I have waxed philosophical about bread before: the general rundown is that I love it. Any excuse to have it is a valid justification for having bread.
Those excuses could be “Honey, I made soup tonight!” or “We have butter in the fridge! Score!” – honestly, totally valid.
Anyways, I have been making bread for a while, but I generally have stuck to a North American/French style of baking. I know – they don’t seem to really go together, the French with all their long waiting periods, folding pastries a million times and so forth, and the American white wonder bread shtuff, but generally, I break it down like this: Either I am making Impress-the-Guests crusty bread or something sliceable for sandwiches (this includes sub bread). And yeah, I also do Challah on holidays and bagels for when I feel homesick.
Then I was browsing online, Youtubing mostly, and came across my new kitchen hero – Donal Skehan. He’s an Irish cook and personality and I started going through his videos and checking out his recipes. Eventually I found one on Foodtube (Jamie Oliver’s channel) with him and Gennaro – making focaccia.
Now I have had plenty of focaccia in my day (see that whole obsessed with bread thing), but I have never made it myself.
And so I decided to make some.
Here’s what I did.
First – I wanted to figure out what made focaccia … well, focaccia. Like, was it just the shape? The flatness of it? Or the dimples over the top of it? Usually filled with salt and olive oil? What made it focaccia as opposed to just … flattened, still springy to the touch, salty olive oil bread?
Well, according to The Hairy Bikers on Youtube – it’s the olive oil that makes it focaccia bread. My research into it on Wiki and other sites seems to suggest this is mostly true – that is, focaccia is like a pizza dough, that is then fortified with olive oil, flattened onto a tray, dimpled, salted and herbed and then baked in a hot oven for 20 minutes or so until the top is slightly crusty, but the inside is moist and bready. I have made pizza dough a lot in my life – all sorts of different kinds, in fact. In general, pizza dough, like other doughs, is brought about by a ratio of flour to water to yeast, with some salt, sugar and other additives where they’re applicable. Pizza dough is generally a 5 parts flour, to 3 parts water, to about 7g or so of yeast, some salt and some sugar. Focaccia, as it turns out, is about the same – 5 parts flour, to 3 parts water, to 7g of yeast, about 2 tbsp of olive oil, and about a tbsp of sugar.
Seems pretty simple, now that the research (which was reading about the makeup of focacciaa and then watching tonnes of Youtube recipe videos) was done – just had to get down to making it.
So … here we go:
First I measured out 500g of flour into my lovely yellow bee bowl.
Then I put in 7g of yeast and a pinch of salt.
Just a word on measurements: I used to only use cups and spoons, but over the years I have become a fan of weight measurements. Not only do they tend towards being more accurate when you’re following a recipe, but once you have a system in place for measuring – a good scale, some great bowls over top and an understanding of how weight works – then it’s just as easy, especially since you can just use a bowl, chuck everything into it, without the need to use ten little cups or tablespoons. That’s just the way I do things – you can continue to measure them out, in which case, 500g of flour would be roughly about 3.5 cups, the yeast would end up being about 2 1/4 tsp. Do what makes you comfortable.
In my jug, I put 300 mL of warm tap water, and then about 3 tbsp or so of olive oil.
Then I poured the wet into the dry and mixed it with one of my old Granny-like wooden spoons until a rough looking ball formed.
After the dough came together a little bit, I dumped the contents of the bowl out onto my work surface and kneaded the dough (with the help of a little flour) for about five minutes, before shaping it all into a ball, chucking it back into the now-lightly-oiled bowl, covering with a clean dish towel and putting it into the oven with its light on. That’s a good tip I picked up over the years: If you want a faster rising time, open the oven, leave it turned off, then turn on the light, put in whatever needs rising, and leave it in there. Works like a charm!
After an hour, you get this.
And then you scrape it out of the bowl and begin to shape it in a tray. Another tip – this one to avoid any tearing of the dough – work from the inside out. So push from the interior of the dough until you get to the edges, as opposed to pulling from the edges.
After that’s done, cover with some clingfilm, and back into your turned-off-oven for another 30 minutes of proofing.
After another half hour, it looks like this – all puffed up and shiny-like.
Now you turn the oven on. 425F or so.
To do the focaccia trademark dimpled, just use two fingers, or two knuckles, and press into the dough in lines.
Grab your olive oil and drizzle over top – no need to be fancy or exact, just make sure it gets a healthy helping of the good stuff. Then sprinkle some salt over top. That’s a basic focaccia. To make it even better, grab some rosemary and pull the leaves off, scattering them over top. Even better, you ask? Mince some garlic and press it into the dough. Feeling slightly hotter? Dried Chilli Flakes over top. Really, the list can go on …
After that’s done, pop it into the preheated oven and let it bake for 15-20 minutes. I let mine go the full twenty.
And that’s it. Pretty simple, right? And super delicious!
We had my first batch with a roast lemon chicken and this latest batch with some chicken noodle soup – with some great California wine with both, because we can be fancy sometimes. I’d recommend it with the rosemary – I am quite a fan, but really you can’t go wrong, try all sorts of flavours that speak to you – if you like garlic, go garlic. Onions? Same. Just keep the basic recipe in mind and customize to your heart’s content!
Hope you enjoyed that! Now, if you don’t mind, I am going to go snack on some leftover bread …
Recipe: Basic Focaccia
500 g flour
7g rapid yeast
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
300 mL warm water
3 tbsp olive oil
1. Mix the dry together.
2. Mix the wet together.
3. Create a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet. Using a wooden spoon, mix until it comes together.
4. Turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knead for 5 minutes. Shape into a ball.
5. Put back into lightly oiled bowl and cover with a dish towel. Leave in a warm place for an hour.
6. Take out and shape onto oiled tray. Cover in clingfilm and leave in a warm place for half an hour.
7. Take tray out of oven then preheat oven to 425F.
8. Dimple dough. Dribble with olive oil and salt (and any herbs or other toppings)
9. Bake for 15-20 minutes.
10. Serve warm.