Post updated June 2016: new photos added
Focaccia is up there in my top 3 breads, both to make and to eat. Characteristically bouncy, with many irregular holes in the bread itself, it tastes great and needs very little to accompany it. And it is VERY easy to make.
A flavoured focaccia
Spicy chorizo and salty Parmesan make a wonderful combination at any time, but are wonderful in a bread. Purists might fuss at the Italian and Spanish flavour blend, but when something so simple tastes so good, it really doesn’t matter: I adore the way that the olive oil and the oil from the chorizo drip into the dough, both streaking and flavouring it beautifully.
Easy, little to actually do and leisurely unrushed…..
This is a very simple focaccia that uses very little hands-on time: it is more a matter of letting the dough do its thing while you get on with life!
For maximum flavour I let the dough sit in the fridge overnight once it had been made, before placing it into the baking tray for its second rise. I also use less yeast than for a typical warm rise. The slow rise really does develop the flavour significantly: if you have never made a bread with a slow, chilled rise in this way, I cannot urge you strongly enough to try it.
…but if you do want to speed things up!
Bread is not something I would want to rush, but if you do want to hurry things along, you can double the yeast content and let the dough rest, covered, at warm room temperature for an hour or two before transferring to the baking tray.
It won’t have the greater depth of flavour you get with the slow, chilled approach, but it will still taste so much better than the mass-produced bread that passes for focaccia in the shops!
The right flour and lots of water
As with any bread, an excellent bread flour (strong plain or very strong plain) is important: a normal plain flour is not strong enough to give the right structure, and will likely result in a very cakey focaccia.
A focaccia dough contains a lot of water – you need it to get the characteristic air pockets, otherwise it will be quite dense and doughy. This time I went for a slightly higher hydration dough than I normally go for for focaccia, which gives a wonderfully open structure. And being a very slack dough it is much easier to take a no-knead approach – or, rather, a not-your-normal-knead approach!
Recipe: Chorizo & Parmesan focaccia – makes one large one
- 500g strong plain flour
- 10g fine sea salt
- 3g easy-blend yeast
- 440g cold tap water
- 60ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for handling and drizzling over
- about 50g chorizo, coarsely chopped
- about 50g Parmesan, coarsely chopped
- a little sea salt for sprinkling over
(1) Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl. Add the oil and the water and mix well to give a very wet, lumpy mixture: you will have a very slack, almost runny dough, but trust me!
(2) With oiled hands, grab a large handful of the dough, pull it high out of the bowl and slap it back down into the bowl: be as forceful as you want! Repeat this for a few minutes: you will also notice the dough becomes smoother and silkier. While this is not traditional kneading, it achieves the same effect ultimately – and is an approach that is so much easier with a wet dough such as this.
(3) Cover with clingfilm and chill at least overnight until well risen and the surface is covered with air bubbles: the gluten will have developed more fully during this slow rise. The dough will have spread somewhat and will also be quite slack now – this is absolutely fine. If you do not want to let it rest overnight in the fridge, see …But if you do want to speed things up! above.
(4) Grab another handful of the risen dough, gently lift it out of the bowl, and let it gently fall back into the main dough mixture. Repeat a couple of times: you will feel the dough coming together a little more. It will still be quite slack but it will have a jelly-like feel to it. NB: be gentle this time with lifting and dropping the dough to retain a lot of the air bubbles formed during the slow rise.
(5) Pour the dough into a large shallow baking tray lined with non-stick greaseproof: it should plop quite purposefully onto the tray. Gently ease it into the corners. Drizzle over olive oil and leave for an hour or so at room temperature until well risen: it will have many tiny and some larger bubbles over the surface. Toward the end of the rise pre-heat the oven to 200C(fan). NB: you do not need to cover this dough as it rises.
(6) Scatter the Chorizo and Parmesan over the top of the dough and with oiled fingers, make dimples all over the surface, going down to the greaseproof and pushing some of the pieces of Chorizo and Parmesan into the dough as you go. Drizzle with a little more olive oil and sprinkle over a some sea salt. NB: the dimpling allows some of the oil to pool at the bottom of the hole, seeping into the dough as it bakes. It also pushes out the dough around the dimple to create more bubbles – acting like a ballon does when you squeeze it.
(7) Bake for 20-25 minutes until a deep golden brown colour. Remove the focaccia from the oven and drizzle over a little more olive oil. Leave to cool before slicing and devouring.