Tag Archives: focaccia

Italian Cooking Class at The Ritz Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa

Fresh Pasta-Tagliatelle-4924A place I have yet to visit is Italy, it’s high on my bucket list of places to see, hopefully Tuscany and Florence. But in the mean time, delighted with an invite from the Culinary Arts Team to experience some of Italy, at the Ritz Carlton Bahrain Hotel and Spa and attend a cooking class at their Italian restaurant, Primavera. My pasta-making skills are somewhat rusty and was thrilled to see a pasta machine on arrival. I remember thinking about my poor pasta machine, sitting neglected at the back of a kitchen cupboard. Following is a peek into a morning of kneading, rolling, cooking and of course enjoying good food.

Making Focaccia DoughItalian Chef Mauro Giordano and his team (Jovan and Linto) eased us into the cooking class, demonstrating the steps and techniques involved in making a classic Focaccia, a leavened Italian flatbread. Although few ingredients are needed, the quality of the yeast, flour and water used, affects the overall flavour of the bread. Kneading and proving the dough correctly are important steps and should never be rushed. Before baking the focaccia you have the option of adding different flavourings on top, such as herbs, tomatoes, olives and onions. Focaccia is a very versatile bread and easy to make at home. And who can resist a wonderful chunk of warm home-made bread… I know I cant. If you have made your own home-made bread before you will know, there is a certain joy that comes with bread making. Fresh Pasta-3To say you have made your own fresh pasta (and of course bread) is impressive and once you see the process of pasta-making from start to finish, it sure fires up your enthusiasm. Of course getting stuck in is even better and with the help of Chef Mauro, he made it all seem so easy. Egg yolks (the hotel uses pasteurized egg yolks) and flour were the only ingredients used to make up a lovely yellow coloured pasta dough. Rolling and cutting the dough is made easier using a pasta machine, but of course the whole process can be done by hand… if you like lots more work! There’s me up there with a wobble start cutting some tagliatelle… Chef Mauro “I promise to hold the pasta sheets straighter when feeding through the machine next time”. And I’m certainly going to love perfecting the technique at home. You could tell everyone enjoyed the different stages of rolling and cutting fresh pasta dough.
Fresh Pasta-TagliatelleCooking Fresh Pasta-Tagliatelle with a Smoked Salmon Cream SauceEach of us went to our own cooking station to make a simple cream based sauce with smoked salmon for our tagliatelle. Although I absolutely love smoked salmon I am not a fan of using it in sauces for pasta, the taste for me is somewhat overpowering. The hotel cures and smokes their own salmon and the flavour when added to the cream sauce was much more pleasing… which I did enjoy. At this point it was bubbling water, steam and sizzling hot pans and I needed to put my camera down, fresh pasta cooks very quickly and I did not want to pass the “Al Dente” stage.

We were also guided through pan frying fillets of sea bream and making another delicious sauce with tomato, fish stock , capers, olives and anchovies. Chef Mauro reminded us that cooking need not be complicated, using quality ingredients, simple flavours and paying attention to the cooking process, everyone is capable of achieving great home cooking.
Ritz Carlton Bahrain Primavera Dessert SlectionWe also enjoyed a tasting from the Primavera Business Lunch Menu, a refreshing mixed salad and penne pasta with a tomato based sauce, with fresh mozzarella. As my tummy was on food overload I could only look longingly at the beautifully presented display of desserts and cheeses on offer,  which certainly looked very inviting.

Whether it’s for leisure, brushing up on some cooking skills or a fun activity with friends, cooking classes are an inspiring way to spend time with good food. On leaving the cooking class I knew one think for sure, I am inspired and my pasta machine will no longer sit neglected in a dark cupboard. Looking forward to posting some fresh pasta and focaccia recipes soon.

Salted Caramel Focaccia with Rosemary and Vanilla

This is my second time to take part in the Fresh from the Oven Challenge and with such a delicious looking Salted Caramel Focaccia …… and not having made a sweet focaccia before, how could I resist. Euan suggested using fresh candied citrus peel (apple and other fruits could also be used) and luckily I had some candied orange peel that I had made some months back. No candied lemon peel and oo type flour though… but no worries, one can always try to improvise! 

I always try to keep a few pots of fresh herbs growing in the garden throughout the year and rosemary being one of them manages to survive our searing hot summers! A combination of fresh  rosemary, home-candied orange peel, fresh lemon zest (use a microplane grater for best results) and a few vanilla products from my store cupboard, I thought would work nicely with this recipe!

The original recipe and method of making the Salted Caramel Focaccia is found over at Euan’s blog Signor Biscotti who is hosting this months Fresh from the Oven Challenge. Some changes were made to the original recipe and are as follows:

  • Not having type 00 flour, replaced with all-purpose flour
  • Used vanilla infused sugar instead of castor sugar throughout the recipe
  • Used vanilla infused olive oil instead of olive oil
  • Used 75g of home-candied orange peel instead of the 100g of mixed peel
  • Omitted the raisins
  • Added the zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • Used ordinary salted butter
  • Used 3 teaspoons of freshly chopped rosemary, 2 for mixing in with the dough and 1 for sprinkling over the top before baking

After mixing the dough I found it was not as sticky as Euan described (possibly the flours used), but tossed it on a work surface and gave the dough a good work-out by hand, a very therapeutic process! I hope to try the french technique for kneading dough another time… interesting video to watch (link on Euan’s blog), my dough was definitely not as sticky as the one chef Paul worked on or should I say slapped around his work surface!

Incorporated the candied orange peel, lemon zest and rosemary into the dough, which was then placed into an oiled bowl and covered with some cling film. The dough took about one hour and forty minutes to double in size.

 Used a baking stone with its own tray (lightly oiled) to shape the dough on. A swivel peeler enabled me to shave thin slices of cold salted butter directly over the dough, before sprinkling over the vanilla infused sugar and remaining fresh rosemary. Loosely covered with cling film, the tray with the dough was left for almost an hour to rise before dimpling and baking on top of the baking stone (pre-heated in the oven) for almost 20 minutes. The results… Fantastico… Delizioso pane appena sfornato... loved this recipe, it was so delicious with its crunchy sweet crust, using fresh candied orange peel made a big difference to the flavour and the touch of fresh rosemary was not overpowering.  Will definitely make this focaccia again and will try using some candied lemon peel also, which I need to stock up on! Although most of the focaccia was eaten (some restraint was greatly needed) the same day… polished it off the next morning (I did share some) for breakfast and although the crunchy crust had dissolved, it was still enjoyed!

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