A delicious Italian bread that's perfect for sharing - and once you've mastered this, there are plenty of variations to try!
Put the flour, salt and (not touching the salt) yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the water and 2 tbsp of the oil and mix, using a wooden spoon, to form a firm, slightly sticky dough. If needed, add more water to work in any flour left in the bowl.
Tip the dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Using the heel of your hand, squash the ball of dough and push it away from you to stretch it a little. Pull it back into a ball and give it a quarter turn. Repeat 10 times.
Put the dough in an oiled mixing bowl and cover with clingfilm. After 10 minutes, transfer the dough to a lightly oiled surface and knead a further 10 times, until smooth. Return to the bowl and cover. Leave to rise for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, heat 1 tbsp oil and the butter in a frying pan. Add the onion and cook, over a low heat, for 15 minutes, or until just softened. Add the vinegar and honey and continue cooking for 5-8 minutes, until sticky and golden. Remove from the heat and set aside until needed.
Line a 30cm x 20cm (12in x 8in) baking tin with baking paper; brush with oil. On a lightly oiled surface, knock back the dough, roll it out using an oiled rolling pin, and then press into the tin. Put the tin in an oiled plastic bag and seal. Leave to prove for 1-2 hours, or until risen and puffy.
Preheat the oven to gas 7, 220°C, fan 200°C. Make dimples in the dough and press in the garlic and rosemary. Cover; leave to rise for 10 minutes. Drizzle over 1 tbsp oil mixed with 1 tbsp water and bake for 15 minutes. Top with the onions and sea salt; bake for 8 minutes, or until risen and golden.
Try mixing 2 tbsp crushed fennel seeds in with the flour, then press halved kalamata olives into the dimples and grate over pecorino before baking.
For a classic three-cheese combo, mix 3 tbsp grated Parmesan in with the flour, press 125g (4oz) goat’s cheese into the dimples and bake for 15 minutes; scatter over 100g (3 1/2oz) sliced Taleggio and bake for a further 8 minutes.
Fancy a fruity spin? Fry a sliced red onion with a sliced apple and 1 tbsp rosemary, until softened. Press little spoonfuls of the mixture into the dimpled dough and bake for 20-25 minutes.
When combining the dry ingredients (step 1), keep the salt and yeast separated until you add the oil. Salt can kill the yeast, resulting in a heavy bread.
Focaccia dough is supposed to be wet, so don’t worry if it starts out a little sticky. Just make sure you fully incorporate all the lukewarm water before adding any more (step 1).
Kneading the dough during its rising time (step 3) prevents it from fermenting too quickly and collapsing.
Knocking back the dough with your fist (step 5) before rolling it out to fit the tin helps the dough form an even texture and makes it easier to shape.
If it springs back when you push it into the corners of the tin, leave it to rest for 10 minutes, and then try again.
Brushing the lined tin with oil will give the freshly baked focaccia a lovely, crusty base.
Allowing the dough to prove in the tin for 1-2 hours will cause the yeast to rise (it’ll work faster in a warm room). Covering with a plastic bag stops a skin forming.
Pressing the garlic and herbs into the dimples (step 6), prevents them from weighing down the dough during baking – it simply rises around them.
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