Bake Club: Focaccia

Last year I gave Basically’s recipe for focaccia a try and it was the easiest bread I ever made. It was crispy and chewy but salty. Bon Appetite likes very salty food. Flipping through Dessert Person by Claire Safitz, I found her version of focaccia. I thought it would be great with the soup I was making for dinner. It’s been -35C to -40C for a while and a hearty vegetable white bean soup just soothes me.

I watched her video to see how she made the bread first. I never got the stretch she did because her recipe made it seem like pancake batter. That was just too runny so I added more flour. Then I got the stretch…ish. I no longer have high hopes for this book. And quite frankly, I am finding it disappoints. I really wanted to love this book. I don’t think it was tested enough or maybe the Canadian ingredients and measurements are just soo different. For example, she said two tablespoons of kosher salt or 17g. I weighed out the salt. One tbsp. of Canadian kosher salt was 19g. If this isn’t the biggest reason to buy a scale, I don’t know what is. I shutter to think what it would have been like if I didn’t weigh it. So my Canadian baker friends, weigh everything for an American recipe.

I followed her instructions and rested the dough for 10 minutes before mixing again. I am skeptical that this was necessary but I did it anyways.

I poured the olive oil innto a bowl (use a big bowl, I under estimated.) then put the dough in the bowl for its first rise.

I used a damp towel to cover and let it sit for an hour – this sucker over flowed the bowl!

Then it went onto a half sheet. 13″x 22″ Do not used anything smaller or put it into a large pan, the type you use for lasagna or a sheet cake. This sucker is going to be big! I put it in the fridge over night, covered with plastic wrap. In the morning I let to come to room temperature before drizzling oil and toppings. Dessert person recomends garlic and olive oil. Her book says potates and rosemary. I know what I like so I used Mozzarella Fresca, its herb infused oil and tore Kalamata olives.

Not everyone in my family is an olive fan, so I only put them on half the bread. But sprinkled the entire pan with flakey salt.

It smelled so good.

I baked it for the allotted time. and it came out crispy and chewy, light and fluffy in the middle. I don’t think I will every make any other focaccia recipe again. This one was amazing and the hubs raved about it with every bite making those hilarious yummy noises.

I think the recipes in this book are hit or miss. So far I have baked two recipes that are stellar. The rest are fine or problematic for this Canadian baker.

Here are the ingredients and I recommend giving the video a watch.

Ingredients: 1 (1/4 oz / 7g) envelope active dry yeast 6 cups bread flour (24oz / 780g) 2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt (0.6oz / 17g) 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (5oz / 110g), plus 1/4 cup for topping plain focaccia and more for oiling hands Optional toppings and Flaky salt, for sprinkling the top.

Bake Club: Poppy Seed Almond Cake

I remember my grandma always having a bundt cake on hand to serve when we came for a visit. The visit was called ‘coffee’. I never drank coffee but I always had the cake. My grandma was a good baker. I mentioned before that I received a couple of cookbooks for Christmas. I spent so many weekends trying out Duchess, I had neglected Dessert Person by Claire Saffitz. She is the phenom who stared in the Bon Appetit series Gourmet Makes where she would try some food and recreate it, things like Doritos or Skittles. Nine times out of ten she nailed it or improved upon it (according to her test kitchen colleagues. Where she really excelled was with pastries and desserts. That is what her cookbook is all about.

I read this book from start to finish and I think she has weird ingredients. Spelt and miso in baked goods are not things I have on hand in my pantry. I need to plan ahead when I decide to make something of hers. What I do like is the companion videos that go with some of her recipes. She has her own series produced by her publishing house Penguin. I have watched every video she has released so far. Including the satire video by Novympia. Hilarious because Saffitz isn’t the most cheerful person and she complains a lot. The best part is her being surprised by the instructions in her cookbook. All very funny and on brand.

I chose Poppy Seed Almond Cake as my first foray into Dessert Person. I watch the video here before I read the recipe and began baking it. My first thought was “this recipe is backwards”. Normally you would cream the sugar, eggs, butter and flavourings together first. Then add milk and four in stages. This recipe you combine all the dry in the stand mixer then add all the wet all at once. It is a very easy and forgiving cake.

Flour, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder and salt all wen in first. I weighed everything because American measurements are slightly different from Canadian measurements and I wanted this to be accurate. It’s been a hot minute before I have used poppy seeds and almond flavoring, so those were the new purchases for this bake.

Then I added the milk, oil, eggs, vanilla and almond extracts.

I didn’t even have to break up the eggs before I added it to the bowl. I was highly skeptical. Then I mixed it on medium high for 2 minutes (set the timer).

It was about the consistency of pancake batter. I poured it into a prepared bundt pan. I used Pam and then floured it. But I don’t think it needed to be floured. I have a non-stick pan and Pam does a great job. Flouring the pan left flour clumps on the finished cake. So proceed with caution.

It baked for a long time, 90 minutes. When I pulled it out, there was a crack on the top (normal) and a nice brown crust (also normal). My cake tester came out clean.

Leave the cake in the pan for about 15 minutes. This is an important step. The steam in the cake needs to release to improve the structure of the cake. The pan will support it while this happens. Pop it out too soon and your cake will break or crack. After 15 minutes turn out on a wire rack over a lined baking sheet. This will catch the crumbs and the glaze drips.

The glaze was simple. Using the whisk attachment for the stand mixer I combined melted butter (weird), orange juice, icing sugar, vanilla and almond extracts. I poked holes all over the cake so it would absorb the glaze. Then I used a pastry brush to apply the glaze. It took and absorbed about five coats. I used all the glaze and you can scoop up the stuff from the bottom of the pan that drips off. I didn’t I was sticky enough.

I let it completely cool because in the video Claire and her mom talk about the odd dense section of the cake and Claire and her mom surmised it was from not letting the cake cool enough before cutting. I had let it cool 2 hours before we cut into it and I still got that strange dense section. It doesn’t affect the taste but it gives an appearance of an under baked cake. My advice is to let the cake sit overnight.

My daughter wanted you to know her review: It was good.

*Edmonton Tourist’s Note: I have made three more since this day. I have been baking treats for my parents lately because mom isn’t up to it and treats are nice. They both said it was the best cake they ever had – and it was Dad’s mom who was the famous grandma in this story – so that is high praise. I did let the cake sit over night and two things happened. It tasted better and there wasn’t that weird ‘under baked’ section of the cake. I also tried it in two loaf pans. This was smart. I froze one and ate one. It baked a little better in the loaf pan and I didn’t get the flour residue. Today I am trying orange blossom instead of almond – because dad want more.

So there you have it. It is one of those old timey cakes that grandmas used to serve for ‘coffee’. It was good – very moist and tender. One of the easiest cakes I have ever made not from a box. I will put the ingredients below because she shares them on her video.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/3 cups or 465g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp or 17g poppy seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp or 6g baking powder
  • 1 tsp or 3g kosher salt
  • 3 cups or 390g AP flour
  • 1 1/2 cups or 360g of whole milk
  • 1 1/3 cup or 288g of neutral oil (I used canola)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 tsp of almond extract

Glaze

  • 3/4 cup or 90g of powder sugar
  • 1/4 cup or 57g orange juice
  • 2 tsp melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract