Sunday, 10 April 2011


A classic Italian bread widely adopted in the UK, focaccia makes a lovely accompaniment, being soft, gently flavoured and of an open texture well-suited to mopping up juices or eating with soft cheeses. Perfect with the barbecue we held in some surprisingly beautiful April weather! Once again I prefer to use a small starter for this bread, as I find it gives a more rounded flavour and reliable result.

Yesterday I experimented with some toppings, and the recipe I give below includes an improvement over my results: increasing the flavour adhesion by kneading some topping back into the dough before adding the rest as topping. You could of course vary the topping, or make them without and they would be just as delicious. I also used a braid technique to open the texture and give a marbled result; instead one could make the classic 'slipper' shape with one rough strip of dough.

For the starter:

  • 50 ml boiling water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 100 ml cold water
  • 1 tbsp active dried yeast
  • 100g wholemeal bread flour
For the dough:
  • 75 ml warm water
  • 65g olive oil
  • 75 ml white wine
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 tsp dried mixed herbs
  • 500g strong white bread flour

Topping ideas:

  • 2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves stripped and roughly chopped or
  • 100g of green olives, roughly chopped or
  • 75g rehydrated sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped or
  • a bunch of fresh basil or
  • any combination of the above, or whatever you feel like!

Dissolve the sugar in the boiling water, then reduce to blood heat with the cold water, and activate the yeast, giving it 10 minutes to develop a frothy head. Stir in the wholemeal bread flour and leave for a couple of hours in a warm place to rise - it will just about double in size.

In a breadmaker (or by hand in a bowl) combine the starter and the rest of the dough ingredients. Set to dough cycle or knead until soft and elastic. This should be a very soft dough. Allow the dough cycle to complete, or if kneading by hand, give it 30 minutes to rise, knock back, and another 30 minutes.

Lightly flour two baking trays. On a lightly floured surface, knead in half of your topping ingredient. Divide the dough into four equal pieces. Roll and pull two into long strips, slightly longer than your baking tray size. Lay the two strips side by side and put half of the rest of your topping on top, then braid the two strips 'fatly' and roughly over each other with an open weave. Brush lightly with olive oil, transfer to a baking tray and lightly drape a warm damp teatowel over the top. Repeat for the other two strips and remainder of topping. If you like a salty result, you can add flakes of sea salt to the top, but do not mix this into the dough, or it will disrupt the yeast.

Preheat the oven to 190 C and allow the dough to double in size, then remove the teatowels and bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes, giving plenty of room in case the dough rises further. Serve warm and fresh! It keeps for a few days but it's unlikely there will be any left to save!

No comments:

Post a Comment