Focaccia - Nonna Gina's recipe reviewed.
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If you've never come across Nonna Gina, then you're in for a treat. Gina Petitti was born in 1935 in Faeto, close to the border of the Apulia / Puglia region of south-east Italy. It's a mountain village, lying astride the Apennines and famous for its prosciutto. Locals speak an ancient dialect, referred to as a Franco-Provençal and usually only found in the Alpine region of northern Italy, southeastern France and southwestern Switzerland.
In 1970, Gina, her husband, Vito, and their four children emigrated to New Jersey, USA. Vito passed away in 2012 and her son Angelo, in 2015. Gina, a grandmother of nine children, bakes as she was taught - by her mother and her grandmother, back in Italy.
Gina has her own, highly successful, YouTube channel "Italian Grandma Makes.....(whatever)..."
In Italian Grandma Makes Focaccia, we're treated to a very special recipe and a very straightforward approach.
As usual, we're going to follow the recipe and see if it actually works for us as well as it does for Gina.
I've converted the US measurements to grams and millilitres to help those who usually bake in this way.
Here's the video:
Now, let's move on to the ingredients.
For the dough
8 oz of mashed potatoes (no salt, milk or butter added)
750 gms of strong bread flour
2½ teaspoon sea salt
709 mls of tepid water (it may not be necessary to use all the water, however, the dough is quite loose)
3 tablespoon olive oil
9 gms instant yeast (or 12.5 gms of Active Dried Yeast)
for the toppings
3 teaspoon dried oregano
60 mls olive oil
50 gms sundried tomatoes
120 gms black olives (olives in oil not brine and stones removed)
sea salt flakes
Olive oil for drizzling.
1. Prepare 8 ozs of peeled potato, boiled until fork tender, drained and thoroughly mashed.
2. Add the flour to a large bowl. Add the salt and mix thoroughly.
3. Make a dip in the centre of the flour and add the mashed potato.
4. From the 709 mls of tepid water, add a little to the mix and start to incorporate the potatoes into the flour.
5. Add the olive oil (3 tablespoons) into the bowl and mix thoroughly.
6. Add the yeast. (Gina uses active dried yeast. I use instant yeast. To convert one to another, multiply the volume of active dried yeast by 0.75 and that will give you the amount of instant yeast you will need)
7. Continue to add the water, incorporating all the ingredients together.
8. Continue by hand (or using a stand mixer) to bring the dough together.
9. Cover and place somewhere warm for about an hour (or until it has doubled in size)
10. Oil a large baking tray (approx 18 " x 13" x 1") I'm using a 40 cm x 30 cm x 2 cm baking tray
11. Gently knock the risen dough back and tip it into the baking tray. Gently, tease the dough out to try and fill the whole baking tray.
12. Leave covered at room temperature (21⁰C) for approximately 20 minutes. (Gina uses plastic sheet and a tea-towel. I find silicone or parchment paper far easier to use)
13. While you're waiting.....prepare the toppoings. Mix the oregano and the oil together and let it infuse. If necessary, drain the black olives and remove the stones. Cut the sundried tomatoes into reasonably small pieces.
14. Preheat the oven to 175⁰C.
15. Oil your fingers in the olive oil / oregano mixture and dimple the dough, touching the bottom of the tray through the dough.
16. Drizzle the remainder of the oil / oregano mixture evenly over the top of the dough.
17. Push pieces of the sun dried tomatoes into the dough, evenly distributing them across the whole tray.
18. Do likewise with the black olive pieces. Try to leave the top of the olives and the tomatoes exposed.
19. Drizzle a little olive oil over the whole surface and sprinkle with sea salt flakes.
20. Bake on a low rack at 175⁰C for about 40 - 45 minutes until golden brown
21. Allow to cool in the tin and, when cool, remove to a cooling wire rack.
I left it to cool in the tray and it went a little soft. So, I reheated the oven to 200⁰C and placed it out of the tray and onto a pizza stone. It crisped up again in about 15 minutes. The final result? I'm pleased. It looks right, and it tastes right. Grazie, Nonna Gina.
Happy baking......Buona Cottura