Brian's Photo Blog — Article 511
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Italian Tomato Soup and My First Homemade Focaccia
Wednesday 13 January 2016   —   Category: Cooking & Food
My Swiss wife makes a wonderful Italian tomato soup, inspired by the “pappa al pomodoro” recipe in her well-used, out-of-print, Swiss Betty Bossi cookbook “La Cuisine Italienne.”

During the short tomato season it is, of course, ideal to use tomatoes from our own garden. But for the rest of the year we have settled upon some ingredients which give excellent results.

Trader Joe’s Organic Low Sodium Tomato & Roasted Red Pepper Soup gives our soup a great base. Things go to a whole nother level with a large can of authentic San Marzano tomatoes from Italy — Walmart has the best price. A quarter to a third of a pound of cubed untoasted bread thickens the soup, while numerous spices round out the flavor.

My wife usually makes a loaf of Italian focaccia bread to serve with the soup, following a recipe from the same Swiss cookbook. Even though I am an artisan baker wannabe not ready for prime time, I had told her that this time around I wanted to try making the focaccia myself — for the first time in my life.

As I have explained in previous articles, the recipes in Ken Forkish’s cookbook Flour Water Salt Yeast: The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza result in very wet, sticky doughs that are quite difficult to work with. However, for focaccia this was not going to be a problem, because the bread does not need to rise in a proofing basket and then be transferred to a hot dutch oven as with Ken’s other breads.
For the focaccia dough I made a one-​third batch of White Bread With 80% Biga from the recipe in Flour Water Salt Yeast. When it was ready to go, I plopped the wet, sticky dough into a lightly-​greased, 12-​inch cast-​iron skil­let. Then I topped it with extra-​virgin olive oil, dried rosemary, and coarsely-​ground pink Himalayan salt, as you can see in the photo to the right (click to enlarge).
After about 20 minutes in a 500°F oven, the focaccia had baked to a lovely golden brown.
What more is there to say? This picture — worth a thousand words — says it all!
My newish 14-inch heavy duty pizza chopper made cutting the focaccia a piece of cake!
Finally, the moment we had all been waiting for! My wife’s scrumptious Italian tomato soup, garnished with a dollop of sour cream and some chopped fresh parsley, accompanied by my hot-​out-​of-​the-​oven Italian focaccia bread and a glass of red wine. Mama mia, it sure was delizioso!
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 511
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