So, this weekend, the mister and I went for dinner and Bonfire Night fireworks at a friends house.  Being the fine and upstanding guests we are, we brought a bottle of something a little festive and fizzy … but, after spending the afternoon watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s program about bread, I decided to give his focaccia recipe a whirl and take that, too.

Now, keep in mind – we said we’d be there at 6:30 and it was around 4:00 when I made this decision.  That should give you some idea of how quick and easy this bread is!  This is no all-day-long-mixing-and-baking venture.  This is 15 minutes of mixing and kneading, one 1-hour rise, one 30-minute rise and a 15 minute cooking time.  FIFTEEN MINUTES!  Heck, if you get home early from work one day, you can knock this puppy out and have fresh bread with your dinner.  Which is exactly what I did on Monday.  (Sunday afternoon, the mister asked me if I brought any of the leftovers home with me and gave me such a woeful look when I told him “no”, that I took pity on him).

There are two things you will notice on this and all of my future bread recipes:

 1)  They’re all in weight, not volume, and they’re all in metric.  Why?  Well, when you bake you work in weights because it’s a lot more accurate than volume.  For instance, if your flour has been sitting around a while, it’s going to be more compact, giving you more by weight in a cup than flour that is more aerated.  Why metric?  Because if you want to double or halve the recipe, it’s just easier to go from 230 g to 460 g (or 115 g) than to faff around with fractions of cups.   So, if you don’t have one already, get yourself a digital scale that can measure in Imperial and metric – they’re cheap and they open up a whole new world of baking!

2)  My bread recipes use bottled water, not tap.  No, this isn’t me being ever-so-foofoo-elitist.  Municipal water treatment plants use loads of chlorine and other chemicals to kill bacteria and other critters in our water.  While this is good for our digestive tract, it isn’t so good for yeast.  Bottled water has probably been treated in one way or another, but it will have fewer chemicals in it and so will be friendlier to the yeast in your bread.

This recipe is from the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall book I linked to above.

Rosemary and Olive Focaccia

  • 500g bread flour (don’t be tempted to use all-purpose – get the high gluten stuff)
  • 10 g salt
  • 5 grams instant action yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) warm-to-the-touch bottled water
  • 2 Tbsp + 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup olives, pitted and halved or roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed
  • pinch salt
  • 2 stalks rosemary

In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt and yeast together, using your hands to toss, lift and aerate (basically, with your fingers spread wide, make a bowl with your hands to pick up the flour and let sift back into the bowl).  In a measuring cup, pour your water into a measuring cup and microwave until it feels warm to the touch (warmer than room temp, but not hot), then add the 2 Tbsp olive oil. 

Make a claw with your hand and start to stir the flour around the bowl, slowly pouring the water/oil mixture in.  When all the liquid is in and mostly combined with the flour, tip out onto your counter and start to knead.  The dough is going to be shaggy and sticky – don’t worry!  As you knead, it will become smoother.  If, after a couple of passes kneading, it still feels really sticky, add a pinch more flour (about a Tbsp or so) and knead that well.  If after a few more passes, it’s still really sticky, repeat, BUT add only a little bit at a time – you don’t want your bread to get tough.

So, continue to knead for about 10-15 minutes, until it feels smooth and springy.  Pour a little olive oil into a bowl, coat the sides, then place the ball of dough in the bowl and roll it around to get it coated, as well.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for an hour until it’s doubled in size.

In the meantime, in a bowl or mortar and pestle, mash the 2 cloves of garlic with a little salt until it forms a lumpy paste, pour in the 3 Tbsp olive oil and the leaves from the 2 stalks rosemary.  Mash around some more to incorporate well, then let sit while the bread is rising. 

When the bread has had it’s first rise, tumble the olives onto it and punch it down well, giving it a mini-knead to incorporate the olives throughout – the dough should feel marshmallow-y and soft.  Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and use the pads of your fingers to gently press out to about a 9×14″ area (it’ll be springy and will keep retracting on you, but be patient and it will slowly stretch out to the area you want).  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise 30 minutes.  Preheat your oven to 500F and put your oven rack in the middle.

When finished with the second rise, use your fingers to dimple the bread then sprinkle with the rosemary/garlic/olive oil mixture, then place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes until nicely browned.  Let cool to room temp before cutting (no matter how tempting it is!)

Homemade bread - better than anything you'll buy in a store!