As long as you have decent enough ingredients and patience, knocking out decent focaccia isn’t that difficult. It’s a rustic bread with plenty of flavour – you’ll keep coming back to it once you start eating it.
What you’ll need:
- 500g strong white bread flour
- a generous pinch of salt
- a generous pinch of sugar
- 1 sachet of yeast – the stuff you can buy in the supermarkets is perfectly fine
- Half a pint of tepid water
- A good quality extra virgin olive oil
- A few sprigs of rosemary
- Sea salt & black pepper.
In a large bowl mix the flour with the salt, sugar and yeast – use a good pinch of salt but mix it well in the flour before you add the yeast – too much salt wont do the yeast any favours.
Now add the warm water, gradually stirring into the middle of the flour with a fork. Now add a couple of decent glugs of the olive oil and mix a little more.
Once the dough has formed into a ball, take it out of the bowl and place onto a work surface – the surface needs to be clean and give yourself plenty of space. Flour the surface slightly but don’t add too much – I pour a little olive onto my hands as well to help them stop sticking – you want to try to keep the dough as “wet” as possible so try not to add too much more flour. Once you’ve done this a few times you’ll get the hang of keeping it moist.
You need to knead the dough for at least 10 minutes. Hold onto the dough with one hand, stretch it out with the other hand, fold over and repeat. Keep stretching the dough, folding over. The longer you knead for, the better the results.
Place the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with cling-film. Leave in a warm place (get your oven on at this point and stick the dough nearby).
The dough will double in size in about 40 minutes to one hour. Take it out, push it down to press out the air inside. Now press the dough into an oiled, rectangular baking tray, cover with cling-film and leave to rest for another 40 minutes.
Remove the cling-film and make dimples in the dough with your thumb. Scatter the salt & pepper over and then a decent glug of the oil all over. Now a scattering of chopped rosemary. You may see recipes where they stick a sprig or stick of rosemary into each dimple – I’m not mad on this, I don’t really see the point – I’d rather scatter the herb all over the bread.
Your oven should be hot – 220c. Place the dough in the tin into the oven and bake for 20 minutes (keep an eye on it though – ovens do vary).
Serve it warm – you’ll be keen to eat it as soon as it comes out.
This goes nicely dipped in olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar. (On a side-note, the balsamic vinegar doesn’t need to be be really expensive stuff – put a few tablespoons into a saucepan with a couple of teaspoons of sugar. Mix and bring to a light boil. Simmer the vinegar away until it begins to thicken slightly – be careful though, if you let it thicken too much it will set further as it cools and you can say goodbye to your saucepan. Trust me… When you have the vinegar reduced, pour into a small dish and cover with decent olive oil).
By John Loydall