Back when I worked as a waitress at the plume of feathers pub in Mitchell, Cornwall, focaccia with olive oil and balsamic vinegar was a popular predinner nibble from the menu. Cutting up and plating the bread was the only real food prep I ever had to do and it was always the best day when I came to cut some bread and got towards the end of the loaf so I could eat the crust (as it wasn’t deemed nice enough for customers). A few times I managed to wangle a proper piece of focaccia from the middle and that’s when it became my favourite bread ever.
I haven’t had much focaccia that comes close to the moist, light and oily deliciousness of the Baker Tom bread that we served at the Plume of Feathers, until a couple of weeks ago when I made my own.
Lockdown has brought a lot more time at home and got me making bread at least once and sometimes twice a week. I recently tried this recipe –https://www.inspiredtaste.net/19313/easy-focaccia-bread-recipe-with-herbs/ for focaccia and it turned out better than I could have hoped.
Here is my version which is essentially the same as the one linked above, with a couple of tweeks to the method to make it simpler and some more UK friendly measures.
120g olive oil
235ml warm water
315g plain flour
2 garlic cloves
Rosemary (dried or fresh)
7g (one packet) of dried yeast
1/4 tsp honey
Start by mincing or finely chopping the garlic and putting it in a container with all of the oil. I use a glass jar with a lid to stop my kitchen smelling too much of raw garlic. This can be done in advance and left to infuse but it’s fine to just before you start the bread too.
In a large bowl, mix the warm water with the honey and yeast. Leave this for a few minutes to awaken the yeast.
Add 125g of flour and 60ml of the oil to the water mixture and mix until all the flour is moistened. Leave to sit for 5 minutes.
Stir in the remaining 190g of flour and the salt until it forms a wet dough. Tip onto a floured surface and knead until smooth with oiled hands. The oil on your hands will stop the dough from sticking too much – don’t be tempted to add lots of extra flour as this will dry out the dough. You can add a bit extra to your surface if it’s sticking but try to trust the process! It should only take a couple of minutes of kneading for the dough to become smooth. Put the dough into a generously oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 230 degrees celcius (yes – that hot). Use 2tbsp of the garlic oil to grease the bottom of a deep baking tray (I used a roasting tray.
Once the dough has doubled in size, tip the risen dough onto the tray and use your hands to stretch it out until it evenly covers the base of the tray. Use your fingers to make dimples all over the dough so the oil had somewhere to sit.
Pour over the remaining oil and garlic mixture. Add some extra salt, pepper and rosemary or other herbs to the top of the dough.
Bake in the hot oven for 20 minutes or until the focaccia is a deep golden brown all over and bouncy to touch. Best served immediately!
In my opinion, this bread is special and delicious enough to really be the star of the show in a meal. When we last had it for lunch we had it with some olives, hummus, roasted tomatoes and camembert and it was such a treat. It would also be great as a fancy version of garlic bread on the side of pasta or simply just dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Bon appetite.