Most people who know me know I make bread often and this is one of my absolute favourites. Doughy, oily and topped off with a very salty and crunchy crust and smelling wonderfully of rosemary and garlic. Just reading back that line makes my mouth water.
After lots of trial and error this focaccia recipe is officially award-winning, as judged by Wyburn and Wayne and taking home the gold in the ‘bread’ category of Cardiff Airport‘s charity bake-off. Yay!
My eat of the week
- 1kg of strong white bread flour
- 2 x 7g sachets of yeast
- 720ml tepid water
- 160ml of olive oil plus extra for brushing
- 5 x tsps salt plus extra for seasoning
- 4 x sprigs of rosemary
- 5 x cloves of garlic
How to cook
Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other. Add 80ml of the olive oil and mix in with a fork.
Add one third of the water and mix with a fork. Keep adding the water a bit at a time and mixing until the dough sticks together – you might need to start using your hands to fold in the extra flour from the side of the bowl once the dough becomes too firm to do so with a fork. It should be smooth, but more moist than your average dough, although not soggy. If it does feel soggy, just add a little bit more flour.
Next pour the remaining olive oil onto a bread board and place the dough on top. Start to knead with your knuckles, so that the olive oil begins to fold into the dough. It will feel slimy for a while, but the more you knead the more it will be absorbed into the dough and eventually it will feel dryer and smooth. If after a while it doesn’t feel like the olive oil is being absorbed, remove the board from underneath the dough and continue to knead on a dry kitchen surface until the dough achieves the right consistency.
Now for the waiting game! Line a clean plastic bowl or container with some baking or greaseproof paper (to stop the dough sticking to the sides when it expands), place the dough in the container and cover with a tea towel. Pop it somewhere warm to rise, such as an airing cupboard, for around an hour or until it has doubled in size.
Then take the dough out of the container and place into a rectangular baking tray with high sides and lined with baking paper. Without pushing out too much air, shape the dough to match the rectangular shape of the tray – you don’t need to stretch it to fit size of the tray as it will rise and expand to fit after the second prove. Poke some dimples into the top of the dough with your index finger then slide the tray inside a plastic bag or bin liner to prove for another hour. Heat the oven to 220 degrees while you wait for the dough to rise.
Once the dough has risen to double the size for a second time, remove the tray from the bin liner and brush the dough with olive oil. Grind a generous amount of sea salt over the surface of the dough to make sure you achieve that lovely salty crust. Pluck the leaves from the sprigs of rosemary and sprinkle over the dough. Top it off with some cloves of garlic (still with their skins on).
Finally, place in the oven to bake for around 20 minutes. The crust should begin to turn a golden brown – you might need to turn the tray around to ensure it’s evenly browned on all sides. You’ll know it’s ready when you tap the crust and it sounds hollow. Tip: you can also see if it’s ready by removing the tray from the oven and using the baking paper to gently lift the bread so you can check for a soggy bottom!
Leave to cool for 10 minutes – you might want to brush the crust with more olive oil – before slicing and serving with soft salted butter.