I am always sceptical whenever I see “fool-proof” preface anything: this often leads to vastly inferior approximations of what you really want….but this approach to focaccia gives an exceptional bread.
The challenge with focaccia is to get the crispness, the chewyness and the open hole structure throughout: a far cry from those dreadful commercial focaccias that are basically dense bread with a few dusty herbs thrown over!
I have several focaccia recipes on this website – all a variation on a theme depending on the flavours I want at the time – but all have a high water content: and it is the high water content that gives you the texture (good hole structure and slightly chewy) that a good focaccia needs.
Some of my favourite flavours…
This recipe uses onion and garlic that have been slowly cooked in oil (one of the staples in my kitchen!), and Parmesan.
I love the slightly sweet, squidy bits you get within the focaccia, and the occasional salty burst from the Parmesan.
You can instead replace these with all manner of gorgeous alternatives such as chopped Chorizo, anchovies, olives, fresh rosemary…
…or keep it deliciously plain
The onions, garlic and Parmesan can be omitted if you prefer – in which case go to step 3 of the recipe below.
Fancy a sourdough version?
I often make a sourdough focaccia using the same technique. Normally I do a series for stretch and folds with my sourdough (recipe here) but for focaccia I do it on one go using the food mixer.
Simply omit the yeast from the recipe, reduce the water and flour by 50g each and replace with 100g sourdough starter. You can use starter that was fed a few hours earlier so that it is very active, but for focaccia I tend to use starter prior to feeding.
Once the dough has been made and has gone through the food mixer (stage 4), cover and leave overnight in the fridge – or for up to 48 hours for a tangier flavour – until well aerated and bubbly all over.
A video demonstration of this focaccia
I have made a short video on my YouTube channel to show just how simple this focaccia is. The video can be found here.
Using a food mixer with the paddle or whisk attachment
The challenge with a dough when there is such a large amount of water compared to a standard bread dough is the handling of it. It seems to have a life of its own to begin with.
Now it can certainly be done by hand on an oiled work surface (with well-oiled hands), and this is indeed a wonderfully therapeutic approach. However, for focaccia – and indeed ciabatta which also has a very high water content – the food mixer with the paddle or the whisk attachment comes into its own. NOT the dough hook!
The paddle or whisk attachment works through a slack dough much more effectively than the dough hook, and works the gluten much more efficiently.
Recipe: fool-proof focaccia – makes one large focaccia
- 350g strong plain flour
- 300ml cold water
- 2 teaspoons easy-blend/“instant” yeast
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 100ml extra-virgin olive oil (you can reduce it to 50ml if you want a less rich focaccia)
- 2 medium onions (any sort or a mixture), peeled and sliced
- 1 bulb of garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
- extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling
- crushed sea salt for sprinkling over
- about 50g Parmesan, cut into small chunks
(1) Mix the onions, garlic and the oil in an ovenproof dish and cover with foil or a lid.
(2) Place in the oven at 150C for about an hour – or until the onions and garlic become soft and golden. Leave to cool fully.
NB: I often do a large batch of this, store it in the oil in a large jar and keep in the fridge until I want to dive it. It keeps happily for several weeks.
(3) Put the flour, yeast and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle or whisk attachment fitted. Add the cooled onions and garlic (if using), along with all the oil. Pour over the water.
(4) Mix on a medium speed for about 20 minutes – or until the dough becomes smooth, shiny and silky.
(5) Cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave at room temperature for an hour to so, or until the dough rises to about double its initial volume.
NB: I often pop the bowl in the fridge for a slower prove – this gives an even better flavour to the focaccia.
(6) Scoop the dough onto a large baking tray lined with greaseproof.
(7) With oiled hands gently ease the dough out to cover the tray, trying not to knock out too much of the air.
(8) Drizzle over a little oil and scatter over the Parmesan (if using).
NB: if using olives, Chorizo and the like, scatter these over, too. You can press them into the dough if you prefer.
(9) Pop inside a large oiled plastic bag (a bin liner is ideal) and leave at room temeprature for another hour or so, or until the dough is risen and puffy.
(10) Use your fingers to go right through the dough and to the paper underneath, creating lots of holes. Sprinkle over a little salt.
(11) Bake in an oven preheated to 200C (fan) for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Drizzle over a little more oil. Lift the focaccia (still on its paper) to a wire rack to cool.