Confession time: I find men who cook extremely sexy. There, I said it. There's something so wonderful and special about a man who can whip up a breakfast in bed (pancakes, please!) or a delicious diner that welcomes me home after a long day of work.
Unfortunately, there is no such man in my life right now, but lucky enough, I still have my brother to discuss the cooking techniques and trade recipes with. When I visited him in Brno last weekend, I used the opportunity to raid his recipe books & magazines collection (as I always do) and to take a few gems home with me (I will give them back, I promise. Some day). I was especially excited about two Emanuele Ridi's cookbooks, since I'm slowly carving my path through Italian kitchen and the whole pasta making business.
Emanuele is an Italian chef living in Czech republic, running a restaurant, taping a successful TV show and writing one amazing cookbook after another. He may also be the most adorable chef I've ever seen, with the cutest accent and the best stories from his beloved grandparents who taught him everything about cooking. Most of his recipes are family heirlooms and I can only imagine how fun it will be to work my way through all those mouthwatering concoctions. And since I am tempted to try pretty much every single one of the recipes, I decided I might as well start on the page 1, with the basic focaccia.
I am a bread lover, there's no need to deny it. The idea of a life without carbs is simply inconceivable to me, and I believe there are few food-related things as satisfying as tearing off a chunk of freshly baked, still warm bread, and devouring it right on spot (very glamorous, I know). And of course, homemade breads are the best, this focaccia being the proof.
This is really the basic, the most simple recipe. I'm planning on experimenting with various flavors and combinations (garlic, olives, rosemary, you name it), and I'll be sure to share my best finds with you. In the meantime, I'm going to savor every last bit of this salty perfection, and I strongly urge you to do the same. You'll thank me later.
(Adapted from Emanuele Ridi's cookbook S Italem v kuchyni - roughly translated as Cooking with the Italian)
* 250g smooth flour (also called Bohemian) - you can use bread flour, too
* 1 tsp salt
* 15g active dry yeast
* 200ml lukewarm water
* olive oil
* coarse salt
* dried basil
1. Pour the water in a large bowl. Crumble the yeast in the water and stir gently, until it dissolves completely.
2. Blend flour with 1 tsp salt. Sift 1 tbsp flour in the yeast water and blend well (Emanuele is a big proponent of doing all with your own hands, but I'd rather stick to my robot. It's up to you which technique you prefer).
3. Slowly sift in the rest of the flour and mix well until you get a smooth, but still sticky dough.
4. Cover the bowl with clean dishcloth and let the dough rise in a warm place for 30-40 minutes. It should double its volume.
5. Once the dough is risen, preheat the oven to 220°C.
6. Flip the dough over on a floured surface. Dust with more flour and knead gently with your hands for 30 seconds.
7. Cut the dough in two equal parts and with your fingers, pull and flatten them until they're about 2cm thick (see the picture below).
8. Pour a generous dose of olive oil on the dough and spread it with your fingers. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Use your fingers and knuckles to work the oil and salt into the dough, by making dimples in it. In the end, sprinkle with dried basil.
9. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Once baked, focaccia has a lovely golden brown color.
10. Transfer to a rack and let cool down (if you are able to be that patient!).
11. Serve with a small bowl of seasoned olive oil or a piece of soft cheese. Or just devour as it is.
Bon appétit, or rather Buon appetito!