I’ll be straight up: I went into this disliking this recipe, and maybe because of that, I never really gave it a chance. But to put it simply: I didn’t like making this, and I wasn’t impressed with the end results. I may be in the minority as far as the Dorie bakers are concerned.
But it’s the truth.
Now, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I don’t mind a little bit of hard work in the kitchen. I don’t mind waiting for breads to rise and yeasts to get all yeasty. But I don’t like it when I go through all this work and waiting only to get an uninteresting end product.
I’ve made focaccia before using a “no-fuss” recipe from Tracey’s Culinary Adventures, which she in turn got from King Arthur Flour. And it truly is no-fuss. I’ve made it half a dozen times in the past year, and I’ve come to enjoy how good it is as well as how simple it is. It’s still a yeast bread, and it still needs time to rise, but there are no special instructions regarding slashing bubbles with a straight-edge razor or spritzing the inside of the oven three times during the first eight minutes of baking.
Yes, these instructions put me off. I understand that these are tried-and-true measure for making the perfect focaccia, but I want something simple. I’m not going to make focaccia once a week – I don’t even make it once a month – so I want something I can do without having to go out and buy straight-edge razors.
For some reason, it was the straight-edge razor that really set me off. I don’t know why. The instruction to use them really irritated me, and I can’t explain why. I can only suggest that perhaps it’s displaced grief-anger or something. I don’t know. All I know is, I read “straight-edge razor,” and everything just went downhill. By now, I’m used to random, pointless anger. Most of the time, there’s no rationalizing it.
Unsurprisingly, I did not go out and buy straight-edge razors just so I could slash the bubbles on my focaccia dough. I used a knife instead.
(As an aside, I’m curious as to how many people actually have straight-edge razors in the house. I’ve never even held one, much less bought one. I assume this has something to do with my relative youth.)
You know what else irritated me? There were no “by-hand” instructions with this one. It was all “put the yeast and warm water in the bowl of a mixer” and “let the mixer run on low for 2 minutes” and “run the mixer until the dough cleans the side of the bowl” and other such things. I kneaded this baby by hand, and yes, it took me twenty minutes of doing it, but it was the only part of making this bread that I enjoyed.
I think I just need to admit that I came into this with some sort of chip on my shoulder or something. Maybe all my hostility toward February is manifesting toward this focaccia.
Let’s just skip ahead to the part where I baked it and we ate it, okay? After the kneading was done, the dough rose, then rose again, then was divided into three parts and placed in the fridge for a 24-36 hour cold rest.
When it was time to bake, the dough came out of the fridge to rest for another hour and a half. Then came the deflating and the slashing of bubbles and the shaping. And also the slashing of the tops of the bread into a “tic-tac-toe pattern,” which I did not do. Instead, I made little fingerprint indentations. I may have made the focaccias too big, and they were more rectangular than square. I didn’t much care at this point. I had to bake them separately, because I could only fit one to a baking sheet, and though I do have three baking sheets, they won’t all fit into my oven at the same time. I overbaked the first one, slightly overdid the second one, and finally got the third one just right. Before and after baking, I brushed them with some olive oil, and they also got a sprinkling of crushed sea salt before going into the oven.
So, there you have it. I made this bread to be served with a trio of Anne Burrell’s “piccolinis” from Cook Like a Rock Star: polpettini (little meatballs), eggplant cakes, and baked ricotta with lemon. All of those turned out better than the focaccia.
Well, Geordie wasn’t entirely thrilled with the ricotta, but I loved it. Of course, I’m a ricotta fiend, but that’s not the point.
The point is that, when comparing this focaccia to the no-fuss focaccia I had been making, it did not impress. Geordie liked the sea salt on top, which did enhance the natural flavor of the focaccia nicely. But if I sprinkled it on top of the no-fuss version, he probably wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. The no-fuss version puffed more during baking and ultimately comes out a little lighter than what I made with this one. Honestly, not only do I like it better, but I think it’s a better recipe.
In conclusion, I still don’t know why this focaccia recipe got the reaction from me that it did. It doesn’t deserve it. Plenty of the other bakers ended up with fine-looking, delicious focaccia. As for me, I know I’ve done better. This recipe just wasn’t meant for me. The pizza recipe and the pie crust recipe have become go-to for me, but this one is not one I’ll be doing again.
If you want to give it a try for yourself, our hostess Sharmini has the recipe and made a truly beautiful version herself. And you can check out the other bakers and see for yourself that this recipe is not the terrible thing I make it out to be.