 hours of resting time for the dough.
- This particular recipe is best served fresh. If you are planning to keep it overnight, make sure to add the paneer crumbs just before serving and re-heat the slices gently.
- Focaccia is good with just a light brushing of oil and sprinkling of sea salt on top. This way, it can be a simple bread to eat with soups, salads and pasta.
Nothing better than freshly-baked bread, don’t you think?
I really hope you try this recipe and let me know how you liked it.
Also, take look at my recipe for a simple white bread for tips on kneading, resting and shaping the dough.
Here is a recipe for delicious homemade pizza, from scratch.
I am linking this up to Fiesta Friday Challenge #1.
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