Focaccia ,an Italian flat bread is made from olive oil and a salt dough base. It is a bread which is baked with or without topping.
If you have never baked bread before or the thought of baking bread seems daunting, try this recipe first. It is sure to make you more confident in working with yeast. Focaccia was one of the first breads, I baked and this recipe always guarantees success.
It is one of the simplest breads to bake and as always, tastes better than shop bought. Focaccia is delicious when served straight out of the oven, split and buttered with a slice of cheese or cut up into sticks and served with a soup. This really makes a great bread for a sandwich and is so much more creative than just regular sliced bread. Focaccia stays fresh and soft for about 3 days, so it can be made a day in advance if you want to use it for school or a picnic lunch.
I always and only use the instant yeast or as it is known in other countries as fast action dried yeast and have never used the fresh yeast which requires frothing in water. I find the instant yeast far more convenient.
Start by making the dough
Combine all-purpose or cake flour, yeast and sugar together. Make a well in the center and add olive, canola or sunflower oil and warm water . I know that olive oil is used in Italian breads, though I sometimes run out of olive oil .So I use either canola or sunflower oil and it still turns out great. Make sure that the water which you use is warm If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast, too cold and the yeast won’t be activated.
Slowly add the water. Do not add the water all at once. The amount of water in any bread recipe is just a guide.This will vary depending on the type of flour used. Test the dough rather making it softer than firmer.
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes. Kneading the dough well is important as this activates the yeast and helps stretch the gluten in the flour so that the bread can rise well. Stretch the dough by pushing the front half away with the heel of your hand, while holding the back of the dough with the other hand. Then fold the stretched part of the dough back on itself, give it a quarter turn and repeat for about 8 to 10 minutes.
Brush a large bowl with oil and place the dough in the bowl. Rub or brush the surface of the dough with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the dough in a warm place to rise, until doubled in volume, for about 30 to 45 minutes.
making the topping
Make the topping while the dough is rising. Fry thinly sliced onion and red or green pepper until soft. Add chopped tomatoes. I prefer using the cherry or rosa tomatoes , because I find that they are sweeter and not as acidic as the larger tomatoes. sprinkle half a teaspoon of mixed herbs into the pot. Fry until all the ingredients cooked. This is a versatile topping recipe, so you can add the ingredients of your choice. I love adding a little spice to my cooking and bread is no different, so I sprinkle just a bit of peri peri to the topping.
After the dough has risen,grease a large baking sheet and knock down the dough and roll or press out into a circle or rectangular shape. Place the dough onto the greased baking sheet and leave to rise for 15 minutes.
Dimple the surface of the dough with your fingertips and spread over the topping. Crumble feta over the topping before putting into the oven.
Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.
- 300g / 500ml cake or bread flour
- 5g instant yeast
- 5ml sugar
- 5ml salt
- 30ml olive, canola or sunflower oil
- 250-350 ml warm water
- 1 medium onion, sliced thin
- 10 chopped baby or rosa tomatoes
- Thinly sliced red or green pepper
- Combine flour,yeast,sugar and salt.
- Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and pour in the oil.
- Slowly add the water, testing to see that the dough is not too sticky.
- Mix to form a soft dough.
- Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead the dough by pushing the front half away with the heel of your hand, while holding the back of the dough with the other hand. Then fold the stretched part of the dough back on itself, give it a quarter turn and repeat for about 8 to 10 minutes.
- By this time the dough should have a soft elastic feel.
- Brush a large bowl with oil, place the dough in the bowl and brush the surface with oil..
- Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume about 30 minutes.
- Grease or line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
- Press down the dough into about a 25X15cm rectangular shape.Build up the edges slightly and leave to rise for 15 minutes.
- Fry thinly sliced onion and red or green pepper until soft.
- Add chopped tomatoes and half a teaspoon of mixed herbs into the pot. Fry until all the ingredients cooked. This is a versatile topping recipe, so you can add the ingredients of your choice
- Add the topping to the dough:
- After the shaped dough has risen for 15 minutes, dimple the surface all over with your fingertips.
- Spread the topping over the surface of the dough. Crumble feta over topping.
- Bake at 180°C for about 15-20 minutes.