Basic Focaccia Bread

Italian cookery expert Valentina Harris gives a masterclass in making the simple dough for Italy's most versatile bread
By Valentina Harris
Basic Focaccia Bread
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 6
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes plus standing and rising time
  • Effort: easy

Ingredients

  • 35 g fresh yeast
  • 300 ml warm water
  • pinch granulated sugar
  • 450 g strong plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • sea salt
  • 2-3 tsp olive oil, plus extra for greasing

Tips and Suggestions

feel free to add chopped sun-dried tomatoes, dried herbs, chopped olives or a mixture of all or any of the above to ring the changes with this basic dough. You could also use strong wholemeal flour instead of white.

Method

1. Mix the yeast and water together in a jug, then add the sugar and about 2 tablespoons of the flour.

2. Put the yeast mixture somewhere warm to activate for about 30 minutes, or until the yeast mixture is fizzing gently and has formed something of a head, like on a glass of ginger beer.

3. Tip the remaining flour out on to a clean worktop and make a well in the centre. Pour in the yeast mixture and knead it energetically into the flour, adding a little more water if required. Add the salt and oil and knead hard for about 10 minutes.

4. Transfer the soft, elastic, slightly shiny dough to a large floured bowl. Oil a piece of cling film and place it oil-side down over the dough. Set aside in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours or until doubled in size.

5. Preheat the oven to 220°C/gas 7.

6. Pull the dough apart into sections with well-oiled hands and shape into rough rounds, flattening them between your palms. Lay them on to a well-oiled baking sheet scattered with coarse semolina or polenta to cause an air pocket to form under the dough, to the desired thickness (bearing in mind it will rise again and thus will become even thicker) and leave to rise again for another hour.

7. Next force dips in the surface of the focaccia with your fingertips, then generously scatter with oil, water and salt and bake for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the top is golden and crisp and the focaccia moves freely on the baking sheet. Slide off the baking sheet and serve warm.

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