Recipe VICKI RAVLICH-HORAN | Images ASHLEE DECAIRES
This is a great loaf for sandwiches (fresh and toasted), added to a platter of cheese, dips and cured meats. I love a slice, still warm with a slather of butter. And when it begins to get stale, focaccia makes the best croutons or crostini.
2½ cups warm water
2 tsp dried active yeast
½ tsp sugar
5 cups high grade flour
1 tbsp salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp sea salt flakes
Combine ½ cup of the warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm (not hot or cool) place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic – at least 15 minutes.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the flour, 1 tbsp salt, remaining water and yeast mixture. Once the dough has come together, continue to knead for 5-6 minutes on a medium speed. This is quite a wet dough so once I have kneaded it, I allow it to rise in the same bowl. Simply cover with a damp tea towel and set aside in a warm spot to do its thing.
You want the dough to double in size and, depending on the temperature, this could take between 1 and 3 hours.
Coat a Swiss roll tin (or other high sided baking tray) with just over half the olive oil. And this is the cathartic bit, or when the kids want to get involved. Tip the dough onto the well-oiled pan and press away. With your fingertips you want to push the dough so it reaches each corner of the pan and you are left with a dimpled dough. Pour over the remaining olive oil and continue to press to spread this over.
When the dough rises again it will create the characteristic craggy looking focaccia. If you do not make decent indentations in the dough, the finished product will be very smooth.
Put the dough in a warm place until it has doubled in size (about 1 hour). While the dough is rising a second time, preheat the oven to 220°C. I also pop my pizza stone in there to ensure the base of the bread cooks well too.
Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with the sea salt and bake until golden brown (about 25–30 minutes).
Change up your loaf by topping with rosemary, olives, or caramelised onions before cooking.