“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”
Robert Browning (1812-1889) English poet
Bread, it’s one of the simple pleasures in life. It’s wonderful aroma fills your home with it’s welcoming scent when it’s being baked, it tastes delicious and is a staple in many diets, in varying forms. Such as focaccia.
Focaccia is an Italian style of flat bread, that is often topped with olive oil, herbs or other toppings such as onion. For this reason it is often thought to be an early prototype of the pizza.
Focaccia’s name is taken from the Roman phrase “panis focacius,” which referred to a flat loaf of bread cooked upon a hearth or in a fireplace. Early forms of focaccia were essentially just mixtures of flour, water and salt, without any rising agent. This was because Mediterranean region, where focaccia originated, the air is incredibly salty, and the bread tended to rise on its own. Today, because we aren’t all lucky enough to live along the Mediterranean, small amounts of yeast or other leavening agents are used.
The recipe for this focaccia came the lovely Ligurian Kitchen cookbook by Lucio Galletto and David Dale. The book was a winner of the 2008 Gourmand Award for Best Italian Cuisine Book (Australian Category) and winner of the 2008 Cordon d’Or Cuisine Award for Best Illustrated Culinary Book.
Lucio Galletto was born in Liguria, into a family of restauranteurs and learned to love cooking from an early age. In the 1970s he met an Australian girl, fell in love and moved to Australia, where he took his passion for Italian food with him, and opened Lucio’s in Paddington, Sydney. In 2008, he was honoured with the OAM for services to the hospitality industry and the arts.
Lucio’s Ligurian Kitchen is a visually stunning cookbook filled with beautiful photography and over 180 recipes. The book begins with a tour of Liguria and Lucio’s favourite restaurants, along with recommendations on places to visit should you find yourself in Liguria. The next section of the book introduces you to the recipes in the book along with the key ingredients, equipment needed as well as wine suggestions. Then we move onto the recipes, which are broken down into chapters on finger food, appetizers, soups, pies, pasta and risotto, seafood, meat, vegetables and salads followed by desserts.
What I love about this book is that it is filled with recipes that you won’t find in most Italian cookbooks. It’s also a beautiful book to sit and flick through while dreaming of a holiday along the Mediterranean, or maybe that’s just me *sigh*.
Do you flick through cookbooks dreaming of visiting the regions and countries upon which the recipes are based?
Rosemary Focaccia Bread
(Focaccia all’ olio e rosmarino)
Recipe from Lucio’s Ligurian Kitchen
Makes 2 large focaccia’s
- 5g of dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon of sea salt, plus extra for sprinkling on top of the focaccia
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 680 mls of warm water
- 1 kilogram of strong flour (Italian 00 flour)
- 125mls of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary (or more if you feel so inclined, like I did)
- In a large bowl add the yeast, salt, sugar and warm water and whisk together until the yeast is dissolved before adding half the flour. Mix well. A sloppy dough will be formed. Let it rest, covered with a tea towel, for 2 hours, in a warm place while the yeast becomes active and bubbly. It should rise by one-third.
- Place the remaining flour in a mound on a bench and make a well in the middle. Add the dough and 45mls of olive oil. Knead the dough until it forms a firm but sticky ball that is springy to the touch. If you find kneading with your hands difficult you can also use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
- Divide the dough into two and brush each with a little olive oil and place into bowls and cover with tea towels and leave in a warm place for another hour.
- Turn the balls of dough onto a floured bench and roll out into a thickness of 2cm. Transfer the dough onto two oiled baking dishes and make imprints all over the dough with your finger tips. Let the dough rest, covered, for another 30 minutes.
- After resting, sprinkle with the chopped rosemary and drizzle with remaining olive oil before sprinkling with sea salt.
- Bake at 200 degrees Celsius (400 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes, or until golden.