I want to talk about this focaccia bread that I made a few months back.
This recipe actually dates back to May when the summer winds were blowing but the heat continued to trickle down our backs in little rivulets of clammy warmth. It was one of those busy days – regardless of the fact that we got a few days off from work due to the Vesak festival, I was busy cleaning, clearing and organizing the house that I had time for nothing else.
Let me tell you about Vesak.
The Vesak festival is a Buddhist religious festival – in fact THE most important festival for Buddhists all over the world. Commemorating the Birth, Death and the attaining of Enlightenment, Vesak falls on the full moon day of May.
So what does one do on the Vesak full moon poya day? Some observe sil, a full day meditative programme, some go to the temple with flowers and some observe good deeds like giving alms and etc. and others, like us, celebrate Vesak by hanging lanterns and strings of lights in our gardens.
So this is basically what we were busy doing that day – stringing lights together and getting together candles, oil lamps and lanterns for the night. All cooking had ceased and we were in the festive spirit. And nobody was really hungry after the hearty vegetarian lunch we had courtesy of my mother.
But then I am peckish and I know this to be true at any given time. What intended to be a nibble ended up being dinner and we found ourselves tearing chunks off this fragrant bread hot off the oven, dipping it in olive oil and slathering it in butter (which melted and oozed and sank into the soft pillowy bread) sitting there in the garden surrounded by the flickering lights of the lanterns that we just lit and fairy lights that twinkled around us. it was surreal.
Rosemary Focaccia bread with olives
- Flour - 500g
- Yeast - 4 tsps
- Olive oil - 2 tblsps + more for drizzling
- Salt - 3 tsps
- Olives - 1 cup
- Rosemary - 3 tsps , dried
- Water - 300ml
- Mix together the flour, the salt, the yeast and the dried rosemary in a large bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil.
- Make a well in the centre and add 300ml water. Stir with a wooden spoon to form a dough.
- Stretch the dough in the bowl with the hands, tuck the sides into the centre, turn the bowl 80 degrees and repeat for 5 minutes.
- Turn the dough onto an oiled surface and knead for another 5 minutes. Return the dough into the bowl and rest covered for about 30 minutes until the dough raises to about double its size.
- Divide the dough into 2 portions. Oil two baking pans (I used round pyrex glass dishes) and flatten each portion of the dough stretching it to the corners of the dish. Leave this to prove for another hour.
- Preheat the oven to 220C. Dot the loaves with olives, drizzle them with olive oil and salt and bake for about 30 minutes until the loaves are golden. Serve warm with olive oil or butter.
Baking this is such a delight. The beautiful aroma of rosemary and olive oil simply wraps around you transporting you to a beautifully sunny afternoon in Tuscany. Only thing, Sri Lanka at this time of the year is extra special. Every tree, every bush and undergrowth is in bloom and afternoons are deliciously balmy with cool winds and golden syrupy sunshine. The heady perfume of blossoms in full bloom carve into your senses an image of eternal sunshine and blis.. Oh but I digress!
The bread itself is soft and pillowy with a delicious golden crust. Speckled with bits of fragrant rosemary, the bread is crunchy in the mouth with a cloud-like middle that is delightful and flavorsome. The fragrance of the rosemary combines wonderfully with the herb-like flavor of the olive oil – green on green while the acidity of the olives that dot the bread seeps into the very pores of the bread, creating an electric green vein of astringency coursing through the bread.
Tear off chunks while warms and dip it in extra virgin olive oil before popping it in your mouth. You will die with pleasure.
- Serve warm for optimal satisfaction.
- I used a mix of black and green olives for the bread. However I must say that the Spanish black olives are my favorite with this particular bread.