Saturday, April 26, 2008


Today was the big day for baking with my new toy. The main objective was to try out foccacia and I selected the basic foccacia recipe from Carol Field's book on Foccacia. I used Gold Medal Unbleached AP Flour. It is a waste of charcoal to fire up the oven just to make bread. We decided to cook lunch with the oven. My wife decided on a lemon garlic recipe from Williams' Sonoma Essentials of Roasting which I had borrowed from the library the day before. After sending my daughter for her classes, it was a mad rush to the supermarket to get all the required ingredients. By the time I came back, I was faced with the task of setting up the fire, preparing the dough and the topping. However, this had to wait because breakfast must come first!!

After my daily dose of newspaper and coffee was sated, I swung into action by starting the fire in a flower pot outside the house. This was the only time where smoke is generated from the firestarter which contains wax. After transferring the smouldering charcoal into the oven, I plied on some more and started fanning the oven like a satay-man. I used an old aluminum tray, fanning the oven in a vertical motion which looks as if I am offering incense from the side view. My wife and I thought that the oven made our house look like a temple and now with my fanning action, I certainly look like I was worshipping a deity.

I had read from Hamelman that the ancient Romans worshiped Fornax, the goddess of the hearth or fireplace. (If you look up Wikipedia, Fornax was the goddess of bread and baking). It is interesting that bread is inextricably linked to life. The oven is linked to fertility and today we have phrases like 'a bun in the oven' for example. Even in anatomy of the womb, parts of it is named Fornix which is from the Goddess of the Hearth again.

After the fire was big enough, I pushed out the coals to the the back of the oven in a semi-circular arc. The foccacia was topped with my favorite laksa pesto and bell peppers. I used the 3 terracotta roasters that came with the oven and made the mistake of putting all 3 into the oven at the same time. I faced some difficulty adjusting their placement inside the oven and as a result, some parts of the breads were burnt at the bottom. In retrospect, I should not have baked such a large quantity.

The chicken could have been better had it been marinaded a little longer. The roasted tomatoes with Sumac was delightful. I was introduced to this dish when I was invited to lunch at my friend's house. It was a spice that I have not heard of before so I was very happy to learn something new that day.

Today's bake showed that I have a long way to go before I can orchestrate the kind of cooking session that my friend executed. There are so many factors to watch out for. Next time, I'd definitely have to be more diligent in my planning.

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