Focaccia two ways

Paul's focaccia
Paul’s focaccia

I’ve been on holidays for the last few weeks and have been dying to get back into my kitchen and get my hands dirty.

And I couldn’t have picked a better bread to test out than focaccia.

This bread dough is seriously like play dough and great fun to prepare – totally flashback to childhood!

The reason is that it’s a very wet dough, almost like a thick cake batter, which creates its large, irregular hole structure.

Kneading wet dough
Kneading wet dough
Stretchy dough
Stretchy dough

The perfect focaccia needs to be chewy, flavourful and light.  I found a beautiful article in the Chicago Tribune by Nancy Silverton about making the perfect focaccia but the recipe was quite complicated and included a starter which is a stage I’m not quite at yet.

I decided to go for Paul Hollywood’s recipe, but split the dough in half so that I could test out a few of Nancy’s techniques – namely using a round cake tin to bake in and also pouring ¼ cup of olive oil into its base.

I also added some Kalamata olives to one of the loaves, pressing lightly into the dough just prior to the final prove.

I must say that I liked Paul’s version better – both were very light and airy, but Paul’s had more of the holey structure although Nancy’s had a delicious, crunchy base.

Nancy's focaccia
Nancy’s focaccia

Paul Hollywood’s focaccia

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

Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml/10½fl oz of the water into a large bowl. Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water.

Stretch the dough by hand in the bowl, tuck the sides into the centre, turn the bowl 80 degrees and repeat the process for about five minutes.

Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.

Line two large baking sheets with baking paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and divide into two portions. Flatten each portion onto a baking sheet, pushing to the corners, then leave to prove for one hour.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Drizzle the loaves with oil, sprinkle with fine sea salt then bake in the oven for 20 minutes. When cooked, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve hot or warm.


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