Focaccia remains up there in my top breads, in terms of making and eating, and while a standard focaccia is a delight, I love experimenting with flavours.
(Re-photographed April 2018)
This focaccia, made with utter ease and minimal effort in a mixer, is laden with gorgeous salty anchovies and the lovely sweetness you get from roasted garlic and roasted onions. Quite simply, it is a focaccia with attitude!
The challenge for a great focaccia is the hole structure: you want it to be laden with holes of small to large sizes rather than dense and doughy. A high water content in the dough is key – this does make it harder to handle, but to be honest the dough hook in a food mixer makes this almost effortless.
The simplest approach
Once you have roasted the onions and garlic* you literally put all of the dough ingredients into the bowl of a food mixer and then, with the dough hook on medium-high, let it do its thing for about 20 minutes. The dough is then left to ferment slowly, before being shaped, allowed to rise, and baked.
I let the dough rise slowly at room temperature once it has been made up and kneaded, which gives a better flavour, but for an even better flavour, pop the dough in the fridge for an overnight rise (in which case reduce the yeast content to 3g).
*if you don’t want to roast the onions and garlic, you can chop them finely (or even blitz them in the food processor) and add them, raw, to the flour at the start: you won’t get the lovely sweetness and the roasted flavour, but you will get a nice flavour running through the focaccia.
Recipe: anchovy, onion & garlic focaccia – makes one large one (serves 8-10)
Roasted garlic and onion:
- 1 large onion, peeled and sliced fairly thickly
- 2 large bulbs garlic, peeled
- 80ml extra-virgin olive oil (which will be used in the dough once flavoured with the onions and garlic)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 500g strong plain flour
- 8g fine sea salt
- 5g easy-blend yeast (go for 3g if letting the dough rise in the fridge overnight)
- 440g cold tap water
- 1 tin anchovies, including their oil
- half of the roasted garlic and onion
- a few generous splashes of extra-virgin olive oil
- the remaining half a tin of anchovies, roughly torn
- a little sea salt for sprinkling over
(1) Roast the onion and garlic: put them, along with the oil and salt, into an oven-proof dish. Cover and roast in an oven pre-heated to 160C for up to an hour until the onions and garlic have softened and have started to turn golden brown. Cool.
(2) Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a large mixer bowl. Add the water, anchovies and about half of the roasted garlic and onions, along with the oil from the roasting. Mix well to give a very wet, lumpy mixture: you will have a very slack, almost runny dough, but please trust me!
(3) Knead the dough using the dough hook attachment for about 20 minutes on medium-high: the dough will become silky-smooth and almost gelatinous in texture.
(4) Cover with clingfilm and chill for several hours until well risen and very bubbly: ideally, though, go for an overnight rest in the fridge for an even better flavour.
(5) Pour the dough gently onto a large shallow baking tray lined with non-stick greaseproof. Gently ease it into the corners. Drizzle over a little olive oil and leave for an hour or so at room temperature until well risen: it will have many tiny bubbles over the surface. Towards the end of the rise, pre-heat the oven to 200C(fan). NB: you do not need to cover this dough as it rises as the oil will ensure the dough does not develop a skin.
(6) Scatter the rest of the roasted onions and garlic cloves over the surface. With oiled fingers, make dimples all over the surface, through some of the onions and garlic and going right down to the greaseproof. Scatter some of the anchovies over, drizzle with a little more oil and sprinkle over a some sea salt (not too much because of the anchovies).
(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.