Tonight is the final of the Great British Bake Off. For weeks no 41 have watched with joy (and a soupcon of trepidation) as this plucky group of amateur bakers tread their way through cakes, pastries, bread and pies, constantly amazing us (well me anyway) with their creations and occasional disaster (Rob’s cake-upside-down-on-the-floor incident still makes me shudder).
My favourite part has to be the technical bake. The idea is simple – give everybody the same recipe, albeit with a few details missing, and see if they can recreate what the recipe writer intended. And by the way, the author is one of the judges – no pressure there then!
The bakers have delighted with chocolate roulades and brandy snaps; tantalised with Battenberg cake and tarte au citron; and inspired us to make our own miniature pork pies (we will, soon!). However one of the more challenging technical bakes for the contestants appeared to be focaccia, with a great variety of finished products presented to Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry.
Now according to Paul, when making his focaccia, it is essential to add all the water, which will give you a very sticky dough. This is contrary to ‘normal’ bread, when you are aiming for a certain consistency, which means the amount of water varies. This caught out a couple of our bakers!
Yasmin, who followed the recipe to the letter, was ranked first in the blind tasting. Now I’m a sucker for an ‘original’ recipe. I’ve been making focaccia in the same tried and tested way for years but considered this an opportunity to change all that. After all, if a faithful recipe follower turns out a first rate focaccia, then why shouldn’t I?
This is how Paul makes focaccia. And here is a snapshot of Jessica and I making focaccia:
Paul, I’m sorry, but I think I’ll stick to my tried and tested recipe. There’s a lot less cleaning up afterwards for a start!
- 700g plain flour
- 1½ tsp salt
- ½ tbsp (1 packet or 7g) dried yeast
- 300-400ml warm water
- Olive oil
- Add your yeast to ~200ml warm water and leave it for 5 minutes or so to get a bit frothy.
- Mix flour and salt in a large bowl.
- Make a well in the centre of the flour and pour in your yeasty water. Bring together with your hands or a spoon, adding more water until the flour is all combined, a little on the sticky side.
- Form into a ball, cover, and leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or so until it doubles in size (give or take).
- Preheat your oven to 220 degrees C
- Pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large baking tray and stretch your dough over it into a flat sheet, not too thin that you can see through it but not too fat either.
- Put the little dimples into the dough with your fingers and leave to rest for another 45 mins to an hour.
- Sprinkle the dough with olive oil and a little salt and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.