Bread making fits perfectly with cosy Autumnal days at home. The rhythm of baking bread, the gentle rising of dough and the firm folds of kneading, the tactile and repetitive nature of bread making, the patience of it, gives it a mindful quality. Making a fresh loaf to enjoy at the weekend is the perfect way to detach and unwind after a busy week.
Our master baker Mario assures us that bread making is far simpler than we are generally led to believe, and If you want to bake a fool proof loaf, an olive-scented focaccia is the perfect bread to start with.
This recipe makes two generous loaves.
- 1 kg strong white flour
- 50g sugar
- 30g salt
- 600ml milk
- 40g yeast
- 100ml olive oil
- Olives, garlic, oregano or onion to taste
How to Bake Focaccia
- Put the flour, sugar, olive oil and yeast into a large bowl, add the butter and milk and mix well to make a sticky dough.
- Do not add salt before dough is mixed as it can damage proving process.
- Add the salt and mix again.
- Cover bowl with cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size. This will generally take around an hour, depending on the temperature of the room.
- Flour the work surface generously, then turn out the dough and knead lightly. Knead in some of the flour from the work surface, adding a little more if the dough remains sticky.
- The dough should come away from the work surface cleanly, but still be quite moist.
- Divide into even chunks and roll into palm size balls (around 150g) then place well spaced apart onto a tray lined with baking paper.
- Push the balls down to make mini pizza style breads, around as thick as your thumb. Do not worry about even thickness. They will rise and the lumps are part of focaccia's charm.
- Top with olives, rosemary, oregano or a grind or coarse salt.
- With a floured finger, push several small wells into the dough, then push olives into the dough. Scatter liberally with salt flakes, or top with rosemary and oregano.
- Bake at 190 degrees for around 20 minutes till pale gold, crisp on top and springy within.
- Drizzle with a last tablespoon or two of olive oil then allow to settle.
- While still warm, free the bread from the pan with a palette knife, then cut or tear into pieces.