The Tadka cook is well-seasoned, adept at using every trick in the book to transform commonplace ingredients into lip-smacking delights. She is not above giving a helping hand to idlis with baking soda, fluffing up her cakes with baking powder or cajoling dhoklas (steamed chickpea-flour cakes) to squidgy heights with Eno (a leavener). Going over her standard repository one quiet afternoon, she discerns a chink of sorts — in an ingredient that trounces her by its very presence, prompting a brisk page flip to avoid getting entangled in its complex precepts.
Is her aversion due to the impractical number of hours involved in an enterprise starring this ingredient, she wonders. Does the thought of slaving at it sniff out her enthusiasm? Or perhaps, the fear of rising to the task is too literal here, she concludes ruefully.
Yet, as she takes a few baby steps into this stretchy world, her kitchen is filled with savory aromas and the anticipation of toothsome slices. Considering how the results of even modest efforts entice picky eaters to her table, she submits herself to the prospect of taking on this ingredient, one that can transform a lump of dough into crusty loaves, sticky sweet buns and even pillowy doughnuts. Join her as she treads on yeasty territory with an easy recipe for a quick, chewy Masala Focaccia Bread that calls for little more than chopping, measuring, mixing, rising and baking.
Masala Focaccia Bread
(Makes one 13”x9” pan)
For the Masala:
- 6 Spring onions/ scallions
- 3-5 Thai chillies, Jalapenos or Serrano peppers, or a combination, to taste
- A large handful of cilantro
- Lots of olive oil
Finely mince the spring onions, chilies and cilantro, and sauté them together for just a minute in a teaspoon of olive oil. Keep this aside to cool. Prepare a 13” x 9” baking pan by lining with parchment or greasing it with cooking spray. An extra bit of olive oil left lying in the bottom will ensure a crunchy, golden crust.
For the Bread:
- 1½ Cups lukewarm water
- 1 Heaped tablespoon active dry yeast
- 2½ Cups all-purpose flour or maida
- 1 Cup whole wheat flour or atta
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1½ Teaspoon salt
- 1 Cup of crumbled or grated cheese – cheddar, jack and feta are all good choices
- Kindle some life into your yeast by stirring it into tepid water in a large bowl, along with a teaspoon of sugar. The key to success is the temperature of the water – too hot, and you kill the spores before they can work their magic.
- For active dry yeast wait for five minutes to let it bubble up before adding the flours, salt and the sautéed scallion mixture. Beat until smooth with an electric mixer, or by hand, using a sturdy spatula, for a minute or so.
- Blend in the cheese.
- Scrape the gooey mass into the prepared pan, and coax it towards the corners with your fingers dipped in a bowl of water.
- Cover the pan snugly with a kitchen towel and let it relax for an hour or so in a comfortably warm place.
- Meanwhile pre-heat the oven to 350°F/180°C.
- Once the bread has risen, gently poke some holes in the dough with your wet fingers to get the focaccia’s signature dimply look. Drizzle olive oil liberally over the top.
- Finish with a light dusting of cracked black pepper or crushed, red pepper flakes.
- Bake in for 35-40 minutes, or until the bread is golden brown.
- Let the bread cool in the pan for five minutes. Run a knife along the sides and turn out onto a cooling rack.
- Cut into thick slabs, and serve warm.
Think of the Tadka cook, as you savor this satisfying treat..fresh baked bread from your own oven, as you make friends at last with yeast, no longer a beast.
Adapted from Blitz bread by King Arthur Flour http://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/blitz-bread-no-fuss-focaccia-recipe
Our beginner’s bread is being shared with -