For the month of April, Rachael of Pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch. They chose 4 different recipes to tempt you with – a traditional Italian yeasted focaccia, a sourdough focaccia, an Argentinian yeasted fugazza, and an unleavened, cheese-filled focaccia di Recco. Focaccia is a type of flat Italian bread that is baked in the oven. The term focaccia is derived from the latin Panis focacius which means bread that is baked in the ashes. Focaccia can be topped with a variety of toppings ranging from rosemary and sea salt to different types of cheese, herbs, vegetables and even fruit.

The word “fugazza” is an Argentinian derivation of the Italian word “focaccia” – indicative of the prominent Italian population in that South American country and of the influence of Italian cuisine there. Very similar to an Italian focaccia, it is usually cooked in a cast iron skillet and is generally thicker than an Italian focaccia. There is also a version called fugazzeta, which is the same but stuffed with mozzarella. Focaccia di Recco is from the northern coastal region of Italy called Liguria. It is unleavened and stuffed with Stracchino (Crescenza), which is a very young cheese with a fine rind barely encapsulating a gooey cheese much like a very thick mascarpone. It is very messy but utterly delicious!

FOCACCIA

Ingredients:

For the Dough

2-3/4 cups (660 ml) (385 gm) all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (6 gm) salt

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (5 gm) white sugar

1 tablespoon (15 ml) (8½ gm) active dry yeast

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) garlic powder

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) dried oregano

1 teaspoon (5 ml) (3 gm) dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1 pinch ground black pepper

1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil

1¼ cups (300 ml) milk

2 tablespoon (15 gm) Parmesan cheese

For the Topping

Pitted black olives

Cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced

Fresh rosemary chopped

Sea salt or regular salt

Olive oil for topping

Method:

  • In a bowl mix the milk, active dry yeast and sugar and wait until the mixture becomes foamy and bubbly.
  • Stir together flour, salt, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil, 1 tablespoon parmesan and black pepper.

  • Mix in vegetable oil, then add the milk-yeast mixture. Stir with a spoon till the dough has pulled together.
  • Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic for around 10 minutes.

  • Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth.
  • Let rise in a warm place until it doubles in size. Center oven rack and preheat oven to hot 450°F/230°C.

  • Punch the dough down. Place it on greased baking sheet and pat into a ½ -inch (15 mm) thick rectangle.
  • To give the dough the dimpled effect, use your fingertips, pushing gently all over the surface of the dough.

  • Place your selected topping. Brush top generously with olive oil. Sprinkle with toppings of your choice.
  • Allow the dough to rest for 10-15 minutes then bake in preheated hot 450°F/230°C oven for 15 minutes.

  • The sides should begin to brown then place under the broiler (grill) till the top becomes golden brown.
  • Remove focaccia from oven and serve it warm. Sprinkle with extra cheese if desired. Servings: 8 slices.

Daring Bakers April 2015

Ingredients:

250g chicken breasts

1 tablespoon oil

6 tablespoons flour

1 egg, lightly beaten

3 tablespoons corn starch

Sesame seeds, toasted

For the Sauce

4 tablespoons honey

4 tablespoons ketchup

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons white vinegar

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1 tablespoon oyster sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon garlic powder

2 tablespoons corn starch

1/2 cup cold water

Method:

  • Select good quality boneless, skinless chicken breasts and chop the flesh into 1.5 inch pieces.

  • Season chicken with salt and pepper. Sauté the chicken in 1 tablespoon oil for 10-15 minutes.

  • Cook only till chicken turns golden. Place egg, corn starch, and flour in three separate bowls.

  • Dip chicken pieces into the egg mixture and turn them around so that they are evenly coated.

  • Next toss the egg coated chicken pieces in the flour bowl and lastly in corn starch, toss to coat.

  • Heat about 1/4 cup of vegetable oil over medium heat in a large frying pan or a heavy skillet.

  • Carefully add the coated chicken pieces and cook for about 10 minutes until golden and crisp.

  • Whisk all the ingredients for the sauce together in a medium mixing bowl and set mixture aside.

  • Add the sauce to the chicken pieces and simmer over low heat until the sauce thickens slightly.

  • Sprinkle sesame seeds over chicken and serve hot with brown rice or bread. Makes 4 servings.

Recipe adapted from Le Crème de la Crumb

Adapted a little from Cook’s Illustrated, this hot chocolate mix from Smitten Kitchen is “the ideal homemade gift to pack up for friends and family. It is both rich and deeply chocolaty, without being excessively sweet”. Add some fluffy marshmallows to dunk in or a tee-weeny bit of good quality espresso if you want to do it up further. I believe I’ll be making several jars of this chocolate mix well ahead to be sure to have it on hand as we edge towards our tropical winter. There can only be a handful of things that can make you smile on a cold, winter day and a mug of homemade hot chocolate is one of them.

DECADENT HOT CHOCOLATE MIX

Ingredients:

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

1 tablespoon (8 grams) cornstarch

3 ounces (85 grams) semi or bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

1/2 cup (40 grams) cocoa powder, any kind you like

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract or seeds from fresh vanilla bean

1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt or 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Method:

  • Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until they turn into a fine powder.

  • The mixture keeps well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 months.

  • To use Decadent Mix: Heat one cup of milk in a saucepan over medium heat until steamy.

  • Add 3 tablespoons hot cocoa mix. Whisk for another minute or two till it begins to simmer.

  • Mix should be completely dissolved. Pour into mug, top with mini-marshmallows or cream.

  • Yield: Just under 1 3/4 cups mix, enough for 9 cups; mixture packs up well in a 2-cup jar.

Decadent Hot Chocolate Mix

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PrerrnaMirchi
Mauritius

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