I Learned to Bake Homemade Focaccia in Italy from My Home Kitchen—Here's What Happened
Anytime I travel (whether in the U.S. or another country), I always want to try the local cuisine. Thankfully the world is slowly making its way back to "normal" and traveling is a possibility again. But it's not every day you can just hop on a plane to Italy and cook with the locals. Minus the airfare, this is exactly what I did. Through Amazon Explore, I took a focaccia-making class in Italy right from my Midwestern kitchen. Different from some of the other virtual classes I've been fortunate to participate in over the past year, Amazon's offerings are entirely one-on-one. This means it's just you and the host, so there's no need to worry about overstepping other people when you have questions and the experience can be more tailored to you. Here's a peek into my time in Italy to get an idea of how these super cool experiences work, plus some tips for when you decide to participate in an Amazon Explore trip yourself.
After browsing the huge selection of classes and experiences from the Amazon Explore site, I knew I wanted to cook or bake. The decision was tough, but I landed on Baking Easy Small Focaccia with the Toscana Mia Sisters in Tuscany ($34, Amazon). Once you book the trip, you get a confirmation on how to join. You'll test your microphone before the class, so I recommend giving yourself at least 10 minutes before the start time to get settled. Oh, and it's also only a one-way video stream, so no need to get dressed up since they won't see you.
I gathered all the ingredients provided on the class page. Since my class was only 30 minutes, I measured out what I could beforehand and it turned out to be super helpful. There's a countdown timer on the screen that ran out and I was instantly transported to Paola's (one of the two Toscana Mia sisters) kitchen in Tuscany. After a short greeting and letting her know I was ready to go, we started the focaccia-making process.
Paola was very attentive in making sure things were running smoothly for me. For example, she had me check the type of yeast I was using so I could dissolve it if needed before adding it to the bowl. I asked her questions as the kneading process began and got a few laughs in while I expressed concern that my dough looked a bit scraggly compared to her beautiful, smooth dough. We quickly remedied the issue and I was back in business.
Since this was a 30-minute session, I was obviously not going to bake and finish the bread in our class. Paola was prepared with each step of the focaccia process, showing me what the already-proofed dough looked like before getting shaped and going into the oven. She had some tasty completed focaccia ready to show me, too.
After we said our goodbyes, it was time for me to put my new bread-making knowledge to the test. (For an Amazon Explore class like this one, I'm definitely glad I kept a notebook handy to take notes for the parts I wouldn't be able to copy Paola's actions directly.) I tried a variety of toppings on my mini focaccia before baking. I must say, I was quite impressed with the turnout. The little loaves were crunchy on the outside and perfectly chewy on the inside.
My successful first attempt at making small focaccia has me excited to continue the journey through more classes. I love that I can get this firsthand experience from a foreign place without spending a ton of money. The new virtual offerings from Amazon go beyond cooking classes, including shopping excursions and tours of famous landmarks. If you're a Prime member, you can try out your first experience under $50 for free by using the code "FREEFUN." Up next in my adventures I'm looking at taking a rickshaw ride through Tokyo ($19, Amazon), making macarons in Montreal ($69, Amazon), and exploring a chocolate plantation in Costa Rica ($16, Amazon).