Focaccia

I like to make this when we have lunch guests as you can’t go wrong with fresh, warm bread. It became a lockdown staple, once we were allowed to hold appropriately socially distanced gatherings in the garden. Ligurian focaccia is traditionally thinner but I prefer it a bit thicker, because it’s easier to make a sandwich from.

I made this with strong bread flour, which does give a better loaf, but you can use plain flour if you don’t have any of the strong stuff. You can make it using a round or rectangular tray (pictured at the bottom of the page.)

(I also have a recipe for a stuffed bread. If you want to go for a mix & match option with one batch of dough, you can make half the dough into a stuffed bread, and half into a more traditional but smaller focaccia, stretching the latter over half the tray, rather than the full tray.)

Ingredients

500g strong bread flour

7g instant yeast (1 teaspoon plus a scant quarter teaspoon)

2 teaspoons of salt

5 tablespoons of olive oil

350ml tepid water

2 sprigs of rosemary

extra olive oil and salt, to sprinkle

toppings of your choice – olives, cherry tomatoes, sundried tomatoes, artichokes, red peppers, fennel, baby new potatoes or even cheese

  1. Put the flour, yeast, salt and oil into a bowl and combine. Add the water gradually, kneading as you go along. Knead for five to ten minutes, by hand in a bowl, on a floured surface or in a food mixer using the dough hook. Don’t worry if it feels a bit on the wet side. The dough will absorb the liquid as you knead.
  2. Place in an oiled bowl, covered with a tea towel. Leave to rise in warm place for an hour to 90 minutes, until it has doubled in size. Give the dough a quick knead – if a crust has formed on top of the dough, just knead it back into the dough. If you would like to add more rosemary, add another sprig before re-kneading.
  3. Stretch the dough out on an oiled tray – use a bog standard shallow baking sheet (25x35cm) or a round tray – mine is 32cm in diameter. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 45 minutes. Switch your oven on to 200C to heat up while the dough proves. If using potatoes, you can use this time to boil them. (I have added toppings before and after proving and both ways have produced a lovely batch of bread.)
  4. Once the dough has proved, put a tablespoon of olive oil, a tablespoon of water and a generous pinch of salt into a jam jar. Shake it up and sprinkle over the dough. (If you have coarse sea salt you can sprinkle the crystals over the bread once it is baked, rather than adding salt to the water and oil wash.) Poke a finger into the dough to create dimples and press rosemary leaves into the dimples. Add the toppings, some more rosemary to decorate and press lightly into the dough. You can also use halves of boiled new potato if you’re in the mood for carbs. (Bread or pizza with potato is a genuine Italian thing, I promise you, not just some mad Irish concoction I’ve come up with.)
  1. Bake for 20 minutes at 200C until golden brown. Sprinkle with a bit more olive oil while it’s still hot. Leave to cool for twenty minutes before cutting it. It will still be nice and warm. I like to eat it with tomatoes and mozzarella but it’s pretty good just dipped in olive oil.

Thanks to Liberty Mendez whose recipe on the BBC Good Food website inspired this.