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
- 3-7 Green chillies, to taste
- A large handful of coriander leaves
- Lots of extra virgin olive oil
Finely mince the spring onions, chilies and coriander, and sauté them together for just a minute in a teaspoon of olive oil. Keep this aside to cool.
For the Bread:
- 1½ Cups lukewarm water
- 1 Heaped tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 Teaspoon sugar
- 2½ Cups all-purpose flour or maida
- 1 Cup whole wheat flour or atta
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling
- 1½ Teaspoon salt
- 1 Cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese
- Prepare a 13” x 9” baking pan by lining with parchment and greasing it well with the oil. Leave a little extra olive oil in the bottom and this will ensure a crunchy, golden crust.
- Pour the lukewarm water into a large mixing bowl. To bring the yeast to life stir it into the water along with a teaspoon of sugar. The key to success is the temperature of the water – too hot, and you will kill the spores before they can work their magic, and if it is too cold the yeast will not be able to kindle to life.
- Wait for about five minutes or until you see the liquid start to bubble up.
- Now add the flours, salt and the sautéed masala to the liquid. 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 dipping them into a bowl of water if it is sticky.
- Cover the pan snugly with a kitchen towel and let it rise 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 the surface of the dough with your wet fingers to get the focaccia’s signature dimply look. Drizzle olive oil liberally over the top.
- Bake in the oven 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 –