Friday, March 5, 2010

Focaccia Fail

Inspired by a fantastic stromboli-type offering in the breadbasket at Scarpetta, I decided I wanted to figure out how to recreate that bread for myself. (Apparently, making a panini just wouldn't cut it.)
So I decided to try to make some focaccia from scratch.

I will only say that, while I was kneading the dough, I knew something was wrong. I knew I had the wrong consistency, and that it wasn't going to come out right. But, I am also stubborn, so I spent the full 4 hrs making the bread, just to see how it would turn out.

I do not have one of those fancy stand mixers with optional dough-hook attachment, so I had to do it all by hand. Extra tricky as I have never made bread before, other than something like banana bread, which isn't made from a dough, but rather a batter, and so harder to screw up.

Well... even though I knew it was going wrong, it starting out giving me faint hope that it wouldn't suck completely.
The dough actually rose during the hour + that it was left to rest. Even if it looks lumpy instead of puffy and smooth. (I told you I knew this wouldn't end well.)

Then I tried to halve it so I could experiment even further, making one regular focaccia, and one stuffed with prosciutto and smoked mozzarella. Good idea, but with crap dough, not a chance of proper execution.
The smaller blob on the right is the folded-over stuffed one. My dough failed to rise the second time, after stretching out, so that's why it looks like a deflated whiffle-ball.
Drizzled w/ evoo and lots of salt, I baked the bastards off anyway.
Crispy, yes. Unfortunately, dense as... well no bread is supposed to be that dense. It's more of a weapon than a food source. But Mike was nice and ate the stuffed one saying he liked it (sometimes I really worry about his palate...)

But the flavor wasn't all bad, so I thought today that I'd try to turn it into a flatbread pizza kinda deal. Fresh mozzarella, garlic, olive oil, salt, basil, etc...
I even pre-roasted the tomato slices.

There is just no saving shitty bread. Turning it into croutons would just be an insult to the unsuspecting salad-eater as they broke a tooth on the extra-hardened nuggets from further toasting.

I did, however, eat all that melted mozzarella and tomato topping. And it was good! So HA!

There is my first attempt at bread. Ending in total failure. See, I will post my failures... just grudgingly. And I may not acknowledge them in the future, no matter what evidence you produce. Just sayin'...

Also, I have since learned that a dear friend of mine used to make this bread ALL THE TIME growing up. She will soon be imported from Brooklyn and chained to my kitchen to help me not suck at this anymore. Until then, I am going to have to haul my butt down to 74th to buy my focaccia at Salumeria Rosi. And OH NO I guess I'll have to pick up some fresh burrata while I'm there.

However will I survive?


Jennifer said...

So two very important questions: how warm was your kitchen, and how old was your yeast?

There are all sorts of things that can make bread wonky. If you proof the yeast in water that's slightly too hot (here is where experience and/or a candy thermometer are very useful), you'll kill it. If the kitchen is too cold, the yeast won't thrive and make your dough puffy. Cinnamon in the dough kills of some of the yeasties, ginger in the dough makes them grow faster. Letting dough rise in a metal bowl is pretty much a recipe for flat dough (bread dough does better in a glass or plastic bowl). Kneading too much will make your bread tough. Kneading too little means you don't form gluten strands as well. Basically, you want to knead the dough until the skin starts to stretch into little "windows" as you fold it.

Also, as you bake more often, you start to season your kitchen with wild yeast. That, in turn, will make your bread more flavorfull as the dough will pick up some of the wild cultures. I've been baking our bread for a couple of months, and it really does make a difference.

RocknRollGourmet said...

Bought the yeast 2 hrs before using, know about too-hot killing it, you saw I did not use metal since it is an evil, reactive little kitchen-sniper, and kitchen was warm.

I think I screwed up the amount of moisture (not enough), and possibly over-kneaded. Hopefully my (East Coast) bread-expert will help me so I know what "windows" in dough look like, etc. :)

It's frustrating to work for 4 hrs on something and have it fail, but I will try again soon.

Jennifer said...

Hmmm...upon closer inspection, I think there's too much oil in the bowl while the dough is rising. I haven't made focaccia in particular, but that might be part of the problem. The dough also looks a little more oily than I'd expect. I'll go look at some recipes and see if I can suss anything out.

Joe Ambrosino said...

I like to start my focaccia with a sponge, you know? Yeast and warm water for 20 minutes, then room temp milk, olive oil and 3 tbs of flour for about 30 min. Then, I mix in flour and salt and knead for about 8 minutes. After it rises, I spread it out on a well oiled pan, cover it and let it rest for 10 minutes. Then, I stretch it out again and cover it for 20 minutes more. then I top it or drench it in olive oil and bake it.

RocknRollGourmet said...

Actually I have no idea what "starting with a sponge" means but I'm guessing that's what you described.

As I said, this was my first foray into baking real bread of any kind, and every recipe I saw said different things about resting and kneading.
Thanks for your input tho!
And any specifics can be emailed to me directly at