A recipe in focaccia

I love this bread. Everyone I know loves this bread. This bread doesn’t keep, but that doesn’t matter as there won’t be any left after half an hour. I’m being serious. There is nothing so good as its salty, yeasty, rosemaryey, soft, warm dough and I defy anyone not to stuff your face with it. It also goes really well with my carrot dip.

This is an American recipe therefore the use of cups as measures. I am completely fine with using cups, but I know some of my fellow contributors hate them and think they’re inaccurate – how can you measure a flour and a liquid using the same system? Most recipes allow for this and there are some really good converter tables on the net if you insist on weighing things out, but I like the cup method. It’s simple and quick and there’s no faffing around. Also, with things like flour they can be so different depending on what type it is (organic, unbleached, etc etc) that you may have to slightly adjust how much liquid goes in anyway. But please do let me know if you disagree (and why!).

Kneading is always an issue when you start making bread – how do you know when to stop? I used to give up too soon and end up with quite dense bread. Just keep kneading until the dough seems totally combined, it doesn’t stick to the work top and you can stretch it and mould it with ease. If it’s still tacky and sticking to the work top or you, put more flour down on your surface and keep going. It should have a smooth skin and be really elastic. I will post that no need to knead bread recipe at some point, but until then you’re going to have to exercise those arm muscles. Here’s a video which is OK at showing you what to do, I don’t stretch the dough that much or gouge it like she does with my nails, I tend to only use the heel of my hand. I often cover the heel of my hand in flour to help with this. Here’s the recipe:

1 sachet fast acting yeast
4 cups of white flour
1½ cups lukewarm water
1 tbsp sugar
½ cup finely chopped onions
2 tsps salt
Olive oil
Coarse salt as needed

1. Add sugar, salt and onions to flour. Add dried yeast, stir until combined.
2. Add water, knead until smooth.
3. Place dough in an oiled bowl and roll it around until all the dough is covered. Let it rise until twice the size.
4. Punch dough down. Flatten dough onto an oiled baking tray (1in thick, I usually use a rolling pin at this point to make it a vaguely regular shape.)
5. Spread oil on top. Let it rise until double in size.
6. Stick in a finger in rows and sprinkle with the coarse salt and rosemary.
7. Bake at 170°C for 20/25 mins.


About Bronwen

I'm a homemaker living in Canada and loving my baking, a bit too much.
This entry was posted in Foodstuffs, Musings, Recipes and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to A recipe in focaccia

  1. Being British I hate the cup system, but I still cater for those who use them – I have linked a number of conversion sites on my blog. I think with things like baking bread or cakes one really needs to measure exactly because baking is more like an exact science – all the ingredients react with each other, it’s not just a mix of flavours. Having said that not all cup recipes turn out bad as this looks really delicious!

  2. Bronwen says:

    I’m British too and totally agree with you about baking being an exact science, but generally I’ve quite pleasantly surprised with the cup method since I moved to Canada. I think recipes for muffins etc seem to work well, possibly as they’re not quite such an exact baking process as bread. What I’ve really noticed since moving here, is that the flour is so rich and good that I have to add more liquid to all my bread recipes. I’ve almost never done that in the UK. Do try this one – it is absolutely delicious!

  3. Bronwen says:

    PS Loving some of your recipes, btw. I’ll post my one for Magic Squares up soon as I think you’d really appreciate it!

  4. I have been meaning to make focaccia for a while… thanks, hope you continue to visit! I’ll keep checking back on your for them! They sound fun.

  5. Luke says:

    I hate cups! For starters, there’s no international standard, different countries have different cup sizes – if you’re going to do cups you should at least note the volume in ml (or fluid ounces if you must) of the cup size you are using.

    I can just about tolerate their use for liquids, but using them for dry goods is just plain daft. A cup of onions? The natural unit of onions is an onion… if you want to be precise (obviously not necessary here) then use weights. Bah!

  6. Will says:

    I’m with Luke – cups are idiotic. I’ve got a very good bread book published in the US, so it’s all in cups, and even the American author thinks that it’s a silly measure and provides a conversion table so that those who want ‘precision’ know exactly what weight of flour/sugar etc is meant by a cup. I thought the cup system was stupid when I moved to the US, and my dislike turned into hatred over the three years I lived there.

    I’m all for employing feel and instinct when cooking, but the basic instructions in a recipe shouldn’t be vague and ambiguous, which is exactly what cup measurements for anything other than liquids are.

  7. Eloise Millar says:

    Got to say, I’m a cup person. I bought a set from Waitrose for a fiver, and it takes an awful lot of faff out of the procedure when I get a recipe using them… And the results always seem pretty nice.

