La Focaccia in modo terrone

My name is Michael Ranaudo and I am a student from Canada, currently participating in a six-month internship exchange with Puratos: The Center for Bread Flavour in St. Vith, Belgium. The knowledge and expertise of the craftsmen at Puratos has increased my passion for baking bread especially sourdough. Fusing both my love of baking with science, I am assisting Puratos to create and innovate exciting bakery products for the world markets.

This summer I will spend in Southern Italy to see my family. As you drive to my uncle’s farm, you can see the picturesque, rolling hills of Campania. The hillsides are shaded in a beautiful golden hue of maturing Durum wheat. From this wheat, the finest quality golden semolina is derived for pasta and bread. Durum semolina destined for bread making is milled twice, hence the name “Rimacinata” meaning re-ground. From this golden flour we can make finest breads and focaccia, none more so than the famous Altamura bread.

With the summer weather in full swing here in Belgium, and the tomatoes ever so ripe, the warming memories of a summer focaccia soon became overpowering. With the excellent selection of cheeses, especially fresh cheese made with buffalo milk, vine-ripened tomatoes and the summer sun, Archimedes was ready for another delicious bake.

Ingredients

For a 45cm X 30 cm pan

  • 1000g of Semolina Rimacinata
  • 750g water
  • 200g Active, Mature Starter
  • 100g Extra-Virgin Olive oil plus another 65g for topping and greasing. (Since the olive oil is a main character in flavour, sourcing the best olive oil is crucial to a tasty focaccia)
  • 20g Salt, 10g-20g for topping, all to your taste.
  • Cherry tomatoes, ripe, soft
  • Mozzarella di buffala (or any soft cheese)
  • Oregano
  • 50g Olives

The process

Add the flour, starter, salt and 650g of water in a mixing bowl. Begin to mix until a smooth dough is formed and begin to pour in the remaining 100g of water, a little at a time. Once the remaining water has been added we can slowly, little by little add the 100g of olive oil. You want to add just enough oil that the dough can absorb it without breaking apart and becoming a mess. Usually 25g at a time is a good start.

We want a final dough temperature of 26°C and a nice warm place to put our focaccia.

The dough will need 3 folds, nothing too strong as we don’t want to develop a whole lot of strength, as we need it to be extensible for the pan.

After a good 2 hours fermentation, the dough can be put in the fridge overnight to continue the rest of the bulk. This part is flexible, and bulk can last anywhere between 14-18 hours.

Once the dough is ready to be turned out into the pan, we must grease it with olive oil. The trick to exceptional focaccia is the amount of oil in the pan. We don’t want the oil to be a releasing agent, we want it to fry. Abbastanza! If you think you put enough, add another 50g, the focaccia should bath in olive oil.

Once in the pan, lightly stretch it out, but do not force as the dough will naturally relax into the shape of the pan. Once shaped, the focaccia will proof for about 2.5 hours at room temperature (23-24°C).

Once full proved and bubbles have formed on the top, we can now begin to dimple. Drizzle olive oil on the top of the focaccia and using the base of the tips of your fingers dimple and push the dough. You want to push all the air into the parts of the dough that aren’t dimpled, this also helps with keeping the oven spring even and your dimples noticeable. Once dimpled, take the soft cherry tomatoes and squish along with ripping them onto the dough. A focaccia is a messy process and there is no slicing here, we want all the juice on the focaccia. Once they have been placed, add the olive, salt and oregano.

Place in an oven at 250°C with no steam and bake for 40 minutes or till you desired colour. At 30 minutes into the bake you can take it out and rip some mozzarella di buffala on top and then place back in the oven to have melted cheese on top.

If you want a real Terrone Focaccia, bake until bruciat’ (burnt) and you can see black on some of the bubbles and cherry tomatoes.

The best way to eat the focaccia is to slice into squares and serve it as is with your favorite glass of Barolo or Amarone.

The next day, you can slice it through the middle and place salami, cheese and roasted red peppers inside for un bel panino!