Preparation time: 4-5 hours
Cooking time: 25 min
Since the days of the Roman Empire, this type of bread has been prepared and eaten in what is today know as Italy.
- One of the biggest challenges facing cooks trying to prepare Italian breads and pasta outside of Italy is finding the correct flour, or a substitute that gives good results. The type of flour used (depending on the actual proteins and structure of the flour) ultimately determines the way the flour performs. Flour that is more natural and stone ground generally performs better than commercial mass-produced flours what are often treated with all sorts of chemicals and bleached! In South Africa, Eureka Mills produce superb flour in various forms.
- What are the secrets to an excellent focaccia? Good flour, kneading, patience and LOTS of Extra Virgin Olive oil. When it comes to Italian cooking “ when in doubt “ use more olive oil. There is no wonder why Italy is the biggest consumer of Olive oil in the world.
- Ok so back to the recipe¦
- Ingredients with suggested substitutions.
- (Italian original ingredients in brackets.)
- 250g Cake Flour (Farina 00)
- 250g Bread Flour (Farina 00)
- 200ml Water - luke warm
- 1tsp Honey
- 17g Fresh yeast, or 1¼ teaspoons of Active Dried Yeast
- 15g Salt (about 3 teaspoons)
- 40ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil for pouring
- Coarse Salt or Salt Flakes
- Preheat the oven to 200 deg C (do not use the fan)
- Mix the yeast and honey with the warm water and set aside
- Sift the flour onto a work surface and create a well, but keep a little aside use later
- Pour the water/yeast/honey mixture into the centre of the well “ be careful not to break the dam wall!
- Using œpinching movements (imagine a crab try to knead) start to take flour from the edges and mix with the water in the well.
- About half way through the pinching above, add the salt and drizzle the 40ml of olive oil in over the flour mixtures and continue to bring the ingredients together with the pinching technique until you are able to form a ball.
- Using the reserved flour sprinkle some flour on the work-surface and knead the dough, adding some of the remaining flour as necessary and removing the dough stuck to your hands. You should need for about 10 minutes until the dough is nice and smooth and elastic.
- Work the dough to a nice ball. (If you push on the dough with your index finger, the dough should be elastic enough so that it œbounces back leaving almost imprint where you pushed)
- Take the nice ball and place in a large oiled bowl and cover with a cloth. Leave in a nice warm airy place to rise (If you have a tumble drier going in the laundry “ that works like a dream). At 30 degrees you should leave the dough about an hour so that it has more than doubled in size. At lower temperatures you obviously have to wait longer.
- While the dough is resting prepare a baking tray (2cm high) with non-stick spray and a good drizzle of olive oil spread around with kitchen towel.
- When the dough is well-risen, remove from the bowl and place in the prepared tray. Work the dough into a ball and use the tips your fingers to push the dough flat to about 1 cm thick. Leaving deep imprints with your fingers. (It™s a bit like typing on the dough) Do not roll it flat with a rolling pin. Depending on the size of your baking tray the dough may our may not be enough to go to the edges “ if it doesn’t that™s fine too “ just decide on the shape.
- Drizzle a serious amount of Extra Virgin Olive Oil all over the dough. Don™t be scared to use at least 50ml of oil. You want the dough looking abundantly drizzled with oil collecting in the little impressions left by your fingers. (At this point you could mash Rosemary and Garlic with the oil in a pestle and mortar and use that as your flavoured drizzle)
- Fill a jug with cold water and use your fingers to drizzle water all over the focaccia, so that water collects in the little holes made by your fingers. You will notice that some of the oil will float. As the focaccia cooks the water will evaporate and act as a carrier to help unlock the flavours of the olive oil. This will also leave the impressions left by your fingers much lighter than the top of the focaccia “ very typical of authentic focaccia.
- At this point you could add some toppings if you like¦ use your imagination¦
¢ Tomato slices and oregano
¢ Cooked spinach and ricotta cheese
¢ A spread of good quality tomato puree and cooked ham
¢ Grated parmesan cheese (Parmagiano Reggiano )and black pepper
¢ Basil pesto and pine nuts
If you want to use Fresh Basil add that after cooking as it will go black and loose most of its flavour in the oven!
- Leave the dough to rest and rise again to double in size. This may take another hour. It may take 3 hours! Be patient. The better the rise the better the final result.
- Place the focaccia in the preheated oven and back for 20-25 minutes until it is a nice light golden brown and ready to serve, or leave to cool for later.