In the past whenever I had made bread I’m always very apprehensive about proving because, it’s always a gamble whether my dough will actually rise. However, this was not the case with this focaccia. Instead, I ended up with a humungous 13inch circular loaf which I may or may not have devoured all of in 3 days… I was getting freaked to leave the dough alone when proving in case I returned trying to open the kitchen door and find the room blanketed with dough… ok that may be a slight exaggeration but that’s probably hallucinations from the side effects of my eighth slice of focaccia!
A lot of people find bread making daunting however, I have given a detailed, fool proof method that if read prior to baking the recipe should make things clearer and simpler. Two things I do recommend for making this bread is a food mixer with a dough hook as the bread mixture is very wet so unless you are a skilled kneader (I’m definitely not at that level yet) you may have a lot of hard sticky work on your hands. Secondly, patience is key when making bread. Proving is essential for developing flavour. You will notice that this bread begins with making a biga the night before. A biga is a thick starter dough but you must leave it to prove over night so that a slight sour and tangy flavour arises.
I chose this combination of flavours as the garlic sweetens slightly as it roasts removing any poignant bitterness. The honey pairs perfectly with the subtle, fiery kick from the garlic and then I added rosemary & thyme to cut through the sugary sweetness keeping this bread on the savoury side. But, I also added lavender which lifts the bread stopping it feel too heavy and it’s delicate flavour brings out the honey and pairs surprisingly well with the garlic. I think because it was roasted it’s heady flavour couldn’t over power the fragile lavender.
(This recipe makes a 13inch circular loaf or a 12 1/2inch x 9inch roasting tray)
- 200g OO flour
- pinch of fast action dried yeast
- 150ml warm water
- 300g strong white bread flour
- 250ml warm water
- 5g freshly ground sea salt
- 7g sachet of fast action dried yeast
- 15ml honey
- 1/2 tsp fresh lavender leaves (finely chopped) & 5 sprigs
- 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary (finely chopped) & 5 sprigs
- 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves & 5 sprigs
- 85ml extra virgin olive oil
- garlic bulb
- 5ml extra virgin olive oil
- 10ml extra virgin olive oil
- 10ml honey
- pinch sea salt
1. Mix together all the biga ingredients in a large bowl and then loosely cover with cling film or drape over a tea towel. Leave the biga at room temperature overnight or for 12 hours.
2. Attach a dough hook to your food mixer. In the bowl of the food mixer add the biga that has been resting over night and all the dough ingredients, (except the herbs sprigs) making sure you put the yeast and salt on opposites sides of the bowl as the high concentration of salt can deactivate the yeast by causing it to denature. Briefly mix the ingredients together with a wooden spoon until everything is well incorporated before turning on the mixer at a medium speed for about 7 1/2 minutes. (This is a very wet dough so I would recommend using a food mixer with a dough hook unless you are a very skilled bread maker and are plied with a dough scraper! If you are going to knead this dough by hand you will have to do it for a good 15 minutes).
Using the remnants of the oil you added to the dough mixture brush a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the large oiled bowl and leave to rise covered loosely with clingfilm or a tea towel at room temperature for 2 1/2 hours until doubled in size.
3. Meanwhile preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Cut the tip off the clove of garlic and then wrap it in tin foil, before you close of the tin foil around the bulb drizzle over 5ml of olive oil. Roast the garlic for 30 minutes then leave to cool before peeling off the skins of each clove. Reserve to one side for later.
4. Pour the 10ml of oil for focaccia topping into a small bowl or glass, use a pastry brush to lightly oil a 13inch flat round tray or 12 1/2 inch x 9inch roasting tray with some of this oil. Carefully place the risen dough onto the tray. Push the cloves into the dough, then dip your finger in the bowl of oil and then make holes all over the dough, in these holes place the herb sprigs. Place the roasting tray in a large plastic bag and leave the dough at room temperature to prove for a second time for 1hr. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees or 190 degrees for fan assisted ovens.
5. Place a roasting tray at the bottom of your oven and add around a pint of boiled water. This creates a steamy atmosphere which helps create a nice crust on the focaccia. Place the risen dough in the oven and leave it to bake for 30 minutes. Meanwhile in the small bowl mix together the remaining olive oil with the honey, after the dough has been baking of 30 minutes take it out of the oven a brush the surface with all the honey and oil mixture before sprinkling with the sea salt flakes. Return the dough to the oven for a further 15 minutes. The dough should be golden and a have a firm crust.
6. Leave the dough to cool on a wire rack covered with a clean tea towel. This bread is best eaten on the same day however, it will last wrapped in a clingfilm or freezer bag for upto 3 days.