Beginner Breadmaking: Focaccia

Beginner Breadmaking: Focaccia

Focaccia is an interesting little beast that blurs the lines between a pizza and a bread. It’s also fairly moist and almost cake-like in texture. Most importantly, though; it’s delicious and very easy to make. It’s great served as part of a large meal, with a salad and some cured meats, or as a simple snack dipped into olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

It’s refinement belies it’s simplicity and is an awful lot more cost-effective (we don’t do cheap here!) to make than it is to buy. Oh, I do love dimples…

Use of a food processor with a dough hook is a great help here but it is possible to knead by hand. As with most of our projects, I’ll offer some options and actively encourage you to adapt this and make it your own.

 

Ingredients:

  • 500 grams of strong white bread flour. You could substitute 150g with a different flour.
  • 10 grams of fine sea salt
  • 7 grams / 1 sachet of instant bread yeast. (We use Allinson Easy Bake)
  • 75 ml of oil plus extra if you are kneading by hand, plus more for proving. Olive oil is the norm but I’ve used cold-pressed rapeseed.
  • 325 ml tepid water.

Toppings:

Knock yourself out here! For this one I’ve used coarse sea salt, chopped rosemary, cherry tomatoes and green olives.

You can use just one or two (salt and rosemary being traditional) or use any combination of the following (or invent your own):

  • Caramelised red onion (perhaps in balsamic vinegar?)
  • Black olives
  • Various herbs
  • Chilli flakes
  • Sun dried tomatoes
  • hard cheese like Parmesan or a good Cheddar

Method:

Weigh out the dry ingredients making sure that the salt and yeast do not touch each other.

Put the dry ingredients into the food processor bowl. Make sure the processor has the dough hook fitted.  Add the water and oil and mix on a low setting for 8 – 10 minutes.

If kneading by hand, oil the work surface and your hands to help prevent sticking and knead vigorously for 10 minutes.

Shape the dough into a ball (instruction can be found here).  Oil a large bowl and place the dough into it. Brush the top with more oil then cover with cling film or place into a very large plastic proving bag. Or, do as the Hairy Bikers do and use a shower cap over the bowl.

Before rising…

Let the dough rise until doubled in size; anywhere from 40 minutes to 3 hours.

After rising. This is probably a bit over-proved but I was busy. Still came out alright.

Oil your work surface. Remove the dough and knock back hard.

Shape the dough. I’m going to bake mine in a medium sized heavy roasting tin as I like how the bread comes out. It’s also possible to bake in a large round dish, or some will bake on a lipped baking tray. I shape the dough to evenly fit the tin. You will need to shape yours how you see fit. Once shaped, cover again and leave to prove for 30 minutes. Now is the time to pre-heat the oven to 250° C (480° F, Gas Mark 9).

Now it’s time to prepare your toppings:

After 30 minutes push a clean finger almost to the bottom of the dough at regular intervals then put your toppings on. I’ve alternated olives with cherry tomatoes into each dimple. Only do this to bread dough. Pushing foodstuffs into a random child’s dimply cheeks will get you in trouble! Finally, drizzle a little oil over the top.

Ready to bake!

Bake at 250° C for ten minutes, then turn the oven down to 200° C (400° F, Gas Mark 6) and bake for another 10 minutes. Take the bread out of the oven and leave to cool, but it’s best eaten when it still has some warmth to it.

We had ours with Guancia di Manzo brasata al vino bianco (braised beef cheeks stew in white wine) and green salad. What will you eat with yours?

Guancia di Manzo brasata al vino bianco (braised beef cheeks stew in white wine) with green salad and focaccia.

See; I told you it was easy!

If you have any advice or questions, please add a comment. You can also comment to let me know how yours turned out.

Soþlice

Rob



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