Focaccia. Last seen 1995, no doubt laden with those curly, oily devils: sun-dried tomatoes. Remember how in it was?! My teenage self thought we were all so haute-cuisine with our focaccia. But then we wised up to this dry, choky, overly old-cupboard-herbed mattress of a sandwich and traded it in for Turkish. But give it a good decade and a half, and focaccia has actually claimed a spot on the podium of best foods eaten this year thus far. Ashley Hughes made this delicious focaccia at the pasta masterclass I did the other week at Alio.
I made this on the weekend, and having never made bread before, I was so thrilled that it turned out perfectly. It was an addictive, pillowy mass of deliciousness that made us all gorge until we were stopped by the inevitable carb coma.
- 25 g yeast
- 25g honey
- 600ml luke warm water
- 900g flour
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1/2 bunch rosemary picked off the stem
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 25g salt
- sea salt, to finish
- In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt and make a well in the centre. In the well, add the honey, yeast and warm water.
- With your fingers, dissolve the yeast and the water together. Once it is dissolved, start to incorporate the flour. Keep doing this until a dough is formed.
- Knead the dough for about 5 minutes until it is smooth and elastic.
- Form the dough into a ball and with one tablespoon of olive oil, pat the dough with the oil on your hands as this stops the dough from drying out. Cover the bowl with cling film and let the dough sit for about an hour (this time may vary depending on how hot your kitchen is).
- While the dough is proving, make the herb oil for the top of the focaccia. Begin by placing in a mortar and pestle the clove of garlic and a pinch of salt. Pound the garlic, adding a sprig of rosemary. Repeat this until the herb is lightly broken up, as this will allow the flavour to release. Add the olive oil to the herb mix and set aside.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, knead it one more time but only for about a minute as you don’t want to overwork the dough at this stage.
- Form a ball with the dough and place it on a floured bench to roll out and fit your baking tray. It will fit into a tray approximately 45cm by 30cm. Scatter the rosemary across the top. Cover the dough again with one tablespoon of olive oil so it doesn’t dry out and again leave to prove for about 45 minutes.
- Place the herb oil over the top. Push your fingers into the dough as this is what gives the dough its characteristic markings. Spray the bread with water as this stops the herbs from burning. Lastly, sprinkle with sea salt and bake in a 225˚C oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden.
- When the bread comes out of the oven, place it on a cooling rack to stop it from steaming in the tray. Drizzle with a little more oil if you so desire and eat!