I am not short of focaccia recipes. I have ones that use a sponge starter, a sourdough starter, fresh yeast, dried yeast…but this one that I happened upon in Delicious magazine is my favourite to date. it is absolutely…delicious. And fairly quick and easy.
The dough is – be warned – incredibly frisky and difficult to handle, almost impossible to handle at the beginning. But don’t panic and use plenty of oil for your hands (and oil the surface you’re using). You’ll find you have to wash your hands a lot.
I used to do this in a mixer with a dough hook but a note here that the dough is easier to handle if you do the whole thing by hand.
The baking tray I use is approx 37cm by 28cm. It yields a focaccia which is a perfect depth for me.
500g strong white flour
One and a half teaspoons of fine sea salt
3g/one teaspoon of dried yeast
400g water (make sure it’s not cold, I leave mine out for about 20 mins)
80g of extra virgin olive oil (note: you’ll use this during the stretching process but you’ll have quite a bit left which is okay, you use it just before baking)
toppings: salt/rosemary/chargrilled veg/olives/mozzarella (I use Mozzarella Cucina as it’s a lower hydration cheese but regular mozzarella is fine, just make sure it’s well drained)
Put everything EXCEPT the oil in a bowl, mix up with a fork until it’s all come together, then add a handful of oil from the measured out oil and amalgamate as best you can, then leave it for about 20 mins.
After this, oil a surface/chopping board, again using a bit of the measured out oil to lubricate the surface you’re using (and also your hands) – or you can even use a large shallow tray. Turn the dough out, and gently stretch it out and fold it over on itself a few times. Leave for 30 mins and do the same thing again – stretch, fold. It’s nothing dramatic but you’re trying to get some air bubbles into the dough. Do this once or twice more (leave for 30 mins, stretch and fold) depending on the temperature of the room. You want it a bit bubbly and excited looking.
The recipe says to now put the dough in the fridge for 10 mins. I don’t really do this. After the final rest I pop it in the tray I’ll be using to cook it (I line mine with baking parchment but you don’t have to). Put the dough in, stretch it, fold it, stretch it fold it and then I leave it for about 20 mins to relax. I then stretch it to reach into all four corners of the tin, massaging in all of the left over oil and stick my fingers in to dimple it. At this stage I cover it with oiled clingfilm/more baking parchment (tea-towels tend to stick) and put it in the fridge overnight (I make it in the afternoon if I want it the next day) and cook it in the morning.
If you want to cook it straight away then give it about 30 mins to an hour at room temperature to rest.
I add my toppings before I bake it, top it with salt and bake it in a preheated 220C oven for about 20 minutes. The recipe says to put an oven-proof bowl of water with about 150ml of water in the oven too. Sometimes I do, sometimes I forget. It’s fine.
You want it golden on the top. When it comes out of the oven, brush it with more oil – this is important.
It’s really delicious. Makes excellent sandwiches but isn’t that great the next day (sure you can griddle it to make toasted sandwiches, but…nothing beats what it’s like on the day) – so don’t feel guilty if you eat it all.
It makes a great centre piece for informal dinners/lunches with cheese and cold cuts and if you add chargrilled veg – and I thoroughly recommend you do (chargrill first) it’s a meal in itself with some crispy green salad.
Here’s a pic of it with some toppings, it makes for a really gorgeous meal about 20 mins out of the oven.