I have recently got into baking bread from scratch in a big way. The thought used to fill me with dread, thinking I would fail horribly leaving me with a loaf that was burned on the edges and raw dough in the centre. Then I discovered that all you need is confidence and time. I like to mix my bread ingredients by hand so I can really get the feel of the dough in order to gage how much liquid I’ll need.
This focaccia is an extremely forgiving bread recipe that I think is excellent for a beginner. It is one you need no special equipment for and the dough is very wet so if your hand slips it doesn’t matter as much as it would with other breads. Plus this recipe is pretty cheap to make compared with other recipes. As an added bonus it ends up looking like that artisan bread you buy in delis which makes it ideal as a Christmassy bake.
To make focaccia you will need:
1 sachet of instant yeast (around 10g)
500g strong white bread flour
40ml olive oil (plus approx 100ml extra for kneading, lining your square container and kneading)
360ml cold water
Line a square or rectangular container that holds at least 2 litres with some of your olive oil. Put your flour in a large mixing bowl with the yeast on one side and the salt on the other. Add 40ml olive oil.
At this point add about 3/4 of your cold water. Use your fingers to make a claw to mix the dough. Keep adding the rest of the water gradually until your dough picks up the flour from the sides of the bowl and is very soft.
Cover an appropriate surface with olive oil. At this point knead your dough until it is smooth and elastic. Don’t add more flour as this dough is supposed to be sticky (I ruined a washing up sponge clearing up after myself).
When the dough is smooth put into the container and leave to rise for around 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and drizzle with more oil. Divide your dough into 2 and shape into flat even rectangles. Do this carefully so that you don’t lose too much air. The texture of the bread is way more important than having perfect rectangles at this stage.Sprinkle your dough liberally with the salt flakes and dried oregano. Leave your trays in a warm (not hot) place to rise for another hour, until the dough springs back when poked with your finger. About 30 minutes into your proving time preheat your oven to 220°C.
Using your finger poke holes into the dough that go right the way through.