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Aug 9, 2012

BBA Challenge #13 Focaccia, #14 French Bread, #15 Italian Bread

Installment number five on my year of baking my way through Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

BBA Challenge #13 Focaccia

This bread is infused with flavor from an herb oil that you make yourself from your choice of herbs and spices. I kind of took the kitchen sink approach, and loved the results. We have a few pots of herbs in our patio/backyard, so it definitely felt good to be able to use so many of them in one recipe.
To make the herb oil, heat olive oil to 100 degrees, add the herbs, and let them steep to infuse the oil with their flavors. 

I used parsley, purple basil, oregano, sage, and thyme from our mini herb garden. I also added coarse sea salt, black pepper, garlic, paprika, cayenne, fennel seeds, and dried minced onion. A flavor party. 

There are two versions of this bread in the book. Either way, this bread is a two day affair. I chose to make the Poolish Focaccia. On the first day, you make the poolish, which requires no time at all. On the second day, you make the bread. 

The trick to this bread is stretching and folding the dough, and dimpling the dough once you get it into the pan to shape the dough and maintain its airy quality. The book is loaded with specific instructions on how to create this wonderful bread.

I loved this bread.

13 x 18 inch focaccia
The only thing I might experiment with is placement in the oven. The bottom was more pale than I expected, so I might move the rack down a bit to be closer to the heating element of my electric oven. 

Peter Reinhart also offers variations for making pizza style focaccia with various toppings. They look wonderful.

Google BBA Challenge #13 for other bloggers' results and tips.

BBA Challenge #14 French Bread

My bread did not turn out anything like the photos in the book and I'm pretty sure it was user error. I probably should have made the three small baguettes called for in the recipe. I also likely made my dough too wet, which resulted in a fairly flat bread. The nice thing about these breads though is that they still taste good. But still. 

Google BBA Challenge #14 for other bloggers' results and tips.

BBA Challenge #15 Italian Bread

Didn't you always wonder what the difference was between French and Italian bread? Me too. In the grocery store, French bread has blue and red on the wrapper and the bread might be a little crustier, while Italian bread has green and red on the bag, and the bread might be a little softer. 

Peter Reinhart's French bread uses a pate fermentee, while his Italian bread uses a biga. They are both preferments that improve the flavor of the final dough. The difference? The pate fermentee does not include salt. 

In this case, I used a 66% sourdough starter that I had on hand, instead of the biga. The ratios are about the same. 

With this recipe, you can make two loaves or 9 rolls. I was happy I could make nice round baguette-style loaves this time. The author also offers tips on how to make breadsticks and grissini with this dough.

Google BBA Challenge #15 for other bloggers' results and tips.

Would you like to comment?

  1. Yours post looks AWESOME! it really is the easiest recipe ever..I have it on the menu to make yet again this week.

  2. Thank you! Yes, it is such a wonderful recipe.


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