Bread has certainly become one of my great loves – well baking bread! I find the whole process both fascinating and frustrating is equal measure. I have had many bread failures over the years and continue to do so (hello, sourdough!) but that doesn’t stop me from baking bread three or four times a week.
Of all the bread recipes I made at Ballymaloe, focaccia was one of my favorites. It has a beautiful texture and is so versatile. You can mix it up with a whole host of flavors – pesto, caramelized onion etc. It is much simpler to make focaccia in a kitchenaid or kenwood with a dough hook as it is a very wet dough. It takes some practice and a bit of intuition to get it right but once you do, it is such a satisfying feeling.
Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia
Darina Allen, Ballymaloe Cookery School
You need a deep baking tin with high sides – I use a lasagne dish lined with greaseproof paper and well oiled.
- 700g strong white flour
- 10g dried yeast
- 2 level teaspoons salt
- 15g sugar
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 500-600ml (600g)lukewarm water (Weigh the water using a scales, its important that its not too dry. The dough should be soft but not sloppy)
- extra virgin olive oil, rosemary and sea salt to garnish
- In a jug, mix sugar and 150ml of the 600ml warm water with the yeast and sit for a few minutes until it has frothed up a bit – This isn’t necessary with fast action yeast, just add this when your are adding the water to the flour.
- Sieve the flour and salt into the bowl of a food mixer (or a large bowl if mixing by hand). Add the yeast, water and sugar mix and then the rest of the warm water. Add in the olive oil – I use about 3 tbsp.
- Using a dough hook fitting knead in the food tier until everything comes together. If the mix looks a bit dry, add some water. You do want this to be a relatively wet dough as this gives the distinctive bubbles in the focaccia. However it should hold together rather than be a sloppy mess!
- Knead with the dough hook for 8-10 minutes, until the dough has some elasticity and springs back when you prod it!
- Oil another bowl well with olive oil and transfer the dough to this. Cover with oiled cling film and allow to prove for approx 1 1/2 to 2 hours – this depends on the heat in the kitchen, humidity etc. You are looking for it to double in size.
- When it has doubled, pour the dough slowly into your well lined dish. You don’t want to knock all the air out of it while you are doing this. Use wet fingers to spread the dough out into all the corners. Poke little sprigs of rosemary into the dough and drizzle with oil. Don’t add the sea salt until it just goes into the oven as this slows the yeast.
- Preheat the oven to 230C/450F. When the dough has risen again, sprinkle with sea salt and then pop into the preheated oven for 10-15 mins.
- Reduce the temperature of the oven to 200C/400F and bake for another 15-20 mins. Remove from the tin and return to the oven for 5-10 mins, until it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Allow to cool and drizzle with olive oil and more salt if you wish.