Pros: Exposure to a different style of baking
Cons: Hard to find ingredients
Nordic cuisine seems to be quite trendy these days. Especially after NOMA was named “Best Restaurant in the World” for several consecutive years. Now the book “Home Baked” has been written by one of the owners of the farm and mill that provides the organic grains to NOMA.
I do truly love rustic breads and am willing to take the time needed to make it from scratch. However, this book failed to really get me excited about any of the recipes. It felt like a little too much work trying to figure out what to substitute for some of the ingredients. There is an introduction that gives an explanation of some of the grains they use and possible substitutions. I just found some hard to obtain, even after going to some specialty markets throughout my city.
The first recipe I tried was a particularly non-Nordic recipe for rosemary focaccia. It was delicious and straight forward, with that wonderful chew and dense texture that maintains its texture nicely.
I thought I should try something a bit more traditional for my next test, so I sampled the Crisp Bread. This item is described as being a “Swedish national staple”. The photo made it look like thin crackers that would be a nice cheese plate accompaniment. However, I did have to make some substitutions when it called for sifted wheat flour, whole rye flour, malt syrup, fresh yeast and sifted rye flour. Even after re-reading the introduction I am not completely certain I did it properly.
My crisps were darker than the ones pictured, but not so much crisp as they were tough. And somewhat bland.
The disappointing results may be completely my fault, but it does not inspire me to try other recipes from the book. From the descriptions and photos, I would love to try some of the other baked goods, but I wish someone else would make them.
Focaccia Al Coltibuono
.8 oz (20g) fresh yeast
1 lb 4 oz (500g) sifted wheat flour
.4 oz (10g) fine salt
.4 oz (10g) (approx. 2 tsp) light cane sugar
2 oz (50g) (approx. 2 ½ tbsp) high-quality olive oil, plus a little extra for the pan and brushing the dough
Approx. 13 oz (325g) lukewarm water
Decoration: Needles from 3 to 5 rosemary twigs
Rub the yeast into the flour. Add the remaining ingredients, then mix and work the dough as shown in Figure 2-4 on pages 46-47. Let it rest until doubled in volume.
Preheat the oven to 390°F.
Move the dough into a thoroughly oiled baking pan. Press and push to gently flatten it. Continue until the dough is approximately 1 inch high in an even layer in the pan. Let it proof for 15 minutes or more.
Brush the dough with the leftover olive oil; sprinkle on rosemary needles and salt flakes. Then gently press your fingertips several times into the dough to give it the “focaccia look”. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the center of the oven until it is a light brown color.
The dough can also be divided into rolls and flattened to .4-inch-high mini pizzas topped with, for example, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, olives, pesto, potatoes, arugula leaves, cheese….whatever you feel like at the time.