Rosemary and Olive Focaccia
When it comes to breads, I’d always have a bias for crusty breads to the spongy soft ones. Not that I don’t like the latter of course. Just that to me, the hearty and somewhat earthy qualities, together with the robust textures of a rustic bread have some kinda appeal which soft loaves lack. Its like an entirely different animal together. And of course, the major plus point for a soup and stew lover like me, is how well these breads go with the liquids, lapping up the flavours with ease and soaking in all the goodness with great relish!
Focaccia is one of those rustic breads which has so much character on its own, exuding the heady perfumes of rosemary and garlic infused olive oil. And what more, its a simple and fuss-free bread to make. And here’s a very forgiving recipe for all who are interested to try!
300g bread flour
1/2 tsp dry yeast
20g caster sugar
1/4 tsp salt
50ml olive oil
200 ml warm water
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3-4 cloves of garlic
15-20 black olives
4-5 slices of sundried tomatoes in olive oil
activate the yeast by first adding caster sugar, yeast and 50ml of warm water in a glass and stir thoroughly.
leave the concoction to stand for 30 min until it begins to froth and reek of alcohol. This means that fermentation has begun and the yeast is active.
while waiting for the yeast mixture to become activated, prepare the rest of the ingredients
pit the olives if they aint already pitted
slice the olives into thin rings
remove the needle-like leaves from 4 sprigs of rosemary by clasping the ends of one stalk with your middle and index finger of one hand and pulling the stalk with the other hand towards the thicker part of the stalk.
bruise the garlic cloves with the sides of a knife but leave the skin membrane intact
chop half of the rosemary leaves finely and set aside.
cut sun-dried tomatoes into small morsels. Work in this order so that the cutting knife requires only one washing.
Infuse the rosemary and garlic into the olive oil by placing garlic, olive oil and HALF of the rosemary leaves into a saucepan and heat gently until one can smell the herby aroma. Do not allow the olive oil to boil over. Watch the flame as olive oil has a very low smoke point.
Leave the oil to cool and begin to work on the bread dough
In a mixing bowl, place bread flour, salt and mix coarsely with a spoon. Add yeast concoction, 2 tablespoons of the rosemary and garlic infused olive oil and some warm water. Using a spatula, mix the ingredients until a sticky dough is formed. Using a hook attachment, knead the dough with a mixer until it is less sticky with gradual additions of warm water in between. Do not all add all the water at once as the amount of moisture retained in the bread flour varies. Knead until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the mixing bowl and comes off in one smooth lump. Use more bread flour if too much water was added.
Remove the dough from the mixer and hand-knead it until it is smooth, glossy and very elastic
Cover the dough with clingfilm and leave it to prove at room temperature for 1 h or until it has risen to about double its volume
Flatten out the air and knead the morsels of sun-dried tomatoes, remaining half of chopped rosemary and half of the olive rings into dough
Place the dough onto a non-stick baking sheet and flatten it outwards by pressing with the fingertips, coaxing the dough to the ends of the baking tray
Cover again with cling film and leave to prove for another 30 min
Dip an index finger into olive oil and gently make some dimple-like indentations about 1″ apart all around the dough. Brush the top generously with olive oil with hands or remaining sprigs of rosemary acting as a makeshift pastry brush.
arrange the remaining olive rings and sprinkle more rosemary leaves on the surface.
bake in a pre-heated oven at 170C for 20-25 min until the surface becomes golden brown.
leave on rack to cool, slice and serve with balsamic vinegar and olive oil dip, your favorite stew or soup, or even use as a sandwich bread!
I’d used sun-dried tomatoes in this recipe simply because I love the acridity it provides. But this is entirely optional.
This was the “alpha version” i’d baked last week. It looked so beautiful before it was baked with striking colours from the sanguine morsels of tomatoes against the brush of green from rosemary and ebony rings of olives.
Alas all was not meant to be as the tomatoes burnt under the heat. I kinda knew this was gonna happen but wilful me went ahead and tried anyway, opting for a lower oven temperature. This was a lousy move as the tomatoes charred anyway to became little crisp pieces of carbon, while the bread body failed to brown owing to the compromised oven temperature being insufficient hot for the Malliard reaction to occur.
“Beta version” – hand kneading the tomatoes, bits of olive and rosemary into the dough directly while keeping fingers crossed at the same time. pun intended!
tried to keep all the ingredients under wraps, quite literally.
dimpling that created little olive oil wells, characteristic of a traditional italian focaccia. Or so i’d read!
Alas, beta version turned out more satisfactory!
before going under the guillotine to be dismembered.
Making a nice lil’ smoked salmon sandwich for myself! :)