Focaccia is a flat oven-baked rustic Italian bread which may be topped with herbs and other ingredients such as onion, cheese, meat, veggies etc. Focaccia dough is similar in style and texture to pizza bread, and is typically rolled out or pressed with hand to form a thick dough which is then baked in an oven. Focaccia can be used as a side to many meals, as an accompaniment to soups and salads, as an appetizer served with dipping oil or even with hummus, as a base for pizza, or as sandwich bread. If you wish to make sandwiches, instead of forming the dough in a circle, bake the dough in an oiled jelly roll pan. I tried this bread yesterday and the day before, they turned out awesome both times. I halved the ingredients in this recipe to make one loaf. It is so easy to prepare(though a bit time-consuming since this recipe calls for three risings of the dough), so flavorful and can be made with common ingredients you usually have in your pantry. Here goes the recipe:
Ingredients (For 2 loaves)
Recipe Source – Baking by Martha Day
Fresh yeast – 3/4 oz / 20 g (I used 1 sachet Red Star active dry yeast(2 1/4 tsp) for making 1 loaf. Use 1 tsp if you are using rapid-rise yeast. Using rapid-rise yeast saves a lot of time since it will make your dough rise faster.Also they do not require proofing or rehydration to work. They can be added directly with the other ingredients. You don’t have to refrigerate yeast, but if you do, it’s better to bring it to room temperature before using.)
- Lukewarm water – 315 – 350 ml / 11- 12 floz/ Around 3/4 cup
- Extra virgin olive oil / olive oil – 3 tbsp (45 ml)
- Unbleached white bread flour / All purpose flour(maida) – 1 1/4 lb / 500 g / 4 cups
- Salt – 1.5 tsp
- Chopped fresh sage or rosemary – 1 tbsp (I used dried rosemary)
For the topping
- Extra virgin olive oil – 4 tbsp (I drizzled only 1 – 2 tsp olive oil)
- Garlic cloves, chopped – 4
- Red onion – 1 tbsp, chopped fine
- Fresh sage leaves (opt) – 12
- Coarse sea salt – 1/2 tsp (optional)
1. Lightly oil two 10 inch shallow round cake pans or pizza pans. Cream the yeast with 4 tbsp of the water(the yeast will dissolve in the lukewarm water). Now stir in the remaining water and oil. Keep aside some extra lukewarm water and use as per needed if the dough is dry.
2. Sift the flour and salt together into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Pour the yeast mixture into the well and incorporate the flour to make a soft dough. I used a food processor to knead the dough.
3. Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until smooth and elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled clear film and leave to rise, in a warm place, for about 1 – 1 1/2 hrs or until the dough has doubled in bulk. I placed it inside the conventional oven with the light on. Alternatively, heat the oven for a few seconds, switch off and place the bowl inside.
4. Knock back the dough and turn out on to a floured surface. Gently knead in the chopped sage/herbs. Divide the dough into two equal pieces. Shape each into a ball, roll out into 10 inch circles and place in the cake pans. I just placed the ball inside the cake pan and pressed it with my hands to form a circle.
5. Cover with lightly oiled clear film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 30 minutes. Uncover and using your finger tips, poke the dough to make deep dimples over the entire surface. Replace the clear film cover and leave to rise until doubled in bulk or for 30 minutes.
6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F / Gas 6. Sprinkle or brush the loaves with olive oil and garlic, red onion, sea salt for the topping and dot with sage leaves. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, or until the loaves are golden. Immediately remove the focaccia from the pans and transfer them to a wire rack to cool slightly. You can drizzle a tsp or two of olive oil over the focaccia if you wish. Let it cool for at least 15 mts before slicing. These loaves are best served warm. Store the unused portion in an airtight container or zip lock bag in the refrigerator. It can be tightly wrapped and frozen up to 3 months. When required, thaw at room temperature, then refresh in an oven for 10 mts at 350 F. Enjoy!!
From The Essential Baking Cookbook
1. Focaccia is best eaten on the day of baking, it can be reheated if necessary. Variations to use as toppings are only limited by your imagination. Make indentations in the top of the dough as suggested in the recipe, brush with olive oil, then top with any of the following :- 1) Sun-dried tomatoes 2) Olives, bell peppers 3) Cheese 4) Sliced onion that has been softened in a little olive oil over low heat 5) Other herbs like oregano, basil, thyme, parsley or any herb of your choice etc. Alternatively, you can spread pesto or tapenade over the dough, then brush with olive oil and add olives before baking etc.
2. If the loaf didn’t rise or rose poorly, the yeast was old or dead. The liquid may have been too hot and killed the yeast. The yeast may have worked itself out too early by being placed to rise in a spot that was too warm. It may have been left too long to prove.
3. If your yeast mixture has not risen and is not frothy, the yeast is dead. If this happens, you will have to throw away the mixture and start again. Take care when measuring the yeast. The temperature of the water should be tepid, not too warm or you may kill the yeast. If using dry yeast, check the expiry date on the back of the packet before you start.