This dough base can be used to create all sorts of bakes with various toppings. For example, fresh herbs, chopped onions, artichoke hearts, tomatoes... let your imagination go wild.
Makes 1 large loaf
- 500g (1lb 2oz) strong white (bread) flour
- 1½ tsp fine sea salt
- 1¼ tsp fresh yeast or 1 tsp dried active yeast
- 400ml (13.5fl oz) water, at room temperature
- 80ml (2.7fl oz) olive oil, plus extra for brushing
- Sea salt flakes, fresh rosemary sprigs or your favourite toppings
- Place the flour and salt in a bowl and combine.
- In a separate bowl, add the yeast to the water and mix until dissolved (if using dried yeast, just mix the yeast through the flour mixture). Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid, then bring the mixture together to form a loose dough. (If using a stand mixer, use the dough hook attachment to bring the ingredients together.) Use a spatula, dough scraper, spoon or your hand to bring the dough together, mixing for a few minutes until all the ingredients are evenly incorporated. You want a glossy dough with no lumps of flour in it.
- Drizzle 2 tablespoons of the olive oil around the edges of the bowl and use a scraper or spoon to gently tease the oil around the edges of the bowl so that is evenly distributed underneath the dough and over the top.
- You now need to fold the dough. Place your hands under one side of the dough, pull it up and stretch it over to the other side. Do this from the bottom, then the top and then each of the two sides (this is considered a single fold and will trap layers of air within the dough).
- Leave to rest for 30 minutes. Give your dough three more folds in the same way, resting for 30 minutes after each of the first two folds. After the third and final fold, move the dough to the refrigerator and rest for 10 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 220°C fan/475°F/Gas 9 or as hot as it will go.
- Lightly oil a large baking tray (pan) with some of the remaining oil. Gently slide the rested dough into the prepared baking tray. Fold it in half (like a giant Cornish pasty) and massage the remaining olive oil into the surface of the dough, making sure it is evenly covered. Press your fingers into the top of the dough to spread it out to fill the tray. Make sure you press over the whole surface of the dough (this will give your focaccia its dimpled appearance). Top with your desired toppings (except the salt) and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
- If you like, you can now hold your focaccia for up to 4 hours in the refrigerator before baking
- Sprinkle the top of the dough with salt. Transfer to the oven and lightly spray the oven chamber with water or place a baking tray filled with 60ml (2fl oz) water on the bottom of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until crispy and golden. Remove from the oven, brush with a little more olive oil, then cool and serve
Recipe from Bread Ahead: The Expert Home Baker by Matthew
Jones (Hardie Grant, £26) Photography © Matt Russell