First-time bread baking: Focaccia

Friday, February 06, 2015

Finally, success!

Ever since I bought instant yeast, my fantasy or dream is to bake bread from scratch. After scanning cookbooks and the Web for recipes, I have concluded that focaccia is meant to be baked, ASAP.

It looks good (?) but it's hard...

Unfortunately, I had two failed attempts at this, the first with me following instructions with active dry yeast in the recipe and the other with me mixing too hot water in the dough. But then again, these two failed attempts were thanks to my instant dry yeast, which I neglectedly placed in room temperature to spoil. Articles about yeast storage say that you should place it in an airtight container in the freezer after opening the vacuum-packed container.

So, anyway. 

At long last, my final attempt (maybe it's true what they say - third time's a charm) yielded great results. My success helped me learn these important points:
  1. All purpose flour can be used instead of the required tipo 00 flour or bread flour that recipes mention.
  2. When using instant dry yeast, omit the step when you have to proof your yeast on lukewarm water. Instant dry yeast can be mixed with the dry ingredients and water should be added during the last step of the recipe.
  3. Test lukewarm water on your wrist and if it does not hurt, use it!
  4. If the recipe calls for letting the dough rest for an hour or more, follow it. Patience is a virtue. Although when using instant dry yeast, you can see that your dough will rise faster.
  5. Let the dough rise in a warm area. If you are currently preheating or cooking on your stove, it's best to place your dough near it especially during cold days.
  6. They say the best bowl to use is glass or a wooden bowl. Metal bowl will not work well with the dough. They say metal is a bit colder. I say, okay!
  7. If your yeast is still fresh, you can see it when your dough doubles in size on the first rise and on the second rise on the baking pan. If not, well, your yeast has gone bad.

Failure the first and second time

Needless to say, the first and second time, both dough did not rise as much as I expected it to. On my first try, I even placed the glass bowl outside at 12 noon to attain the warmth it needed.

This dough ball retained its shape even after sunbathing outside...

But na-da. The yeast was dead. 

Although the dough was pillowy and stretchable, it did not rise, period. And so, I was left with breadsticks to gnaw on. It tasted delicious but it was damn hard.

On the process of rising on the pan...

It did not rise, period.

The second time, I used too hot water on the yeast, which *probably* killed the yeast. But why bother speculating. My yeast was already dead.

The success

With the newly bought instant dry yeast, the dough rose twice its size, almost coming up to the rim of the glass bowl. When I spread the dough on the baking pan and left it, the dough rose again until it became a fat rectangle of bread. 

On my first and second try, I thought that the bread would rise in the oven. It did, but it would be better if the dough rose on the baking pan already.

Even before the baking pan hit the oven, the dough has already risen.

Upon baking it, I followed the correct instructions and preheated the oven before I placed the baking pan inside. I also followed the correct number of minutes of baking. At the end, I tapped the bread and heard the hollow sound, the indicator that it's done. 

And, ta-da! Finally, chewy focaccia with the right saltiness and taste on the table. Yum!

Finally, it came out chewy and perfect! Topped with parmesan, salt, and dried basil

Now, if you want to make your own focaccia, here are some recipes I found useful:

Italian Food Forever's recipe - uses all-purpose flour rather than bread flour or tipo 00 flour:

Kitchn's recipe:

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