Focaccia

I struggle a bit making my own bread as so often it doesn’t rise very well. It frequently ends up dense, heavy and a bit sad. But I still really love the whole process of baking bread because kneading dough is so relaxing and most shop bought loaves lack character and are full of additives.

This focaccia recipe from Lorraine Pascale is always a success – focaccia isn’t supposed to rise very much anyway – and it looks fantastic. I love the last step of the recipe where you drizzle olive oil over the baked bread. I also add some sprinkles of sea salt at this point. The key thing with this bread is to get as much water as possible into the mixture – the more water you can get in, the lighter it will be.

I usually make focaccia with the rosemary from my garden but this time I tried thyme, also from my garden.

You can add all sorts of ingredients to focaccia – it’s worth experimenting by adding cheese, olives and sundried tomatoes.

This bread makes a great starter – dip chunks of it in warmed olive oil or serve with antipasto such as artichokes, olives and cured meats.  Foccacia also makes superb croutons. Simply  cut into cubes, coat  with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and cook on a baking tray in a hot oven for five minutes. It’s perfect with Caesar salad, or any salad really.

Lorraine Pascale’s Foccacia Bread

Ingredients

  • 500 g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 x 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
  • 80 ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • 150-250ml warm water
  • Vegetable oil or oil spray, for oiling
  • 1 bunch of fresh rosemary
  • Large pinch of sea salt

Method

  •  Knead the dough for about ten minutes by hand on a lightly floured work surface or for five minutes if using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. The dough will feel stretchy when pulled. To test if it is ready, make a ball with the dough then, using a well-floured finger, prod a shallow indent in the side (no more than ¾cm). If the indent disappears by way of the dough springing back then it is ready to shape. If the indent stays, knead for a few minutes longer. Shape the dough into an oval and place it on the prepared baking tray. Flatten it out to about 30cm long and 20cm wide. Cover the dough loosely with oiled clingfilm, making sure it is airtight.
  • Dust a large flat baking tray with flour. Put the flour in a large bowl, add the salt and yeast, then add the olive oil plus enough warm water to make a soft but not sticky dough. The dough should feel quite loose and not tight and difficult to knead. If the whole amount is added it may appear that the dough is beyond repair, but gently kneading by way of scooping up the dough, scraping any sticky bits on the surface and slapping it back down again for a few minutes will see the dough begin to become ‘pillowy’ and more manageable. The more water that can be added (the full 250ml is great) then the lighter the bread will be. But it can take some perseverance. Also resist the temptation to add more flour as it will make the dough too heavy.
  • Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. Leave the dough in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until it has almost doubled in size. With a floured index finger press holes in the dough at regular intervals, about 4cm apart in rows across the dough, pressing right down to the bottom. Take 3cm long sprigs of the rosemary and push them into the holes. Sprinkle some sea salt over the dough and place in the top third of the oven. Bake for about 25–30 minutes, or until the bread is well risen, light golden brown and feels hollow when tapped underneath.

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