La dolce vita

Having arrived early in the morning at the airport of Milano, we picked up our rental car (a Fiat Panda of course) and drove towards the Como lake. There was one important stop to make on the way: food shopping. After we arrived at our destination it was right about lunch time. Hungry after our flights, we simply prepared a salad and as main part of lunch had some delicious fresh focaccia topped with cherry tomatoes. And this all on the balcony in the spring sun with an amazing view over the Como lake. Does life get any better?

Fast forward a bit over a year and I was back in Italy. Traveling over land via Switzerland this time, my first stop after picking up a car was Bergamo. By the time I had parked it was, once again, time for lunch. I walked to one of the squares in the old center and noticed a lot of people sitting on steps and under arcades enjoying different kinds of baked goods that looked quite interesting. Soon enough I found the source of all this: a busy bakery. Although it was hard to choose from all the options, I took a slice of focaccia stuffed with ham and mozzarella and joined other people back at the square to enjoy this. It was amazing: warm and dripping from melted cheese and olive oil. And this was only the beginning of all the good food. I went back to the Como lake again with the same friends as the year before. During these days it became our ritual to go for an aperitivo. Basically, in the late afternoon you go for a glass of wine or another drink. But you don’t just get your drink, you get a lot of different pre-dinner snacks as well. We enjoyed the aperitivo with bites ranging from olives, cheese, cold cuts and sometimes some focaccia as well. A great way to enjoy an afternoon drink.

Of course, coming back home to Berlin it would be great to have all this as well. In the end, one should not only enjoy life when traveling. The good thing is that there are a lot of Italians in Berlin. Apparently, Italians are one of the largest immigrant groups in Germany and at the same time the Italians in Germany form one of the largest Italian diasporas. Fortunately, they also took the cuisine with them. There is even a network promoting the restaurants owned by Italians and organizing Italian food events during the year. And close to my house there is a small Italian café and bakery, where they have a great focaccia and you can go for aperitivo as well.

But since you never know where you end up and I like to ensure being able to get my fix of Italian food, including focaccia, it was about time to start baking myself.

Focaccia with tomato and rosemary

  • 200 ml of lukewarm water
  • 30 ml of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of dried instant yeast
  • Half a tablespoon of salt
  • 300 grams of flour plus extra for dusting
  • 6 cherry tomatoes
  • Sprig of rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Coarse sea salt

Mix the sugar, the yeast and 100 ml of lukewarm water together in a large bowl. Cover the bowl and let the mixture rest for 5 to 10 minutes to activate the yeast. After this time add the rest of the water, the olive oil and the salt to the bowl. Also add around half of the flour and mix everything together with a spoon. Bit by bit, add the remaining flour. Keep stirring until it comes together into a dough. Continue mixing the dough for another 2 to 3 minutes with the spoon. Dust a clean surface with abundant flour and place the dough on this. Also dust your hands with flour and knead the dough for a few minutes. If it is too sticky, add a bit of flour, maximum a tablespoon at a time. The dough should still be soft in the end and just not stick to your hands anymore. Clean your bowl and grease it with a little bit of olive oil. Place the dough back in the bowl and cover again. Let the dough rise for around 2 to 3 hours in a warm place, until it has doubled in size.

After this time, take an oven tray and grease it with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Take the dough out of the bowl and place on the tray, shaping it into a rectangle of around 22 by 18 centimeters. Cover the tray carefully and place in the fridge. Let it rest in the fridge for any time between one hour and 24 hours. I often make the dough in the evening, place it in the fridge before I go to sleep and then let it rest until the next afternoon just before dinner.
When you are ready to bake the bread, preheat your oven to around 230oC. Take the dough out of the fridge. It might have spread out a little, so push it back to the same rectangle shape as before. While the oven is heating up, use your hands to create wells into the surface of the dough. Sprinkle the last two tablespoons of olive oil over the dough and massage it all over the surface, making sure you covered it well. Halve the cherry tomatoes and take the rosemary needles of the sprig. Divide the tomatoes and the rosemary over the dough. Top with a good sprinkle of coarse sea salt.

Once the oven has heated up properly, place the tray in the middle of the oven and bake the bread for around 20 minutes. It should be golden brown and have risen a bit as well. Enjoy!

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