Of course you can play around with the flavours if you’re not too keen on rosemary. Caramelized onions make a lovely topping or try adding chopped sundried tomatoes and basil to the dough. Sometimes I just turn it in to one big garlic focaccia. It all depends on how the mood takes me or what I am serving it with. It’s fun to experiment.
I must admit that I am rather lazy when it comes to making bread, preferring to let my bread machine do all the kneading and rising. But whether you take the easy way out like me or do all the work yourself you will still end up with a delicious Italian style bread to be proud of.
makes a 20 x 30 cm loaf
500 g strong bread flour
310 ml tepid water
10 g dried yeast or 15 g fresh yeast
15 g sugar
15 g salt
large handful of rosemary sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
few small sprigs rosemary for decoration
5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra flour for dusting
Pile the flour on to a clean surface and make a large well in the centre. Pour half your water into the well, then add your yeast, sugar and salt and stir with a fork.
Slowly, but confidently, bring in the flour from the inside of the well. (You don’t want to break the walls of the well, or the water will go everywhere.) Continue to bring the flour in to the centre until you get a stodgy, porridgey consistency – then add the remaining water. Continue to mix until it’s stodgy again, then you can be more aggressive, bringing in all the flour, making the mix less sticky. Flour your hands and pat and push the dough together with all the remaining flour. (Certain flours need a little more or less water, so feel free to adjust.)
With a bit of elbow grease, simply push, fold, slap and roll the dough around, over and over, for 4 or 5 minutes until you have a silky and elastic dough.
Flour the top of your dough. Put it in a bowl, cover with cling film, and allow it to prove for about 40 minutes until doubled in size – ideally in a warm, moist, draught-free place. This will improve the flavour and texture of your dough and it’s always exciting to know that the old yeast has kicked into action.
Once the dough has doubled in size, put it on a floured surface and sprinkle with the chopped rosemary. Knead the dough gently until the rosemary is well distributed then roll out to about 2.5 cm thick.
Transfer to a floured baking tray or shallow roasting tin about 20 x 30 cm and push the dough to fill the tray.
Pour over the olive oil and push your fingers down to the bottom of the tray across the whole dough to make deep dimples. This makes indentations for the oil to collect in.
Arrange the small rosemary sprigs on the top of the dough and press them in slightly to secure them.
Cover the dough with a tea towel and leave it to prove again for 30 minutes to an hour until it has doubled in size once more.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180°C / gas 4.
When the dough has doubled in size make more holes to give the classic focaccia appearance. Grind some salt and pepper over the top and bake in the centre of the oven for around 20 minutes, until the bread is crisp and golden on top and soft in the middle.
Drizzle with a little more oil, cover with a towel and leave to cool a little before serving. Best served warm on the same day.