My last experience in baking with yeast involved a failed pizza dough in the middle of winter and since then, I haven’t so much as dared to try and bake my own bread.
With my recent invitation to Masterchef Australia auditions, however, I felt that it was about time that I start to conquer my cooking fears/phobias one at a time, lest I dissolve into a hysterical mess in front of national television…!
This basic focaccia dough recipe came from Bill’s Italian Food by Bill Granger, and I’ve added a bit of honey into the dough as well which really adds a lovely mellow-ness. I’d recommend you use a good quality olive oil when making this (i.e. from a bottle, not one of those five litre containers) because you really can taste the smoothness that the oil gives to the wonderfully soft dough. This is a perfect recipe for beginners to playing with yeast, and I had made this on a 30 degree day – so there was no chance of my yeast failing!
You will need:
- 7g sachet instant yeast;
- 615g strong white bread flour;
- 1 teaspoon salt;
- 3 teaspoons sugar;
- 1 teaspoons honey;
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing.
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and make a well in the centre. Mix the oil, honey and 300ml tepid water in a jug before pouring into the well, stirring until the dough is soft. If the dough is too dry, add a little more liquid; if too wet, a little more flour.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, until elastic. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour.
And…..you have magic happen right before your eyes.
Tip the risen dough onto the floured surface and knock back to its original size by punching it gently.
Place on a lightly oiled baking tray and stretch out to the size of your baking tray (mine was about 20cm x 30cm). Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise for another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220 degrees Celcius. Make dimples in the dough with your fingertips and top with sprigs of rosemary and the pitted kalamata olives.
Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle over a little sea salt. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden, cooked through, and its gorgeous aroma fills the whole kitchen. Serve warm.
I took it to work and enjoyed tearing off pieces of the soft focaccia and accompanying it with pieces of creamy bocconcini cheese and slices of a slightly spicy salami; almost like a ploughman’s lunch – but a much nicer one 😉