I have vivid memories of my first encounters with focaccia. Appearing in British supermarkets in the late 1990s, it oozes delicious olive oil and is usually filled with other very trendy things like sun-dried tomatoes and black olives. These days, I realize that the dry, cakey versions were only pale imitations of this Ligurian classic, best enjoyed fresh from your own oven.
Prep 25 min
Prove 2 hours+
cook 25 min
Makes 1 large loaf of bread
375g strong white bread flour
375 g “00” flour
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
8 g active dry yeast
130 ml extra virgin olive oilplus extra for greasing
2 tablespoons coarse semolina or cornmeal (optional)
1 tsp salt flakes
1 Combine the dry ingredients
You can make this with white bread flour alone, or with regular flour instead type 00 (often sold as “pasta flour”), but I think a combination gives the right balance between chewy crust and tender crumb. Whatever you go for, place the flour in a large bowl along with the salt and yeast and whisk to combine.
2 Add the liquids
Make a well in the middle of the flour, and pour in 100ml olive oil and 300ml lukewarm water.
Stir this into the dry ingredients, then add just enough extra water (I used about 100ml) until you have a very soft but not completely sticky dough; If you overdo it, restore the balance with a little more flour.
3 Knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic
This is done most easily in a food mixer fitted with a kneading hook, and will take about seven minutes on a medium-slow speed, but you can also do it by hand on a lightly greased work surface, which should take 10-12 minutes.
4 Let it rise
Lightly grease a baking sheet and place the dough on it.
Let rise in a draft-free, relatively warm place until about double in size; this will probably take between 60-90 minutes, but both yeast and kitchens are different, so keep an eye on the size, rather than the time.
5 Knock it back, then knead it
Place the dough on a work surface and knock the air out of it. If you want to add other ingredients – such as chopped sun-dried tomatoes, olives, cheese or herbs – now is the time to knead them in.
Lightly dust the baking sheet with semolina, if using; although not mandatory, it will give your focaccia a delicious crunch.
6 Oil, then let try again
Place the dough back in the center of the baking tray and use your fingers to press it almost, but not quite, into the edges of the tray.
Brush with a little more olive oil, and leave to rise in a draft-free place until double in size again; it will go a little faster this time.
7 Heat up the oven
When the second rise is finished, preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/425F/gas 8 and place a baking tin in the bottom of the oven to heat. Boil a pot of water to pour into the pan when you put the bread in the oven (the resulting steam from below will give the focaccia a softer crust and greater rise).
8 Apply glaze and toppings
Whisk the remaining two tablespoons of olive oil with two tablespoons of water until well combined. Poke deep wells across the surface of the bread with your fingertips. Pour oil and water evenly over the top and sprinkle it all over with flakes of salt (and dried herbs, if you like).
9 Bake and enjoy
Place the bread in the middle of the oven and quickly pour the hot water into the mold at the bottom before closing the door.
Bake for around 20-25 minutes, or until golden on top – check regularly towards the end, as it can easily burn. Focaccia is best enjoyed warm.