I put this recipe together this afternoon, when I realised we had no garlic bread to go with our pasta supper – and was also wondering what to do with the left over sun dried tomatoes lurking in the fridge! It turned out so amazingly well, I wanted to type it up and share it immediately, as this bread is just so easy and really hits the spot! Focaccia is nothing to be nervous of – it really is just a bread dough that you leave to rise for an hour, then – best of all, done this way – you just whack it in a brownie tin. Get your kids to poke it with their little fingers, sprinkle a bit of olive oil and sea salt then put it in a hot oven. Job done! Admittedly, the dough is quite a wet one – you really do need to use a mixer with a dough hook for this. But other than that, this is a fab, simplified version of a classic Italian bread. For this version, I used dried mixed herbs and chopped up some sun dried tomatoes – but you don’t have to add anything at all, or you can see my other suggestions below. This cuts into 16 cute squares – I would suggest this serves 4-5 people, accompanying a meal.
You will need a 9″ x 9″ brownie pan, or you can bake it free-form on a baking tray (good luck with that!) Either way, line with baking paper.
For the dough:
350g strong white bread flour
2 tsp fast action yeast (or 1 x 7g sachet)
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
235ml water (room temperature is fine)
65ml olive oil
Optional: 1 tsp dried Italian herb mix and approximately 50g chopped sun dried tomatoes.
(Or, try adding your own choice of herbs, grated cheese, sliced olives, or gently fried chopped onion and/or garlic. Studding the bread with cherry tomatoes and/or fresh rosemary sprigs just before baking also looks really pretty.)
Fine semolina (or just use extra flour) for sprinkling
1-2tbsp olive oil for drizzling
A couple of pinches of coarse sea salt
In a mixer bowl, weigh the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water and olive oil. If you’re using herbs, sun dried tomatoes or any other extras, throw them in, too.
Roughly bring the mixture together by hand (by hand I actually mean a spatula – this is a messy, sticky dough!) then place under a dough hook and let it work for a good 6-8 minutes. The dough will still seem pretty wet. It is supposed to, so don’t add more flour!
Scrape it into a large, oiled bowl and cover with cling film, a plastic shower cap(!) or a tea towel. Leave at normal room temperature until doubled in size. This will take about 1-2 hours.
Have your brownie tin ready – line it with baking paper (I cut a piece a bit longer than necessary so I could easily ‘lift’ the focaccia out at the end.) Sprinkle the paper with some fine semolina, if you have it – or just some extra flour. Scrape the puffy dough gently into the brownie tin. Using your hands, gently stretch and shape the dough until it fills the pan. Now cover and leave for about half an hour. (I placed a large hardback book on top – cling film or anything else will only sink on to the dough and be a total pain to remove. The dough won’t rise much more, so you should be able to get away with covering it with a book).
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200c /400f / gas mark 6.
Now comes the fun part – where you ‘dimple’ the dough by basically poking a finger all over it. My daughter loved doing this. A useful tip – have a little pot of flour handy for ‘between dips’ – this stops your finger actually sticking to the dough! Now you can drizzle over the extra olive oil and sprinkle some sea salt. If you want to stud it with sprigs of rosemary or cherry tomatoes, this is the time to do it. Place in the centre of a preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until a deliciously deep golden brown. Lift – or turn out – the focaccia from the tin as soon as you are able to, and allow to cool on a wire rack. It is lovely eaten while still a little bit warm – you can slice it after about 20 minutes of cooling. If you’re storing it, you can try warming it a little bit in an oven again just before serving (some grated cheese melted on top at this point is delicious!) It is best eaten within 24 hours.