give me flour

Playing with flour

December 2nd, 2010

Compared to the first post, that’s not the best picture, I agree! But I kind of have feelings for it. As soon as I got to choose the name for the blog, I knew it should be the recipe to start with.  You know, “Give me flour”, “flour”, flour makes bread and so……. And that’s one of my favorite breads, a recipe I got in a gastronomic fair, probably ten years ago, from a reputed Brazilian pastry chef called Dario Viana. It wasn’t the first entrée but is now the beginning of the bread’s session.

The recipe is also published on the book Atelier Gourmand: 70 Chefs. That’s not a traditional focaccia you are used to. It’s a surprisingly sweet dough that, in contrast to a salty topping, delights and captivates the palate.

So, being aware of that, I grabbed the ingredients, the tools, set a temporary studio in my daughters’ bedroom, turned my camera on and started to shoot.  At first the lighting was good, but when the focaccia came out of the oven the luminosity was terrible.

Funny thing is, making bread is also playing with time, only in reverse. If shooting requires agility (at least when we are working with natural light), making bread requires patience!

Preparing the dough, letting it rest, watching it grow, the whole thing asks for time and patience. But I gotta tell you, there’s nothing more relaxing than playing with flour! Oh, and shooting, of course …. even if the first photo turns to be dark or the bread is not so soft.

The bread can be made by hand or in a mixer. First, combine the dried ingredients and the yeast.  Add 8 oz of milk, and then add the rest, little by little. For what I’ve done so far in the United States, the quality of flour found here is going to require more liquid than the flour I used to work in Brazil.  So, be aware you are going to use the whole amount of milk or even more, depending of the brand of flour or if you are doing it by hand. Mix until the dough is smooth and elastic. Keep kneading the dough and if gets too sticky don’t worry and don’t add more flour, just keep going!!!!!!

If you are using a mixer this will take about five minutes and probably twice as long if you’re mixing with your hands.

And then add the butter, solving the problem of stickiness! It’ll seem weird but you aren’t doing anything wrong. Keep on kneading until all the butter has been incorporated into the dough.

It’s the moment to give the dough some time to relax. And you can relax too because there’s no secret in this process. About 25 minutes should be enough and we are not talking about rising yet. Then keep the dough in a cool place and when it wakes up from the little “nap”, it’s going to be totally ready to get some shape.

Grease the pan or pans with olive oil. Be generous!!!! That’s important for the characteristic focaccia flavor. You can do like me, 2 circles of 9in each, or just a big oval and organic focaccia style, whatever you want. Be creative!! Brush more olive oil on top and FINALLY, let it rise.

Now we’re talking about a more relative step. The process of rising may take 1 to 2 hours depending on room temperature and type of yeast you are using. Just watch the picture, can you see the difference? The dough is inflated, kind of soft.

Now just follow the steps of the photos. They are kind of rules for a focaccia bread: topping: distribut the ingredients, add more olive oil, sprinkle coarse salt and pierce the dough with your fingers.

Heat the oven to 375F. You don’t have to do it earlier, it’s going to take about 15 minutes, just the right time the dough needs to rise a bit more after had been punched.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until deep in color. Enjoy it warm or after cooling on a rack.

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