On 23rd January, we celebrated the birthday of one of the most beautiful people I know! She is not just a pretty face but also has a delightful mind and intellect. Her deep penetrating insights into life often amuse me and I feel fortunate and blessed that she is my sister.
I was lucky to have her with me on this special day and I wanted to make the most out of it by doing what I do best and as she loves bread I decided to make some fresh bread with oven-roasted vegetables, hummus, grilled eggplant dip, a very flavourful tomato and cheese pasta with the piece de resistance the chocolate ganache cake!
My sister loves to take candid pictures of me cooking so we managed some shots here, of me mixing in the spices into the vegetables which were to go into the oven. I have to mix in the spices with my hand as I feel it is the best way to coat the spices and also results into a more flavourful dish as opposed to mixing them with a spoon or spatula before it is introduced to heat.
I was making bread after a long time and as my kitchenaid sprung into action, I could feel my heart leap in joy! I love making bread with instant yeast. On many occasions I have picked up fresh yeast and have had to toss it as it has such a short shelf life and I didnt get around to making bread during its residence in my refrigerator. Good quality active dry yeast is also hard to come by and I have had to cancel many plans of making bread when the yeast didnt froth. Ever since I have met instant yeast my bread making life has been a breeze. Easy to use, has a long shelf life (I buy one of those big packs and store it for upto a year in the refrigerator) and never ever fails to rise to the occasion.
You have read it before and I only want to reiterate that baking bread can be so therapeutic and elevating. And when you see that perfect loaf coming out of your oven, the happiness you feel within is only second to that of what you feel when you see your loved ones enjoying the fruits of your labour. The immense satisfaction I felt while munching into this focaccia bread is also proof that it is a great way of treating yourself!
This recipe, undoubtedly yielded the best focaccia I have ever tasted, a golden brown crust infused with the heavenly aroma of the herbs and a delicious, soft base with the perfect bread texture. This would always be the focaccia I would serve my guests, unless ofcourse my experiments in the kitchen have the capacity to surprise me with even better results.
Don't let the lengthy recipe fool you as this is one of the easiest recipes that will give you a good loaf provided you follow it properly. And since I have used instant yeast here, I didnt even have to prove the bread twice, which is a huge time saver.
Good food which is an effort of your labour, the people you love to share it with, the smiles, joys and satisfaction of those around you, some great music and conversations, these are just a few things that bring pleasures in life and make the sailing seem smooth even in what may seem as turbulent times.
Watch how to make my Basil and Rosemary Focaccia Bread below!
Basil & Rosemary Foccacia Bread Recipe
Since I dont use garlic, I have substituted it with asafetida which is also very flavourful, aromatic when cooked and tasty! You can use fresh or active dry yeast but you will have to prove the bread twice instead of once like I have here.*
Ingredients:For preparing the yeast
330 ml (1 1/3 cup) milk
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 3/4 tsp instant yeast
For the bread dough:
460 gm (3 1/4 cups flour)
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
For the topping:
60 ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tsp dried rosemary
1/4 tsp asafetida
Heat the milk and turn off the flame. Stir in the sugar into the hot milk. When the milk is lukewarm sprinkle the yeast and allow to rest for ten minutes.
Into the bowl of a stand mixer or a food processor add flour and salt and mix well. Stir in the oil and yeast mixture. Use the paddle attachment, if using a stand mixer and mix until the dough comes together. Then use the dough hook and knead for four to five minutes. If using the food processor use the steel attachment and there is no need to change the attachments in between. Alternatively mix by hand and use the base of your palms to knead into a smooth pliable dough on a work surface or a clean kitchen counter.
Roll the dough into a rough rectangle using a little maize or corn flour. Carefully transfer the rolled dough into a greased 9" by 12" baking tray. Spread and shape the dough to fit into the tin. (You could refrigerate the dough at this stage if you plan to make it later.
Allow to rest in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hrs until the dough raises and doubles in size. It could take a little longer if the weather is very cold.
Once you put the dough to rest, you can prepare the topping. In a small wok or saucepan, heat the oil. Stir in the asafetida and the herbs and turn off the heat. Allow the flavours to seep into the oil by allowing it to rest for half an hour to an hour or longer if possible.
After the dough is raised and doubled in size, make equally spaced indentations with your thumb or forefinger. Pour the herb topping evenly over the top. This may seem like a lot of oil in the beginning, dont panic as this is what will create the perfect crust and give you perfectly seasoned bread.
Bake in a pre heated oven at 200 C/400 F for twenty minutes. Every oven is different so watch carefully and make sure your bread is not overly browned.
P.S. The oil continues to seep into the bread even after it is out of the oven. Allow it to rest for 5 to 10 minutes and then be prepared for one of the most exotic bread experiences of your life.
*If you want to substitute instant yeast with fresh or active dry yeast, use a yeast conversion table then at the stage when the dough comes together, roll into a ball and place covered until double in size. Punch the dough, shape and place in the tin, allow the dough to rise again and follow the rest of the recipe.
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