The word focaccia comes from the Latin ‘focus’ meaning ‘hearth, a place for baking’; as a result of this interpretation of the word being so subjective, focaccia comes in many different shapes, sizes and flavours all over Italy. While many in central Italy (around Florence and Pisa) focaccia is traditionally a savoury dish covered in potato and rosemary, there are areas further north, near the French border, where focaccia is made sweet. “Focaccia dolce” or ‘sweet focaccia’ is commonly found in the north-west and made sweet through the addition of sugar, raisins and/or honey as well as other sweet ingredients. I have only ever tasted savoury focaccia and, because of my love of olives, I’ll be steering away from the sweet variety and instead be sticking to the classic Italian flavours of olive and rosemary.
The base of every focaccia is that of any bread dough: flour, water, yeast and salt. The addition of a couple of tablespoons of olive oil gives a beautiful golden colour to the bread once baked, and an irresistible more-ish taste which is delicious when smothered in butter or olive oil.
The olives I decided to use are ones I picked up from a local deli and had been marinating in chilli (and thyme) oil; I had to fight the urge to eat half of them as I was slicing them up. Any of your favourite olives will work well, however, if they are stored in brine make sure to pat them dry before using them as you don’t want to saturate the dough with unwanted moisture as it bakes.
I also whipped up a little rosemary infused oil by heating a few sprigs of fresh rosemary in some unflavoured oil. A small drizzle of this oil over the top of the focaccia is enough to make your mouth water, and with a small sprinkle of rock salt, this bread is complete.
The open, spongey texture is perfect for soaking up any sauces and oils if serving with a main meal (it goes very well with lasagne), but it is equally scrumptious by itself. Cut off a few slices, pass it round the table, and see your friends and family’s faces light up.
THE RECIPE (Makes 2 Loaves)
- 500g Strong white bread flour
- 2 tsp rock salt
- 2 sachets dried easy blend yeast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 400ml cold water
- olive oil, for drizzling
Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml of the water into a large bowl. Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.
Stretch the dough by hand in the bowl, tuck the sides into the centre, turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat the process for about five minutes.
Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.
Line two large baking sheets with baking paper.
Tip the dough out of the bowl and divide into two portions; then flatten each portion onto a baking sheet, pushing to the corners.
- Add your toppings: sliced olives, rosemary, or even sundried tomatoes.
Leave to prove for one hour.
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Drizzle the loaves with oil, sprinkle with fine sea salt then bake in the oven for 20 minutes.
- Drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve warm.
Notes: Adapted from Paul Hollywood’s Recipe for Focaccia