I absolutely adore focaccia. There’s just something about the wonderful salty, oily topping with the incredibly light and fluffy middle that’s hard to beat. I know I’ve wittered on/winged about the food deprivations of Singapore many times previously, but I have to add another one to the list: good bread. I’m not saying that you can’t buy good bread here. You can. From seriously expensive chi-chi boutique artisan-type establishments. But actually I don’t think I’ve seen focaccia on sale since we got here.
So if in doubt, bake some yourself! This recipe from Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall is, if you have free-standing mixer, a complete doddle. You just pop all the ingredients in, knead them for 10 minutes, then leave to rise for about 45 minutes (until doubled in size). You then just turn the dough out onto an oiled tray and leave to rise for a second time (again for about 45 minutes) and then bake for 20 minutes. Easy peasy. All you need is a bit of time on your hands.
I suspect that if you don’t have a stand mixer you might get yourself into a bit of a sticky mess. Like the Olive Bread recipe I posted a while back, the dough for focaccia is very sticky and wet (it needs to be so it rises well and gets some good air holes inside). If you’re kneading by hand, be prepared to end up with dough everywhere!
The great news is that the cooked bread freezes beautifully if you wrap it up well. When you’re ready for some more focaccia just defrost, re-heat and serve and it’s almost as good as it was fresh from the oven. If you can’t eat it on the same day it gets very dry so any leftovers that you don’t freeze are probably better off included a panzanella salad.
This time last year: Malt Loaf
Slightly adapted from the recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
500g white bread flour
7g powdered instant yeast (HFW says 5g but I found it takes too long to rise that way)
10g fine salt
325ml warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil plus extra for drizzling
A sprinkle of flaky sea salt
2 rosemary sprigs, leaves stripped and finely chopped
1. To knead by hand: mix the flour, yeast, fine salt and water in a bowl to form a sticky dough. Add the oil, mix it in, then turn the dough out on to a clean work surface. Knead until smooth and silky, about 10 minutes.
Or, to use a food mixer: fit the dough hook and add the flour, yeast, fine salt and water to the mixer bowl. Mix on low-speed until evenly combined, then add the oil and leave to knead for about 10 minutes, until smooth and silky.
2. Shape the dough into a round and coat with a little extra oil. Leave to rise in a clean bowl, covered with a plastic bag (about 45 minutes – 1 hour). When it has doubled in size, tip it on to the work surface and press into a rough rectangle.
3. Place in a lightly oiled shallow baking tray, measuring about 26 x 36cm. Press the dough in with your fingers, right into the corners. Now leave to rise, covered, for about 45 minutes until the bread is puffed up and airy.
4. Pre-heat your oven to 250°c/480°c, or as high as it will go.
5. Use your fingertips to poke deep holes across the whole surface of the bread, almost to the bottom. Drizzle the top generously (but not swimmingly) with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary. Bake for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200°c/180°c fan/390°f and bake for a further 10 minutes.
6. Leave to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving, or cool fully and re-heat before serving later. It’s best eaten on the day of cooking but as above freezes well.