This is one of my favourite breads to make because it is just so easy. I promise. This bread doesn’t require shaping, simply transfer the risen dough from the bowl to an oiled tray, spread it out with oiled fingers and then top with whatever you fancy. Fresh rosemary and sea salt is a classic. In the photo above I paired gooseberries with sage leaves. Blackberries and Demerara sugar is delicious. You could try cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil. I love pear and blue cheese. Some people go crazy and make entire garden scenes on theirs.
I use my master recipe for Simple White Bread for this. You can be a bit more generous with the water if you like which will make for a focaccia with larger air holes.
This bread doesn’t need to prove after you have placed it in the tin. It can be baked straight away. However, if it fits better with your day you can leave it to prove for 15-30 minutes or you could pop it in the fridge overnight or for several hours and then bake when you are ready. Remember my mantra, bread making can easily fit around your day.
If you have left a loaf too long before baking and it has over proofed then you can easily rescue it by tipping the dough into a well oiled tray, sprinkling over your chosen topping and baking it straight away and pretend that you meant to make focaccia all along.
Place your flour in a large mixing bowl. Add your yeast and mix through the flour. If you are using fresh yeast you can crumble the yeast through the flour like you would rub butter through flour when making pastry. Add the salt and mix through the flour.
Add 320g of water to begin with and using one hand like a claw begin to mix the dough. There should be no dry bits, so splash in more water gradually as needed. You want the dough to feel soft and slightly sticky. For focaccia the dough can be on the wetter side and all is well. You don’t need to shape this dough. Watch this video to see what your dough should look like and how to stretch and fold it to develop the gluten. If you prefer to knead this video will show you how. You can also use a stand mixer, this article describes my preferred method for using a stand mixer.
Once you have developed the dough using either the stretch and fold method, kneading or a stand mixer it is time to let the dough ferment. Keep the dough covered well, either with a large plastic bag, a shower cap or a proving cloth. If you keep the dough at room temperature it will have become light, airy and doubled in size in an hour or a little longer in a cool kitchen. To improve the flavour and texture of the loaf you can ferment it in the fridge overnight or for several hours. This is ideal if you have a busy day ahead and won’t be hanging around in the kitchen. It takes ten times longer for a loaf to prove in a fridge than at room temperature.
Once the dough is airy and risen preheat your oven to 220C, gas mark 7, 425F placing a solid sheet on the shelf of the oven so that when you place the tin with your focaccia into the oven it is sitting on a hot, solid shelf. This will help with oven spring and cooking the base of the focaccia.
Oil a baking tray generously with olive oil. I use extra virgin olive oil for this as the oil penetrates the bread and gives it a great taste. You can also use your favourite brand of good rapeseed oil if you prefer. Tip the dough into the tray. Generously drizzle your choice of oil over the top of the dough. Then push your fingers into the dough right to the tray pushing the dough out on the tray as you are doing this. Focaccia is a rustic bread so you don’t need to be perfect here. You want to create holes in the dough but also be gentle enough not to push all of the air out of the dough. Remember it is going straight into the oven (unless you have chosen otherwise as described above). Sprinkle over your choice of toppings.
Place the tray onto the solid tray or shelf that you have preheated and bake for approx 25 minutes until golden all over and lightly golden on the base. Cool on a wire rack and enjoy.