Here I am, complete with photos the most delicious baked focaccia, stuffed with three varieties of cheese, sage and fresh rocket - and I'm at a total loss for anything to say about it. I mean, besides, 'it's delicious,' and, 'it's stuffed with three varieties of cheese, sage and fresh rocket'. I recognise this is rather a cop-out.
I think it's the pressure. You see, this focaccia is the most beautiful thing on earth (what? I'm not in a relationship, okay). Somehow it seems crucially important to me that you recognise the miracle of layered, homemade bread, and the pressure is so much that words have failed me.
You're just going to have to make it, I'm afraid.
Secondly, it honestly doesn't take that long - it's not one of your sixteen-hour shebangs - as I know for a fact, since I made this in a massive hurry (and simultaneously making a lemon & raspberry layer cake, which you've not seen as although the photos were great, I wasn't happy with the taste. Hate it when that happens) before a picnic; the half-hour rising times worked out pretty conveniently, giving me time to do such important things as brush my hair and whip up a quick swiss meringue buttercream.
Incidentally, swiss meringue buttercream? Yes it looks incredibly smooth and professional, but it tastes like bath foam. Ugh.
'I don't have a damn thing to say about cheese & rocket focaccia,' I moaned on Twitter.
'I have several things to say about cheese & rocket focaccia,' my friend Sophie messaged back promptly (procrastinating uni work, I suspect), '1) OM 2) NOM 3) NOM 4) it's better than Morte d'Arthur'.
As a lit student, I feel I should disagree with the final point, but hell, cheese & rocket focaccia kicks the arse of Le Morte d'Arthur.
adapted from 'Happy Days with the Naked Chef', by Jamie Oliver.
As the photos demonstrate, this is ideal picnic fare; how can the humble cheese sandwich possibly compete with an enormous golden sheet of still-warm bread, stuffed with a thick and melty layer of parmesan, cheddar and cheshire cheeses, drizzled with olive oil and scented with fresh sage?
Oh hey, turns out I have things to say about this focaccia after all.
By all means use cheese of your choice - Jamie used Gorgonzola but since this was for a crowd I thought I'd avoid blue cheeses, which are a matter of taste, and went for Cheshire since it has a similar texture (and it's my favourite). But mozzarella would be nice if you wanted that stringy, pizza-cheese effect, for example.
1kg (just over 2lb) strong bread flour
625ml (just over 1 pint) tepid water
30g (1oz) fresh yeast or 3 x 7g sachets dried yeast
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp salt
extra flour for dusting
1. Pile the flour onto a clean surface and make a large well in the centre. Pour half your water into the well, then add yeast, sugar and salt and stir with a fork.
2. Slowly but confidently, bring in the flour from the inside of the well (without breaking the walls, or else water will go everywhere). Continue until you get a stodgy, porridgey consistency, then add the remaining water. Mix until stodgy again, then you can be more aggressive, bringing in all the flour and making it less sticky. Flour your hands and pat and push the dough together with remaiing flour.
3. Knead the dough (pushing, folding, slapping, rolling, and generally being abusive) for 4-5 minutes until silky and elastic.
4. Flour the top of your dough. Put it in a bowl, cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap, Americans) and allow to prove for around half an hour until doubled in size (ideally in a warm, moist, draught-free place).
For the filling:
extra virgin olive oil
170g (6oz) parmesan cheese, grated
200g (7oz) cheddar (or other good melting cheese), grated
140g (5oz) cheshire (or cheese of your choice) grated
2 large handfuls of rocket (argula)
salt & freshly ground black pepper
fresh sage (or thyme) leaves
5. Once the dough has doubled in size, knock the air out for 30 secs by bashing and squashing it. Roll into a large rectangle around 1 cm/ 1/2" thick. Drape half of it onto a medium-large floured baking sheet, with half hanging over the side. On the half that is on the tray, drizzle about 3 good lugs of extra virgin olive oil, rub it into the dough, then add all your cheeses, rocket and some seasoning. Using your fingers, push it all into the dough.
6. Fold the overhanging dough back on to the dough on the tray, and then push around the edges so that you seal them together, tucking it under a little so it fits nicely onto the tray. Rub the top with a little olive oil and rip over some fresh sage.
7. Heat your oven to 180C while you leave the dough to prove a second time for half an hour, and when doubled in size, bake for around 25 mins until lightly golden and cooked. Allow to sit for around 25 mins before eating, best slightly warm.