I love focaccia. The husband and I used to go to an Italian Deli when we were newly married that had these marvelous sandwiches stuffed with an inch of various Italian meats and cheeses and veggies, all served on thick slabs of focaccia. It was then that I fell in love with focaccia. But, strangely, I have never bought or been served a focaccia that has lived up to that first deli’s standard. I’ve been making focaccia off and on for years with various recipes and they have all been pretty good. However, the focaccia recipe from Rustic Italian Food that I made a few weeks ago was the best I have ever had and the best I have ever made. And let me tell you, I have made some good ones.
Unfortunately, this week’s twd recipe for focaccia, to be found in Baking with Julia was much less than stellar. Part of its problem was that it followed the recipe from Rustic Italian Food, which, as I have already mentioned, was the best. Ever since that focaccia, the boys have been begging me to make more. That one was so sublimely delicious, that I knew it would be a tough act to follow.
Firstly, the dough was too stiff.
All the focaccia recipes that I have made and really liked have been really loose doughs. You could almost pour these doughs, they are that loose. This dough was more like a pizza dough.
Secondly, I thought the dough was too active. Look at how much it rose in an hour. Now, this could be because I used instant yeast or my water was too warm or some other variable, but I sensed some trouble. It was just too active for a dough that would eventually be retarded in the fridge, which brings me to my third issue with this dough.
I love using the fridge for holding bread dough, but this time, it did not work for me. Because of some oven timing issues, I was not able to give the dough the minimum 24 hours needed in the fridge. It was more like 20 hours and it was tough to shape. I understand that the longer the dough rests, the easier it is to shape. This was really my fault, but it was kind of the last nail in the coffin, so to speak.
I opted to bake the bread into one giant, flat loaf because we like to cut it into nice rectangles for serving. It looked great before it went into the oven, with its rosemary, sea salt, and olive oil toppings.
However, there was just not much oven spring to the dough. It was ok. It rose, but it had the texture of a thick pizza dough. It was too dry and tough to be called focaccia, in my opinion. This will not be repeated in my kitchen. The boys were initially excited about the focaccia, but both declared it to be just ok, not nearly as good as the “other one.”
Now, dear reader, please take this post with a grain of salt. I am not saying that this bread is bad. In fact, it is tasty, and if you go and make it (you can find the recipe here), I am almost sure you will like it. After all, what’s not to love about freshly baked bread? Just don’t make it after making the one from Rustic Italian Food, The Bread Bible, or La Brea Bakery, ok? Then, you won’t be disappointed.