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A tale of two breads

July 12, 2011

A couple of weekends ago, for the first time ever, I tried to make bread. TRIED being the operative word here.

First, I attempted brioche buns. I love brioche buns – light, puffy, sweet and buttery;  and was especially inspired by the fantastic paprika brioche mini loaves I had at Viajante. I suppose it was my mistake for not having read up properly on how the dough should end up feeling and looking, before I baked them. The little balls of dough ended up looking more like lumpy scones than a smooth soft bun.

I spent most of Sunday morning miserable from my failed attempt and decided to stuff myself silly with dimsum for lunch 😛 . Tummy full and in a better mood, I decided to have a go at another bread – focaccia bread to be exact.

Thankfully the focaccia turned out light and filled the whole kitchen with the aroma of herbs. I don’t think I was kneading the dough (by hand) properly as it took me an hour before I achieved a ‘non-sticky’ ball of dough. I’m currently reading Leith’s Baking bible to improve my technique and hope to share this along with a successful brioche bun recipe. In the mean time, here’s the recipe for the olive and thyme focaccia bread. If you’ve never made bread before, please try it – there is so much satisfaction cutting into your own handmade bread.

For the dough
430g plain flour
1 tbsp dried thyme
7g dried yeast
2 tsp table salt
1 tsp caster sugar
300ml warm water
1 tbsp olive oil

For the topping
12-15 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp Maldon sea salt

How to make your focaccia bread

  1. In a large bowl, combine flour, thyme, yeast, salt and sugar. Stir to combine. Drizzle with the water and the olive oil and stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky. This is supposed to take 10 minutes with a freestanding electric mixer and dough hook but I took an hour kneading by hand.
  2. Shape the dough into a ball and place into a lightly oiled large bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
  3. Lightly oil a heavy cookie sheet. Turn the dough onto it and press gently to deflate. Shape into an oval about 2cm thick – the oval will be about 25cm (10in) long. Lightly brush the dough with olive oil and loosely cover the surface directly with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise again in a warm spot until puffed and almost double, about 20 minutes.
  4. Preheat the oven to 220°C.
  5. Remove the plastic wrap from the dough. Lightly coat your middle 3 fingertips with flour and press into the dough down (but not through) the bottom. Repeat this dimpling all over the dough. Scatter the olive pieces over the surface, pressing them into the dimples. Drizzle the dough evenly with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with the thyme and the coarse salt.
  6. Bake until the top of the focaccia is golden and browned, 25-30 minutes. Remove from the pan and, using a large metal spatula, transfer the focaccia to a wire rack, drizzle with the remaining ½ tablespoon of olive oil. Serve warm.

Makes 1 large focaccia

Tip: By all means, use other herbs like rosemary or oregano in place of the thyme. Fresh herbs will obviously taste and smell better but I only had dried thyme at home.

Another delicious recipe adapted from the Technicolor Kitchen

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