As alluded to previously, on my last trip up to Scotland the weather was pretty awful. This meant we spent a lot of time baking, and as well as the honey & rye cake, mac n cheese and chocolate cardamom bread we also baked a loaf of Focaccia. I’ve tried making focaccia once before, and to be honest, that was a bit of a disaster. It didn’t rise properly, dried out and came out looking a bit like cardboard. Having seen other people have similar issues I put off trying to bake focaccia again for a very long time, years, in fact. A dark and rainy day on the Isle of Mull felt like the perfect time to try again, and this time we cracked it.
Usually a focaccia would be served up with a healthy dose of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or at the least with a pasta dish, but we were making veggie curry for my family and you know what, it worked. One of the bonuses of my parent’s place on the island is that they have a small herb patch in their garden which, once the building work has finished on the house, will be the next focus for them. They’re planning to get a proper working garden going, with veg and herbs, so that they can start eating things they’ve grown themselves where possible. They don’t have enough space for this to be completely self sufficient but every little helps.
This is a bread that requires you to get your hands dirty at pretty much every stage, even once it’s spread out over the pan you need to get your fingers in there, to give it that trademark patterned and pitted top, which you’ll then stuff and sprinkle the herbs and onion over before giving it a good glug of oil.
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 sachets dried easy blend yeast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 400ml cold water
- olive oil, for drizzling
- fine sea salt
- Half red onion, diced and lightly roasted
- Fresh rosemary
- In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and about 300ml of the water. Stir this all together with either a wooden spoon or your hands until it comes together to form a dough.
- Knead this dough for 5 minutes in the bowl, slowly adding the rest of the water.
- By hand, stretch the dough in the bowl. Stretch it out, tuck the sides into the center then turn 80 degrees. Continue this process for around 5 minutes.
- Tip out onto an oiled surface and knead for 5 more minutes. This is key.
- Very lightly oil the bowl, transfer the dough back, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size, approximately one hour.
- Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment. Divide the dough between them and stretch it out so it hits the corner of each tray.
- Leave this to prove for a further hour.
- In this time, preheat the oven to 220°C (180°C fan assisted).
- Before placing in the oven, use your fingers to cover with dents and texture, drizzle with olive oil and scatter the other toppings over.
- Place in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Serve warm.