Focaccia Bread

By Fongolicious - November 14, 2011

This weekend I attending a cooking demonstration at Alio Restaurant in Surry Hills. It was great! And we got to eat everything Chef Ashley Hughes made. I loved that we got to learn the little tips and ticks and to ask questions as he cooked. 

In my experience, one thing that I could never make by hand properly is bread. Ashley walked us through every step and it was simple and delicious! So I gave it a go last night, with my own twist. After this first go, I will probably change it up even more - will keep you posted as to what I do next.

25g active yeast (1 used a 7g sachet of dry yeast)
25g honey
600ml warm water (bath warm - if you can pour it over your wrist, its the right temp.)
900g baker's flour (sifted)
25g salt
herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil works well)
1 clove garlic
pinch of salt
1/2 cup olive oil (approx)
water to spray
+ defrosted frozen spinach (about 80g)
+ shredded cheese (about half a cup) 

1. Activate yeast
At the demo, Chef Hughes used active yeast and dissolved it with warm water and honey before incorporating it with the flour mixture. I used 7g sachet of dry yeast and dissolved it warm water with honey. Let sit to allowed to foam up.

2. Making the dough
In a large mixing bowl, add the yeast mixture to a well in the flour/salt mixture. Using the dough hook of a food mixer, starting on the lowest setting gradually combine. As the flour gets incorporated into the liquid, you can increase the speed until all is combined and forms a ball of dough. If you don't have a food mixer, you can do this by hand. (I'm just lazy)

Take it out of the mixing bowl onto a clean surface (make sure its not floured as flour will dry out the dough), kneed dough for a further 5 minutes until its smooth and elastic. (Yes, it gets a bit sticky at first - bare with it.) Form dough into a ball shape. With some oil, pat the dough using your hands - this will stop it from drying out. Return the ball of dough into the mixing bowl and cover with cling wrap. Let the dough sit for about an hour (though this time may vary depending on the temperature of your room) or until its doubled in size. This process is called "proving" or "proofing".

While the dough is proving, make the topping.

Bread dough tends to like temps around 28 to 30C, so don't be tempted to put it in the oven on low. That's too hot. If its in winter and a little chilly, it will rise, just takes its time. Perhaps sit it on top of the stereo or near the TV to keep it warm.

3. Topping
In a mortar and pestle (sandwich bag and rolling pin also works well), place 1 garlic clove and a pinch of salt. Pound garlic. Add herbs and continue pounding. Continue until herb(s) is lightly broken up allowing the flavours to be released. Add olive oil to herb mix and set aside.

I added spinach and cheese to this recipe, so I mixed these two ingredients together.

4. Preparing the dough
Once the dough has doubled in size, kneed the dough one more time (can be on a lightly floured surface), but this time its only for a minute and lightly to ensure you don't over work the dough. After kneeding for the second time, form a ball and let the dough sit for 3 to 5 minutes. This gives the dough a quick rest and makes it easier to roll out and doesn't bounce back when you roll it out.

Roll the dough out to fit your well greased baking tray (maybe worth greasing and flouring the tray). Should fit a 45 x 30cm tray (a little bigger won't hurt). 

Cover the dough with some oil (so it won't dry out), and leave it to prove (in the tray) for 30 to 45minutes.

5. Adding the topping
Push your fingers into the dough, giving it the characteristic markings. Using your hands, spread over the top (and into the holes) the herb oil mixture (and the spinach cheese mixture). Ensure the topping is evenly spread and the top of the dough is covered with a coat of oil. Using a spray bottle, spray the bread with water. This stops the herbs (and bread) from burning and drying out. If you don't have a spray bottle handy, use your hands to sprinkle water all over. Lastly, sprinkle with a bit of salt and bake in a 180C oven for 35 minutes.

6. When it becomes bread
If you're concerned, periodically check your creation. If its starting to darken, spray a bit more water onto the top.

When the bread comes out of the oven, take the bread out of the tray straight onto a cooling rack, to stop it from steaming in the tray and becomes soggy.

Drizzle with more oil and serve! 

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