Making bread is one of those artforms that takes lots of patience and practice to master. Understanding yeast and the elasticity of flour and how the two interact together is important. Without going into too much explaining and too much detail let me simplify the concept for you.
Yeast is a living organism that requires sugar, warmth and moisture to grow. It eats sugar, farts carbon dioxide and pisses alcohol. That’s it in simple terms. When it releases the carbon dioxide we do our utmost to make sure the gas does not escape…and therefore causes the dough to rise as it bakes. By kneading and kneading bread you are activating the starch proteins in the flour and making them more elastic. The more elastic the dough is, the more gas it will trap…and therefore the softer and higher the bread will rise. DO NOT underestimate the power of kneading bread. Do it for as long as humanly possible. You get electric whisks that have dough hooks for kneading dough but I highly recommend you do it by hand as the heat in your hands activates and helps the yeast grow.
Focaccia is an Italian bread that is baked in a sheet tray and comes out in a flat loaf. Its soaked in olive oil before and after baking and you stuff it with anything and everything you like. Traditionally its stuffed with garlic, salt and rosemary (by pressing finger holes into it in a pattern…as seen in the picture). This recipe uses biltong and salt but feel free to use anything you like.
2 tsp dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/4 cup olive oil
Biltong dust/ thin shavings
Fresh rosemary sprigs
– Proof the yeast by combining it with the warm water and sugar. Stir gently to dissolve. Let stand 3 minutes until foam appears.
– Slowly add the flour to the bowl as you mix with a wooden spoon
– Dissolve salt in 2 tablespoons of water and add it to the mixture. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil.
– When the dough starts to come together turn out onto a floured surface and begin to knead with your fists.
– Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding flour as necessary. Add some (not all) of the biltong shavings to the dough.
– Turn the dough out onto a work surface and fold over itself a few times. Form the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl, turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn’t form a skin. Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 -minutes.
– Coat a sheet pan with a little olive oil and mielie meal.
– Once the dough is doubled and domed, turn it out onto the counter. Roll and stretch the dough out to an oblong shape about 5cm thick.
– Lay the flattened dough on the pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes.
– Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
– Uncover the dough and dimple with your
finger and fill each dimple with a piece of rosemary and biltong. Brush the surface with more olive oil and sprinkle coarse salt over the dough as well as more biltong shavings.
– Bake on the bottom rack for 15 to 20 minutes.
Once done sprinkle with a little more olive oil. I love it with tapenade and pesto.