Chef Walter’s Flavors + Knowledge: Focaccia With Burrata Cheese

Wednesday, March 22, 2017
Master Chef Walter Potenza, GoLocalWorcester Food Expert

Burrata, meaning "buttery" in Italian is a fresh cheese made from a mix of mozzarella and cream. The outside thin shell is a pasta filata curd made of buffalo and/or cow's milk mozzarella while the insides contain a soft, doughy, stringy, mixture of curd and fresh cream. The cheese originated in the Apulia region of Italy known for sheep farming and agriculture. It is sold traditionally in asphodel leaves with a polyethylene plastic bag over it. The green color of asphodel leaves is an indicator of the freshness of the cheese. When you cut open a Burrata, it oozes with buttery and creamy panna containing scraps of mozzarella. The cream has a rich flavor and has to be eaten immediately since it is a fresh cheese. Burrata is usually served fresh at room temperature and beyond 48 hours, it is considered past its prime. The taste of Burrata goes well with salads, crusty bread, and prosciutto, fresh tomatoes with olive oil and with spaghetti. In this recipe I have shaped the focaccia round but it can be made of any shapes with rectangular the most popular.

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 pound fresh burrata cheese

Sprigs of fresh herbs, such as chives and marjoram optional amount

Sprigs of micro herbs, such as beetroot shoots and cress optional amount

2 teaspoons fruity extra virgin olive oil

For the focaccia

1 pound strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting

2 teaspoons fast-acting yeast

2 teaspoons sea salt, plus extra for topping and serving

1tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for oiling

1 cup warmed water plus extra if needed

 

Directions

Make the focaccia. Sift flour into an electric food mixer bowl with a dough hook attachment, stir in yeast, salt and herbs. Make a well in the middle and slowly work in 4tbsp of the oil and enough water to form soft dough. Knead for 5 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour until doubled in size. Knock back the dough on a floured surface and roll out to a rectangle 1cm thick. Transfer to an oiled baking sheet, cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave to rise for a further 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 200C/400F/ Gas 6. Press thumbprints into the bread surface, drizzle over the remaining oil and leave to rise for 30 minutes. Bake dough for about 25 minutes until golden and the base sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on wire rack.

Place burrata on a platter break it open to allow the creamy centre to ooze. Adjust the flavors to taste. Add the herbs and micro herbs and drizzle over the olive oil. Thinly slice focaccia and serve with the burrata.

History of Focaccia Bread

This flat bread topped with olive oil, spices and other products is an early prototype of modern pizza. The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or Ancient Greeks.

Focaccia, known and loved in Italy and abroad, is yeasted flat bread which belongs essentially to the northern shores of the Mediterranean and has its origin in classical antiquity. Early versions were cooked on the hearth of a hot fire, or on a heated tile or earthenware disk, like the related flatbreads. Bakers often puncture the bread with a knife to relieve bubbling on the surface of the bread. Also common is the practice of dotting the bread. This creates multiple wells in the bread by using a finger or the handle of a utensil to poke the unbaked dough. As a way to preserve moisture in the bread, olive oil is then spread over the dough, by hand or with a brush prior to rising and baking.

Many regions of Italy have an inventive range of flavorings they add to their focaccia. For many centuries it has had an association with Christmas Eve and Epiphany. 

Master Chef Walter Potenza is the owner of Potenza Ristorante in Cranston, Chef Walters Cooking School and Chef Walters Fine Foods. His fields of expertise include Italian Regional Cooking, Historical Cooking from the Roman Empire to the Unification of Italy, Sephardic Jewish Italian Cooking, Terracotta Cooking, Diabetes and Celiac. Recipient of National and International accolades, awarded by the Italian Government as Ambassador of Italian Gastronomy in the World. Currently on ABC6 with Cooking Show “Eat Well."  Check out the Chef's website and blog. 

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