I’ve been on a bread baking mission this month…. An attempt to bake the very popular and much loved dimpled style Italian bread that is Focaccia. The aim was to bake a focaccia that not only had a great flavour but also a really good light and airy texture and the final recipe test this week got the thumbs up!
In fact when the bread came out of the oven, I’m not sure what came over me, my right arm positioned itself into a right angle, my fist clenched up tightly and as my elbow thrusted downwards towards the floor, I heard myself jubilantly saying ” GET IN “.
- 500g strong white bread flour and extra for kneading
- 10g dried yeast
- 350ml warm water
- 2 good pinches of flaky salt
- 1 heaped tsp sugar (used golden granulated)
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil and extra for the top
- 5 heaped tbsp freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, leaves pulled from stem
- Preheat the oven to 180℃ / Gas mark 4
- Put the flour, yeast, 3 heaped tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan, 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, salt and sugar into a large mixing bowl.
- Sprinkle a little flour onto a work surface in preparation for kneading the dough.
- Pour in the warm water and stir to combine with a fork, then bring the dough together with you hands.
- Put the dough onto the floured work surface, roll around in the flour and then knead for 8 minutes adding a little extra flour as you go (try not to use too much extra flour, or the focaccia bread will lose its lovely airy texture when baked).
- Put the kneaded dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for a couple of hours. The dough will double in size.
- Knock back the dough, then place it onto a warm ( just put the baking tray into the hot oven for one minute) lightly oiled flat baking tray/ceramic pizza plate and shape into a circle or rectangle, about 2cm in depth.
- Evenly sprinkle over the fresh rosemary leaves and 2 heaped tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan.
- Press your fingers into the dough, making lots of belly button like indentations and drizzle over some extra extra virgin olive oil. The olive oil will gather in little golden pools.
- Leave to 'prove' rise again for another 30 minutes. Lightly re press your fingers into the dough and if needed an extra drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- Bake in the middle of the hot oven for 20 minutes or until cooked through and golden.
- Serve warm.
This dough was kneaded by hand, using a lightly floured cool slate work surface. Knead the dough by folding it towards you, then pushing down and away from you with the palm of your hand. Give it a quarter turn, repeat kneading in this way and you will notice yourself developing a rhythmic rocking movement while working the dough.
To stop the dough from drying out, brush with a little water (ok I forgot this time! ).
Put the dough to rise in a warm place covered with a clean tea towel. An airing cupboard or on top of the preheating oven as I did for this loaf works well. The dough should double in size and spring back when gently prodded with your finger.
Before baking the dough, it gets ‘ knocked back’, just put your hand around the now risen dough and pull it back into a smaller ball. This knocks out the air bubbles and ensures a better rise and an even texture.
When the dough is shaped and coated with its toppings of fresh rosemary, freshly grated parmesan cheese and extra virgin olive oil, it gets left to prove for thirty minutes. This allows the dough to rise again and like the first rise should spring back when prodded.
If the dimples get lost slightly in the prove, just press you fingers back into the holes making deeper dimples and drizzle over a little more extra virgin olive oil. This also helps to press some of the fresh rosemary and extra parmesan into the bread.
This bread is delicious served warm and best eaten on the day it is baked. If you do have any left over it will keep for a few days and it will just need to be warmed through in the oven before serving.
Mmmmm this was a tasty lunch. I hope you have a go at making both!
Ps ; I also love ripping off warm chunks of focaccia and dipping them into a homemade tarragon vinegar sweetened with a little runny honey and a really good first pressed extra virgin olive oil.