I think I will be a hippie when I grow up. I have taken to making bread. Not every day, or even most days, but if we have friends here for lunch, or I am serving a salad for dinner, then I make a loaf of focaccia. You get a lot of praise for making bread yourself, even though it is ridiculously easy to do, provided you aren’t trying to make any of the artisan breads, of course. Today, because it is school holidays, I had time to bake, so I made pikelets for morning tea, and this loaf for lunch. The girls were delighted.
It’s an easy recipe, made even easier because I use the dough hook on my marvellous Kenwood mixer instead of kneading the bread myself. Perhaps I’m not such a good hippie after all; I don’t stand and think loving thoughts while pounding away at the dough. I’m not sure how ‘genuine’ the recipe is, but it works, and even if it’s not real focaccia, it’s still good to eat.
First of all, you need about 1 and 1/4 cups of very warm water (that’s according to the original recipe). I find that I need to use about 1 and 1/3 cups, I think because Australian flour is drier than NZ flour. Add a tablespoon (30mls) of sugar, and a tablespoon of dried yeast (or about 15 grams, or whatever amount your yeast manufacturer recommends), and leave it to bubble for about 5 minutes.
Sift 3 cups of bread grade flour (high grade flour in NZ) and some salt (a good pinch). It’s worth using bread grade flour, because it has more gluten, so you get a less crumbly bread. If you use standard grade flour, your bread will still turn out okay, but its texture won’t be as good.
Make a well, and pour in the yeast and water mixture, and about a tablespoon of olive oil (or some other oil, if you must). Mix the dough up, adding more flour if necessary. Note that it’s very hard to add more water once all the ingredients are mixed together, so if you need to add some more, do it earlier rather than later. Sticky gooey mess all over your hands otherwise.
Then, either by hand, or in your own marvellous Kenwood mixer, using the dough hook, knead the dough until it is soft and elastic. You don’t need to do this for too long – two or three minutes will do.
Put the dough into a large, oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap or a plastic bag, and leave it to rise for about an hour. When it has doubled in size, flour your work bench, and flour your hand, then punch the dough down. This means literally pushing it down with your hand. Lovely fun.
Let it rest for a minute or two, then shape it into a large, flat round, and transfer it to a greased baking slide. Poke some holes in the top using your finger, so that you get the characteristic dimpled appearance of focaccia. Then drizzle olive oil over the top, and sprinkle with rock salt or flakey sea salt. Bake it in a hot oven (200 degrees celsius, or about 375 to 400 fahrenheit), for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Yum, yum, yum. Lovely spread with butter, or sliced open and filled with plain cheese, or fancy sun-dried tomatoes and olives and proscuitto and fetta and hummus (recipe coming one of these days), or indeed with anything that takes your fancy. You can, if you like, put on a topping of thinly sliced onion and tomato sauce and cheese before you put it in the oven, to get a savoury bread, but I prefer it plain.