What is your favorite carb?
We had a heated discussion about this at work. First, you need to categorize this properly: we are not talking about good carbs and bad carbs. We are in a safe space where all carbs are good as long as they make you happy.
We are separating carbs into grains (rice, bulgur etc), noodles (inc. pasta), bread (inc. pizza). For the purposes of this exercise we will remove sweets and dishes where the carb has a supporting role, like quiches (thereby removing pastry as a category), and the likes of dumplings. These three categories are understandably very broad. For grains, we will only consider them in their whole form, for if we start thinking about rice flour dishes, then they blur into the other categories.
Bread is my favorite carb, hands down. I love it not just for its flavor and versatility, but honestly I think it’s miraculous. Especially sourdough – it’s science at its best. Sourdough is made of just flour, salt, and water. These three ingredients come together and with some time and some heat, complex reactions occur, resulting in loaves of soft, spongy bead. I see why bread is always featured in religions. It is as miraculous as it gets for people before we had any understanding of chemistry.
Recently I’ve begun experimenting more with sourdough breads. It’s a bit of a hit and miss to be honest, and the possibility of disappointment looms over me every time I take Katy (my starter) out of the fridge.
So the other day I decided to use some instant yeast to make focaccia. Focaccia is one of those lovely foods that’s impossible to hate. (Unless you hate carbs, in which case we can’t be friends.) It’s salty, it’s oily (in the best way), it’s springy, it’s got a lovely crust and it’s built for mopping up all the sauces. Or I mean, it’s just fabulous on its own. In a world of no consequences focaccia would probably feature in all my meals.
The key to a good focaccia is plenty of water. You don’t want a dry dough, for a dry dough results in a sad dense focaccia. You want a wet dough and a soft fluffy outcome. I’ve used my trusty standmixer to knead this, which makes a wet dough easier to work with.
This recipe is for a plain focaccia, but feel free to jazz it up with some rosemary, cherry tomatoes, olives, or grapes. Or whatever takes your fancy.
Recipe adapted from Giallo Zafferano
470g strong bread flour
5g instant yeast
45g olive oil + 30g for drizzling at the end
coarse salt for sprinkling at the end
Makes one large loaf
Put the flour, yeast, and sugar together in a bowl. Give it a gentle mix before adding in the water, milk, 45g olive oil and salt. Mix until a rough dough comes together, then knead until smooth – about 15 minutes. Oil the surface instead of flouring it to make sure you don’t dry out the dough.
Alternatively, this can be done in a stand mixer – mix everything on low speed until evenly combined, then increase speed and leave to knead until smooth.
Leave in an oiled bowl to rise, covered, for about 1-2 hours, until doubled in size.
Take a baking tray (about 35cm by 25cm) and grease it generously with olive oil. Place the dough on top and flatten it so it covers the base of the tray. Oil your fingers and create little dimples all over the dough by poking almost all the way through to the bottomm. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for another hour.
Preheat oven to 200C. Whisk the remaining 30g of olive oil with 20g of water. Drizzle the top of the dough with this mixture, and you can gently prod the holes a bit more. Sprinkle with a bit of coarse salt.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden on top. Best eaten right away.