Thursday, August 28, 2008

Not Quite What I Was Hoping For

My habit of simply scanning recipes finally caught up with me. My eyes grazed the first few steps of my latest baking endeavor, then I scrolled through each picture and jumped in, thinking that the sooner I started the better because it was likely going to take me till 10:00 P.M. to pull this bread out of the oven. If only I had known that my rising and shrinking ball of dough would keep me awake until 2 A.M....And yet I can't quite get upset with these squares of focaccia bread sitting on my kitchen counter like I think I deserve to be.

I was threatening to call the entire thing a flop this morning but got enough compliments on it that I'm trying to keep an open mind and see the whole long ordeal as a learning experience.

Do I still sound a bit disgruntled? Well, the issue isn't really with the length of time it took to make the focaccia -- I love the process of kneading, waiting, rising, kneading again... -- though I wish I had sat down with a calculator and figured out that starting my ferment at 5:00 P.M. would not allow me to be in bed by midnight. The issue is more with how difficult it was to work with the dough and how off my converted measurements felt.

You see, I selected pastry flour for this recipe because Fanny over at Foodbeam had used a superfine French flour and it seemed like a good substitute. However, I did not realize until I was researching flour types on Cook's Illustrated halfway through the process that I had not made the finest choice involving a yeast-based recipe. Also, I failed to notice on the flour packaging that "whole grain" was written vertically on the side of the label. I assumed I had bought a white pastry flour and was planning on using half white and half wheat flours. When it dawned on me that I was already dealing with a whole grain flour, I did not have any white flour in my cupboards to temper the density of the dough.

So, what I ended up with this morning for breakfast was a thick slab of flat bread, slightly sweetened, and flecked with apricots and pine nuts. For a whole wheat bread, it actually had a decent crumb to it and a few humble air bubbles inside, despite the fact that it was more willing to rip than stretch as I worked through the last stages of folding around 11:30 at night.

The thing is, I was fixated on this recipe from the moment I saw it on Foodbeam and wanted to take a stone fruit approach, still maintaining a nuance of olive oil and brown sugar. I ended up being far too modest with my deposit of fruit on top, though at the time it looks like I had covered the surface quite generously, which is another thing I would fix.

All that to say, I stand before you humbled and educated by this experience, and not at all at a loss because, even though I didn't make the focaccia of my dreams, I have had a homemade gift to pass around to friends today, plus leftovers to nibble on as a hearty breakfast bread for the next few days.

With all Fanny's helpful steps and descriptions, this recipe is certainly worth a try, and after all her raving about Dan Lepard, I made sure to add two of his books to my ever growing Amazon wish list.

Fruit Focaccia Bread Recipe


danlepard said...

I want to be the first to say that your creation of a whole-wheat focaccia "dolce" with apricots and pinenuts is superb. Mistakes can yield great ideas and I think you have one. The nuttiness of the wholewheat flour, especially with the brown sugar on top, would suit the apricots and pine nuts really well and I think your friends have a point as it sounds like a winner!

best wishes,


Lael said...

Dan: I am so flattered by your compliments. Thank you for the encouragement and for visiting this humble little blog! I certainly haven't given up utterly on this recipe and look forward to working with it more in the future.

Rachael said...

Lily~ You amaze me...I love the words you find to say exactly how you feel. And I love the delight you create when you are using your artistic gifts in the kitchen too. And I love how I feel like I've been able to spend some time with you even when you are so far away. Thanks for keeping close though we can't sit together and share a cup of tea & some adventurous focaccia. I'd say you are brillant at what you do.
Love you immensely, Mom

*fanny* said...

this bread might be a little denser than the average focaccia, but I must say the combo of whole-wheat (even accidental) with pinenuts and apricots sounds heavenly.

xx fanny

Lael said...

Mom: A fair share of this "brilliance" comes from you. Thanks for the sincere words.

Fanny: Thank you so much for visiting my blog. I'm such a fan of yours. And you're right about the focaccia, it ended up being quite heavenly. I just had to change my expectations.