Recently I seem to have had a few leisurely, chilled weekends which have been lovely. So I have used them to try out a few recipes that require a bit of time. And last weekend I decided to try making focaccia. I adore focaccia and often buy it, but I thought it would be nice to make my own.
Looking online and through all my recipe books, no two focaccia recipes are the same. They all use different measurements, different techniques. I’m amazed they all produce the same thing! I decided to make use of my most recent purchase, James Morton’s Brilliant Bread.
500g/18oz strong white flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet fast-action yeast
400ml tepid water
40ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
Sea salt for sprinkling
In a large bowl, weigh the flour. With your fingers, rub in the salt at one edge of the bowl, and the sachet of dried yeast on the opposite side. Try to keep the yeast and salt apart, as the salt can stop the yeast working.
Add the water and the oil to the dry ingredients, and mix together using a rigid spoon.
This dough will be very wet – almost like cake mix.
Cover the dough with a damp tea towel or cling film and rest for 40 minutes somewhere warm.
Once the dough has risen a little, it’s time to get your hands in.
Drizzle the fingertips of one hand with oil, and scoop them down between the dough and bowl, lifting the dough away from the side of the bowl. Then, fold the dough over itself, pressing down quite hard so it sticks. Notice how it kind of holds its shape, but slowly sags back down? Well, we want this sagging to happen as little as possible. Turn the bowl a quarter turn, and repeat until you have a dough that feels like it can support itself a lot more than it could before. Cover your dough again and rest for another 50 minutes, or for 8–12 hours in the fridge during the day or overnight.
Once the dough has nearly doubled in size again, generously douse a baking tray with olive oil. Turn your risen dough out on to this tray.
It will begin to sag and flatten, so using oiled hands fold it in half, and then half again. Notice how it now holds its shape? Now you want to flatten it out as much as you can. This can be quite tough, but try to get it right to the edge of the baking tray. This will take a while! It really doesn’t want to get into those corners. But don’t worry about it too much, it will do it itself once its left to prove again.
Leave your dough to prove for a final 50 minutes. Alternatively, you can leave your dough in the fridge overnight or during the day. See how pillowy it looks…almost like a cloud of dough.
Preheat your oven to 220°C/425°F/gas 7 about 20 minutes before you’re going to bake. Once your dough is proved, use your fingertips to press down hard into the dough to make little indentations. Don’t be scared; press really forcefully, right down to the baking tray. You won’t tear the dough. Place a little of the rosemary into each hole and then drizzle the dough with a little more olive oil and lots of good sea salt.
Then bake for 20–25 minutes, or until golden.
By this time your kitchen will smell amazing. There is nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked bread. Add olive oil and rosemary to that mix and you have what heaven probably smells like.
You can cut the bread any way you like. I sometimes cut it into small squares so I can dip into good olive oil and shove straight in my mouth. Other times I like to cut big wedges of it and fill it will parma ham, mozzarella and basil and have a great big sandwich.
This is a really great recipe to make if you are in the house for a few hours. In total it takes about 3 hours but the amount of time actually spent working on it is only about 15 minutes. And at the end of it, you have a beautiful tasting bread, crispy on the outside but soft on the inside, and with such beautiful flavours.
Of course, you don’t need to top focaccia with rosemary and sea salt, you can top it will olives, or red onion, or peppers, or sunblushed tomatoes…anything you like.
I will definitely be making this again but I would like to try out other recipes to see if a difference in technique makes a difference to the end result. I’ll keep you posted!