Salt and olive oil set this bread above its counterparts.Makes 1 Medium Loaf
Despite being a flatter bread, focaccia is still a leavened bread. Focaccia originated in Italy and similar types of bread can be found as far back as the Romans. The Romans baked a flatbread on the hearth – a place for a fire – called panis focacius. The first use of the word focaccia appears to date back as far as the 14th century.
Focaccia – A Pizza?
Focaccia is also known as pizza Bianca, or white pizza, in some places. The method of preparation is similar to that of pizza, except pizza is baked immediately after rolling out. Focaccia is left to rise again.
The Many Faces of Focaccia
Focaccia Genovese – The iconic finger-shaped holes are pushed into the bread before it is brushed with olive oil and seasoned with flakes of salt.
The Ligurian coast also boasts many different focaccia styles including dry focaccia with a biscuit texture to its softer oily version prepared with corn flour.
There are also sweet varieties found in north-western Italy and special holiday-style Focaccias in the northeast such as Venetian Focaccia served at easter which is similar to panettone.
Focaccia el Rosmarino – Rosemary Focaccia
Despite the numerous varieties, Rosemary Focaccia is the type of bread that feels more familiar to me. Simply put, Rosemary Focaccia is Genovese focaccia topped with fresh rosemary. Exact recipes vary, but it is most often baked.
Rosemary is the most often used herb, but sage is also used a lot. This type of bread is known as focaccia alla salvia. Other ingredients include basil and garlic.
What flour should I Use for Focaccia?
The truth is, it probably doesn’t matter too much as long as it contains a high amount of protein. The flours include strong bread flour, Italian “00”, and all-purpose flour. The low gluten content of 00 flour helps keep the dough stretchy.
Kneading the Dough for Focaccia
Kneading is important to the dough to stretch the gluten and strengthen its bonds. This process allows proteins to expand as the dough rests resulting in an elastic dough with a stronger structure.
Kneading properly also helps distribute the ingredients more evenly. This doesn’t mean just salt and flavourings, but the carbon dioxide bubbles caused by fermentation. Fermentation is caused by yeast, arguably the most important ingredient in bread as this what cause the dough to rise, feeding on the dough.
Properly kneading the dough will also help build volume as strengthened gluten will allow more gas bubbles to find their way into the loaf. It’s these gas pockets that give a loaf of bread its height, and those characteristic holes.
However, over-kneading is possible which will result in overworked gluten. This will result in a strong, stiff dough, and the exact opposite of what you want to happen. Overworking is easily done using an electric mixer, so if using one to speed up the process, take care to stop with plenty of time. You can always knead again, but once it’s too late, you’ll end up with dry bread without any air pockets.
A well-kneaded dough should be soft, and springy when pressed. A good way to test if the dough is ready is to break a small piece off and stretch it out. It should stretch out thin enough to see through it.
500g “00” Flour or Strong Bread Flour, Plus extra for dusting
½ Tsp Salt
2 Tsp Caster Sugar
7g Instant or Dried Yeast Sachet
325ml Lukewarm Water
4 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
6 Sprigs of Rosemary
1 Garlic Clove, Crushed
A good Pinch of Flaked Sea Salt
- In a bowl, mix the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast together.
- Make a well in the centre and pour the water and half of the oil into the well. Using your fingertips, gently mix the flour into the water until a dough forms.
- Lightly flour a clean work surface and turn out the door. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough springs back when pressed with a finger. Alternatively, keep the mix in the bowl and use a kneading attachment or dough hook on a handheld blend or standalone mixer. It will speed up the process.
- Return to a clean bowl, dusted with flour and cover. Set aside and leave for at least 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 200oc or gas mark 6 and lightly grease a baking dish or tray.
- Gently knock back the dough and press the dough into the baking dish. Using your fingers gently push the dough out into the four corners. Then lightly press a few dimples into the dough.
- Using scissors cut the rosemary stalks into smaller sprigs and press them into the dough. Sprinkle the sea salt, brush with the remaining olive oil, and scatter the crushed garlic. Set aside again, covered, and leave to rise for a minimum of thirty minutes.
- Place the focaccia into the top of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden.
- Allow to cool a little, but the bread is best served warm with extra olive oil.