For the month of April Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch
This months Daring Bakers challenge was an easy one for me – focaccia, which is one of my favourite breads and one I have made many times. Focaccia is a traditional Italian flatbread made with olive oil; it should be tender and chewy with a crisp crust and an open crumb – lots of little holes inside. It is infinitely customiseable, you can top it with pretty much whatever you want – olives, cheese, tomatoes, onions, nuts, herbs, grapes, roasted peppers etc. but I prefer it with a simple topping of herbs and sea salt. I like to serve it with a selection of dips and antipasti, it also makes fantastic sandwiches, mozzarella and avocado being my favourite.
It is a little trickier to make than a standard bread dough as the dough should be quite wet and sticky (this in combination with a hot oven is what creates the chewy, holey structure). It is a little messy and difficult so knead so if you have a stand mixer then I suggest using it, if not then a dough scraper will come in handy! As with most breads, I prefer to let it have it’s first rise in the fridge overnight – it splits up the workload and a longer rise gives the dough more flavour, but by all means let it rise in a warm place for about an hour instead.
- 500g (4 + ¼ cups) strong white bread flour
- 10g (2 tsp) salt
- 10g (3 tsp) fast action yeast
- 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil (plus extra for drizzling)
- 350ml (1 + ½ cups) lukewarm water
- semolina or cornmeal for dusting
- fresh rosemary
- dried oregano
- flaky sea salt
- Place the flour in a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer if you have one) and add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other. Pour in the olive oil and three quarters of the water, mix, adding more water gradually until you have picked up all the flour from the sides of the bowl and formed a soft, sticky dough. You may not need to add all of the water but the dough should be quite wet - much softer than a standard bread dough.
- Oil a work surface with olive oil and turn the dough out onto it (unless you have a stand mixer, in which case it is best to use that to knead it), knead the dough for 5-10 minutes until it starts to form a smooth skin and feels elastic, it will still be quite sticky - resist the urge to add more flour.
- Oil a 2-3 litre square or rectangular plastic container (you can use a bowl if you don't have one, using a square container just makes it a bit easier to shape once it has proved.), place the dough into the oiled container, cover, and leave to rise until at least doubled in size - about one hour in a warm place or overnight in the fridge.
- Line a baking tray with baking parchment and sprinkle it with semolina or cornmeal. Carefully tip the dough out onto the baking tray. Don't knock it back as you usually would, handle it gently to try and keep as much air in the dough as possible. Stretch the dough out into an approx. 24x33cm (9.5x13in) rectangle. Loosely cover with oiled clingfilm or place the tray inside a large plastic bag and leave to prove for about 1 hour until the dough is doubled in size and springs back quickly if you prod it lightly with a finger.
- Meanwhile heat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7.
- To make the dimpled effect, oil your fingers to stop them from sticking to the dough, then prod the dough all over with your fingers, pushing all the way through to the bottom.
- Drizzle the dough with olive oil and sprinkle generously with sea salt, oregano and rosemary.
- Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, transfer to a wire rack to cool.