Focaccia, Italian style flat bread

This Focaccia recipe is absolutely a non fuss, easy to make Italian style bread. Play around with the many toppings you can choose, favour your own flavours. It’s a bit like pizza, you can use almost any topping you fancy.

Making Bread is so easy, it takes a bit of time but the reward of fresh warm bread is phenomenal.

Focaccia is an Italian style over baked flat bread made from a dough that similar in style to a pizza dough. Focaccia breads can be left plain or you can find them with a topping from herbs and onions, cheeses or vegetables. Focaccia is typical of the Liguria area but is popular throughout Italy. Focaccia can be used as a side dish with your meal or can be used as the base of a sandwich.

Preferably Focaccia is baked in a wood fired stone oven, but as many of us won’t have a pizza oven at home, a normal oven would do the trick. Turn the oven on your highest stand and your bread is ready in next to no time.

The recipe I use results in a light, almost sponge like bread. The baking time is relatively short which allow me to impress people with fresh warm bread anytime. I often take the dough with me to a party and bake it in the hosts oven. Nothing more impressive than a freshly baked warm bread. The smell alone, makes the other guest smile.

Eating the bread fresh out of the oven is best, but no worries if you have some leftover Focaccia. Toasted slices of Focaccia the next day is no sin.

Some of my favourite toppings are Salt, Rosemary, Caramelised Onions or Pitted Kalamata Olives.

 

Who connected us?!  I used the recipe from the first Jamie Oliver Cookbook “The Naked Chef” that I bought many years ago. I am in favour of Jamie’s cooking style. Jamie keeps recipes fairly straight forward. His recipe style is perfect for home cooking. Or maybe it is just me being sentimental, I was just starting home-cooking when his first shows aired.

Makes enough for 2 small focaccia breads, easily enough for 8 persons.

Ingredients:IMG_0532

  • 500g strong white bread flour , plus extra for dusting
  • 500g fine ground semolina flour
  • 30g fresh yeast or 21g dried yeast
  • 30g honey (or sugar)
  • 30g table salt
  • 600ml lukewarm water
  • Olive oil
  • Sea-salt coarse
  • 2 Sprigs of fresh Rosemary (or dried if you do not have fresh)
  • 1 cup Kalamata Olives, pitted

Method:

  1. Add the honey and yeast to the lukewarm water, stir and leave for a few minutes until the mixture develops some bubbles on top.
  2. For the next 2 steps I take the lazy way and use a mixer with a dough hook. Most chefs would advise you to make the dough by hand. It’s fun, but most times I like to save myself some time by using a strong mixer.
  3. Mixing; Put the flours in your mixing bowl and add the yeast & water mixture to the flour while the mixer is on. Once all is thoroughly mixed, add the 30g of table salt.
  4. Kneading; Knead the dough for about 5 minutes to activate the gluten in the dough. The dough should get smooth and soft and will have some elasticity.
  5. After this I usually knead the dough for a few more minutes by hand, folding and stretching the dough. Kneading the dough is an important step because it develops the gluten that ensures the bread get airy light and developed it shape.
  6. Lightly oil a large bowl with olive oil, the bowl should be large enough for the dough to double in size. Transfer the dough into the bowl, put a wet tea towel over the bowl and place in a warm spot where there is no draft. Leave the dough to prove until double in size, about 45 – 90 minutes depending on the room temperature. During the proving of the dough, the dough becomes light and airy and develops flavour.
  7. After the dough has doubled in size, put it on the bench and beat all air out of the dough. Use your fist or a ruling pin.
  8. Line up your baking tin with baking paper or sprinkle the tin with some semolina (normal flour won’t work well).
  9. Spread the dough into the baking tin, I divide the dough over 2 smaller tins to make 2 variations. The dough should be about 1,5 cm thick.
  10. Your topping: In this recipe I use two simple focaccia toppings Rosemary and Olives.
  11. Using your fingers push the toppings into the dough and make more of the characteristic dimples in the though to let the aroma of the topping get into the dough.
  12. Leave the dough covered in a warm spot to prove for the second time until the dough is about 3 cm thick. This takes about 45 minutes.
  13. Abundantly sprinkle olive oil and some coarse sea salt on top of the dough.
  14. Bake the Focaccia in about 15 minutes in a preheated oven at about 200C.
  15. Leave the Focaccia to cool a bit before you cut the bread.

 

Notes:

  • Semolina; When you don’t have semolina flour, just use a strong bread flour instead. You still get a beautiful Focaccia.
  • Say NO to all purpose flour; you could take a short cut and use all purpose flour, but you lose in taste and bread-structure.
  • Honey or Sugar; a bit of sugar or honey helps to activate the yeast. For the process both sugar or honey will do the job. I choose honey because it is a natural product.
  • Warm water; we use lukewarm water to activate the yeast. Yeast needs a bit of warmed to do its job.
  • Salt; 30 grams of salt looks like a lot, but you definitely need it otherwise the bread taste bland, even with the extra sea salt on top. We put in the salt after the yeast mixture is combined with the flour, otherwise the salt might kill the yeast and your bread will not rise.
  • Kneading, the fun part; kneading yeast based bread allows the gluten to develop which makes bread airy and light. Without well-developed gluten, your bread would be flat and tough.

 

 

 

 

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