Focaccia

Focaccia is one of the most famous Italian food. Here in the UK it can be found in many more or less artisanal bakeries and even in supermarkets. It is seldom good generally far too high and dense. Focaccia is  one of the most satisfying baked goodies to make at home: it is relatively easy and highly rewarding in terms of taste and texture.

This is one of the best focaccia recipes I have tasted in a long time. Its secret lies in the generous amount of oil and white wine in the dough. It is these ingredients that give this focaccia a full flavour, even if there is also a biga at work here. The inspiration came from Carol Field’s Focaccia book (via another splendid book: Recipes from Paradise, by Fred Plotkin), but I have consequently developed my own version, which I prefer. I have dramatically reduced the yeast and increased the time for the biga, from 1 hour to 12-14 hrs. I have also introduced 10% wholemeal flour, which I think gives the focaccia a more interesting crumb. Carol Field’s recipe uses white flour only and it is done and dusted over few hours (and it is very good, see notes), my version is over two days and I think it is even better. Continue reading

Sfincione di Bagheria (sfincione from Bagheria, a Sicilian pizza)

Sfincione is the pizza of Sicily: contrary to its Neapolitan counterpart, which is generally round, sold in individual portions, with a thick cornicione, a thin centre and not too much topping, sfincione is generally baked in large trays and sold cut up in hefty portions (even if there are also small, individual  sfincioni, called sfincionelli, approximately 300 g each); it is quite thick all over, with a soft and pillowy dough (sometimes a little lard is added to the dough, which I greatly approve of) and it is laden with toppings. It is another thing altogether and something I urge you to explore – sfincione lends itself to domestic home baking much better than Neapolitan pizza. Continue reading

Miascia (Bread, grape and rosemary cake from Lake Como)

Miascia (mee-AH-sha) is a bread cake typically found in the lovely villages dotting Lake Como. It is an impromptu cake, made with cheap ingredients: stale bread, milk, some fruit, fresh or dried, polenta flour, sugar, a little chopped rosemary to give an elusive perfume. Nothing fancy and yet the final result is truly delicious. The bread is soaked in milk and then fruit is added, with very little flour to bind. This creates a lovely custardy texture that contrasts well with the crunchy topping. Continue reading

Battuto di lardo, aglio e rosmarino (whipped lardo with rosemary and garlic)

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Lardo is one of the most delicious of Italian salumi. It is pork hard back that has been cured with salt and flavoured with herbs, garlic and spices. You can spot it in any good salumeria, the typical Italian delicatessen: it comes in large, squat slabs smothered in salt, pepper and herbs and almost marble white within. Lardo has a sweet, mellow, delicate porky flavor and a melt-in-your mouth, satiny, luscious texture. Continue reading