Paul Hollywood’s Focaccia

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The History

This flat bread topped with olive oil, spices and other ingredients is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or Ancient Greeks.

Focaccia, known and loved in Italy and abroad, is yeasted flat bread which belongs essentially to the northern shores of the Mediterranean. Early versions were cooked on a hearth of a hot fire, or on a heated tile, like the related flatbreads. Bakers often puncture the bread with a knife to relieve bubbling on the surface of the bread. Also common is the practice of dotting the bread. This creates multiple wells in the bread by using a finger or the handle of a utensil to poke the unbaked dough. As a way to preserve moisture in the bread, olive oil is then spread over the dough, by hand or with a brush prior to rising and baking.

Many regions of Italy have an inventive range of flavorings they add to their focaccia. For many centuries it has had an association with Christmas Eve and Epiphany. Italian focaccia has branched out in various directions. Savory versions are more familiar, they can contain olive oil, rosemary, sage, garlic, cheeses, and onion. There are also sweet recipes of focaccia containing eggs, honey, raisins, anise, sugar, and lemon or orange peel. These enrichments make the product so different from plain bread that in at least one place in Italy though history it escaped a tax placed on bread.

Today we enjoy this versatile bread alone as a snack or light meal or on the side, complementing a full meal.

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My experience

I have never made bread before. The closest thing to a Foccacia I have baked, would probably be a brioche, which was a complete disaster as I used the wrong yeast. So I was quite nervous about this. Added to the mix, I was making this for a dinner party so really couldn’t afford to mess it up.

But, it was a infallible success.  It was, quite simply delicious. Light, perfectly formed and really tasty. I was so impressed. And I couldn’t believe how easy it was.

To ensure success, I would recommend watching the following video so you can hear all of Mr Hollywood’s tips, plus see for yourself the texture of dough you’re looking to create – without that I would’ve added more flour as I thought the dough was too wet, and in doing so, would have completely messed it up.

But overall, I thoroughly enjoyed making the Foccacia. The whole kneading process was quite therapeutic. My hubby and friends were suitably impressed too. I would definitely recommend this recipe. Thank you Mr Hollywood.

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The Recipe

Over 2 hours preparation time

30 mins to 1 hour cooking time

Makes 2 loaves

This focaccia recipe is easy to make and easy to adapt. Try adding herbs such as rosemary or thyme, or perhaps some chopped chilli.

Ingredients

  • 500g/1lb 2oz strong white bread flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 sachets dried easy blend yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 400ml/14fl oz cold water
  • olive oil, for drizzling
  • fine sea salt

Preparation method

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
    Kneading bread with oil
    Watch technique: 1:01 mins
  4. Line two large baking sheets with greaseproof 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.
  5. 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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*it’s at this point you can add your herbs, tomatoes, potatoes etc.  I made one simply with fresh rosemary and sea salt, and the second as the first but with sun-dried tomatoes.  Lovely!

A good tip, included in the GBBO book, but not here, is that as this recipe makes two, you can freeze the bread quite easily.  Wrap it it in greaseproof paper and clingfilm, bung in the freezer.  When you’re ready to bake it again, allow it to defrost (takes a couple of hours), sprinkle with olive oil, and bake in the over for 5-7 minutes.  Fabulous!

Recipe courtesy of bbc, full of more advice and videos

How did you get on with this technical challenge?  Please send me photos of your completed bakes for inclusion in the humble technical challenge gallery, so we can show off to Paul and Mary.

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2 thoughts on “Paul Hollywood’s Focaccia

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