As part of my treatise on bread here’s what you need to do for a chilli garlic Italian Focaccia bread. This bread is great for those special big weekend sandwiches or MANWICH as we call it because it’s just so hearty, and it takes just 45 minutes for the dough to rise/prove. If this is your first foray in to break making, then you won’t regret it. There’s nothing like the smell of freshly baking bread (or freshly baked anything) filling the house with that warm yeasty smell, it’s like a great big hug.
Recipe: Chilli garlic foccacia
This bread really sings if you use good olive oil. You can adorn your foccacia with any toppings you like – onions, garlic, sundried tomatoes, olives, oregano, basil.
To 2 and 3/4 cups of sieved flour add 1 tsp salt – mix the salt throughout the flour.
Add 1tbsp olive oil (or vegetable oil) and rub in to the flour
Make a well in the centre of the flour and add 1 cup of tepid water – yeast needs warm water to activate but not so hot that you kill the yeast and not too cold that it does not activate. You should be able to keep your finger in the water but it should feel quite warm to the touch.
Sprinkle 1tbsp of dried yeast over the water. With the two fingers, whisk in the yeast to dissolve in to the water. You should see a few bubbles as the yeast activates in the warm water.
Keeping your fingers in a stiff claw draw in the flour and water in a circular motion until all the flour is combined. It will be quite sticky but keep with it. Resist any urge to add more flour, the dough will look more like a dough and less like a batter as you knead.
Knead the dough for exactly 5 mins on a very lightly floured surface. When kneading start from a ball shape and push the dough away from you using your palm and then bring back the part further away from you on top of the part closest to you so that you are enveloping a cushion of air between the two folds. Keep turning 90 degrees as you knead.
After kneading for 5 mins, place in a well oiled bowl. Cover with a tea towel and allow 45 mins for the dough to rise. If you live in a cold place I suggest leaving your dough longer to rise, keep it in a warm place, like near a radiator, or on a pile of newspapers away from a draft. The dough should double in size and be light and airy, filled with bubbles.
Once risen, spread the ball out on to long flat baking sheet, dusting the baking sheet lightly with a sprinkling of flour so that the dough will not stick. Using all 4 fingers together punch holes along the length of the dough.
In to the little holes created put finely chopped garlic and fine onion slices. Sprinkle over 2 heaped tsps of chilli powder. Then liberally pour olive oil all over the bread, especially in the holes. The Italians take half a litre of olive oil mixed with half a litre of water and drown the bread in it. Don’t worry about there being too much oil, more the better for this bread. I use about 3 to 4tbsps of olive oil. You can vary the toppings with olives or sundried tomatoes.
Preheat the oven to 200 C and bake for 30 mins or till the top is nicely browned and parts of it are crispy
You can either have an open sandwich or slice the focaccia on the horizontal but need not be through the exact centre. This bread does not rise so I would keep a thinner upper layer.
For a healthy spread we make an Indian – Greek style tzatziki rather than using mayonnaise or salad cream. It tastes better too. Hang some yoghurt for a few hours or use some thick yogurt then whip it together with grated cucumber (from which you have squeezed out the liquid with a paper towel), at least 5 cloves of minced or crushed garlic, finely chopped onions and tomatoes, green chilli finely sliced, seeds and all, salt and 1 tbsps olive oil.
Next, either use some good quality cold cuts – ham, salami – or lamb or chicken kebabs, bacon, sausages or thin slices of roast beef.
Roasted pumpkin: Cut thin slices of pumpkin leaving the outer skin on, apply salt, pepper and chilli powder. Roast in the oven for about 20 mins at 180 C.
To assemble: on the lower slice of focaccia generously spread the tzatziki as thick as a shag carpet. Next add your roasted pumpkin, some well washed spinach leaves, the meat, salsa, more tzatziki and then the upper focaccia slice. And that is the MANwich.
You can add or reduce the toppings to your taste and availability of ingredients and of course, make this totally vegetarian.