Monday, January 15, 2007

ROMAN POTATO FOCACCIA

On honeymoon in Rome, we bought and ate slices of this potato-topped focaccia, bought from a little take-away pizzeria tucked behind one of the squares. It was cold out, but we wrapped up and strolled along with this hot bread, and I wondered how I could make it at home.

Although the pizzeria was selling this alongside lots of other huge, square pizzas, cut into slices and served in napkins, the base was fluffier than the stone-baked dough we'd been eating at dinner time. I tried it at home with a focaccia base and it seemed about right. The Roman version was sprinkled generously with spikes of rosemary and plenty of rock salt, but we like finely-grated Parmesan on ours too.
This made a marvellous Saturday lunch after we'd spent the morning working in the garden.

Focaccia Base
3 cups strong white bread flour
1 cup warm water
3tbsp olive oil
1tsp rock salt
1tsp yeast

Topping
4 medium potatoes, washed and checked for eyes (peeled if very dirty)
1dstsp chopped rosemary (optional)
Olive oil
1-2tsp rock salt
1-2tbsp parmesan

Start the focaccia off hours before you need it. Put the water, one cup of flour, the olive oil and the yeast into the bread pan, and cover with a clean tea-towel dampened with hot water. Leave for 1-5 hours, or at least until bubbles start to appear. (NB: If very pushed for time, leave for as long as you can manage - as long as you put it into a hot oven, the bread rises on contact. But I think the dough starter guarantees good results.)

Add the salt and the remaining 2 cups of white flour. Set to PIZZA or DOUGH on the breadmaker. (Or, of course, you can knead by hand - thoroughly, until the dough is soft and spongy when prodded, and then leave to rise in a warm place for an hour.)

While it's rising, thinly slice the potatoes, and put into a pan of hot water. Par-boil them for only about 5-10 minutes: not so they're falling apart, but to achieve tenderness. Drain thoroughly.

The dough will be risen after an hour or so. Knock the dough down a little and stretch and punch it into a floured baking tray, pulling it into a loose rectangle. Cover again with a warm tea-towel, and put in the warmest place you can find. (Be careful! Putting it into a preheated-and-turned-off oven is a BAD idea.... it kills the yeast and you get flatbread! I know!) After about half an hour, turn on the oven and preheat it to about 180 degrees C (300 deg F).

After another hour or more, finish the focaccia: arrange the slices of potato over the top, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with rock salt and chopped rosemary (if you have any). Bake in the oven for about half an hour. It should be risen and starting to turn gold. (See below.)

Bring it out of the oven, sprinkle with the Parmesan, and put under the grill to melt - and make the potatoes extra crispy. (First picture.)

Serve. Who needs anything else but a glass of wine?