    Bron, I have a weekend lined up of doing absolutely nothing (wey-hey!) – am going to make your facaccia for Saturday lunch. (Your edaname bean houmous, by the way, is now a household staple.)

  8. Will says:

    This illustrates the problem perfectly – a UK imperial cup is 284ml, while a North American cup is 236ml – 20% difference! But other measures are exactly the same – a pound is 453grams in both the UK and North America, and a tablespoon is 15ml in both. So any recipes which use combinations of these (ie a lot of recipes) are hard to interpret. I know I’m a scientist, and hence a nerdy stickler for precision, but it’s still idiotic.

  9. Eloise Millar says:

    But the proof is in the pudding… Maybe we should do a cups/conversion comparison with a recipe, and see which tastes better.

  10. Luke says:

    But what’s the advantage to using cups? We’ve reeled off the cons, if you’re going to make the case in their favour, what are the pros?

  11. Bronwen says:

    Well, you reeled off the cons, but I think Elly did point out some pros. Also, a cup measurement for onions is surely more accurate than ‘a medium sized onion’ or equivalent. What’s a medium sized onion?

    Cups are convenient and I always assume recipes are referring to the American cup system as no one in the UK uses it. I don’t see why it’s such an issue using it for dry goods – the amount is worked out by the author of the recipe otherwise it wouldn’t work. I agree about baking being a precise science, but all the best recipes for muffins/pancakes etc are in US cup measurements so I’ve got used to them.

    I also like the way they look. Weird, I know.
    (Elly – fantastic about the edamame, always nice to know someone’s been cooking the recipes. Your herb risotto is a staple with us now.)

  12. Eloise Millar says:

    Thank you for your defense, Bron! And tsk, that Luke – doesn’t he get shirty?! I also agree Bron re. the pleasing way they look. Mine are red and form a very nice stack – and when I’m not using them, Polly generally takes them to the bath with her. But yeah – re. the pros, and to repeat – if, say, I’m using a recipe from Martha Stewart.com (I know – lame – but there are some good cakes on there), I can either faff around for ages converting, or I can just whip my cups out and get on with it.

  13. Luke says:

    I’m not being shirty, you’re just choosing to interpret my comments like that. 😉

    The problem with onions in a cup is that depending on the fineness of the chop you can get a widely varying amount of onions. I’m not saying “one onion” is a precise measurement, it’s a rough guide. If you want precision, use weights, not cups. As they’re not precise.

    Your pros seem to be:
    1) Cups are “convenient” or “less faff” – I’m not sure what you really mean? That you can’t do mental arithmetic? 😉
    2) Cups look nice. Well, I suppose. That’s a point about the aesthetics of your kitchenware, not if it’s a good measurement or not. My cheap basic plastic measuring jugs have cups as well as ml and fl oz on the scales, so I don’t need to buy a set of cups. I’m actually surprised you both have!

  14. Eloise Millar says:

    Luke – there you have it – I can’t do mental arithmetic. I can’t! Which means that the whole conversion process takes about ten minutes more time than I actually have (I know, I know – but YOU try cooking with a toddler running amok in the kitchen… believe me, speed is of the essence.) So if I’m using an American recipe, and as I have American cups, I just go with those.

    Although, I have to say, I don’t really go with that whole onion thing, and meticulous weights and measures. I much prefer the Elizabeth David/Jamie Oliver/Jane Grigson rough guide to recipes, with a glug of this, a bit of that, and a bit of flexibility (thus allowing for that extra ounce of onion you might end up with, in your bloody cup).

    I cooked a Heston Blumenthal treacle tart once, and it was the most horrendous faff. Nigel Slater’s was much less specific, and better.

  15. Bronwen says:

    I can’t do arithmetic on a calculator let alone in my head, so yes, if a recipe is in cups I’ll use cups.

  16. Will says:

    More examples of the poverty of British education – two Cambridge graduates profess to being incapable of doing maths that their kids will be learning in primary school within a couple of years… 😉

    Anyway – Luke and I think cups are a horribly imprecise measure for things of variable density, such as chopped onions, dried chickpeas etc. Which we would, as we trained as scientists and so value clear, precise instructions with consistently reproducible results. Granted Heston’s recipes are a total faff, but I really appreciate the precise weight & volume measures in Ottolenghi – you know exactly what they suggest you put in to achieve their results. And of course, I always vary plenty of recipes, I just like being able to choose whether and how much to vary it. Imprecision, and thus the hateful cup, remove this choice and make variation obligatory every time.

  17. Will says:

    A couple of weeks late, the New York Times has weighed in on this debate, and obviously the fact that I’m linking to this will show you that they’re on the side of me and Luke.

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