Summer calls for entertaining. The only deterrent is who wants to spend hours cooking? This summer I am determined to not let that get in the way of good conversations, intimate moments and ‘happy days’. Feeling inspired by Sting and Trudie’s products grown in their very own garden, when ingredients are that beautiful, let them go commando.
Yesterday for example, friends came over for chilled white, a couple of carefully selected cheeses (herby disc of goat’s cheese and a wedge of queso blanco), small plates of olives and artichokes (from a jar), chorizo and some fine EVOO for dunking. But dunk what? I took a leaf from Trudie and their personal chef, Joe Sponzo’s recipe book – The Lake House Cook Book.
I was required to do about 10 minutes of kneading and the rest was done by the oven. Within 45 minutes fresh-baked focaccia made it’s way to meet the clan. Can you imagine the aroma it brought to the room? The tufted-looking bread was a welcome addition to a chilled assortment of small plates. As for my friends, they thought I totally rocked it by making home-made bread – I could have told them just how easy it was, but a reveling in flattery can be so much fun!
Chef Joe’s tips for great focaccia
1) 00 flour, found at specialty and Italian stores, gives the bread a unique crispness when added to bread flour
2) Adding salt to yeast water gives it sourness
3) Wait until the dough doubles even if you need to wait longer – room temperature and other factors determine how long it can take
Recipe For Focaccia By Chef Joe Sponzo
5 tablespoons olive oil and extra for greasing
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 ½ teaspoons of salt
2 ½ cups 00 flour/ pastry flour or All Purpose
2 2/1 cups bread flour
1-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 tsp. coarse salt
*Yield: 2 ½ pounds
1) Whisk 2 cups warm water in large mixing bowl with olive oil, yeast and 1 ½ cups of 00 flour until combined
2) Cover with paper towel in a draft free place for 1 hour until mixture bubbles like sponge
3) Remove towel and with wooden spoon, mix remaining 00 flour and bread flour until dough is soft (should not be wet)
4) Place dough on lightly floured surface and knead 8-10 minutes. Return dough to oiled bowl and allow to double in size for about 45 minutes
5) Grease an 18×13 ½ inch baking pan. Place dough in the pan stretching to edges. Indent the dough with dimples for that rustic, dimpled look
6) Cover the dough for an hour to let it rise. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Stud the dough with rosemary leaves and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden. Brush with remaining olive oil. Serve immediately
Saira Malhotra, is of British–Indian descent and is a chef, food writer and cooking instructor based in New York City. Raised in Hounslow, U.K, or rather ‘Little India’, where the air is aromatic with roasted spices, little did Saira know these moments would follow her from being a student in France and Italy to residing in NYC with her husband and kids and parlay themselves unexpectedly in to a culinary career. She is a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York City. Come visit her at her food blog: www.passportpantry.com where she shares approachable and international recipes