Honestly, I feel happy as Larry to have come across this gorgeous and uplifting trend. Seven weeks into lockdown, I can hardly think of anything that could have been simpler or more cheering than baking this beautiful bread.
This version doesn’t even require kneading, or even a warm place to rise. In fact, you stick the dough in the fridge to slowly rise for up to 24 hours. In the fridge!
And rise it does, doubling at least in volume. Also, you can dress it up with so many goodies; asparagus or spring onions, or long strips of courgette for branches, red onion, mushrooms, assorted little toms and peppers, olives, all sorts of other bits for flowers, fronds and herbs for foliage, nuts and seeds for rock formations and soil, molten cheese, spices, you name it. I know we can’t live by bread alone but after this, you might be tempted to.
We ate all sorts of crudités with it - slices of fennel, more of the cherry tomatoes and mini peppers that grace the bread, a triangular chunk of Cantal, a bowl of golden fried kernels from a corn on the cob, an avocado fanned out like an exotic sea creature, a plate of mushrooms sliced paper thin with a vegetable peeler and doused with olive oil and the sweetest and mildest vinegar – in short a table of sunshine and god vibes.
I happened to have two types of flour, the fortuitous result of having gone flour hunting on one of our allocated daily kilometre walks. But you could use all of one or the other, though one will give a coarser crumb and the second a softer one. I don’t often operate in cup measures but in this case it’s so easy to do so that I did. I place my tray in the oven while it is heating, so that when the dough is ready, it goes straight onto the hot tray.
Preheat oven to 230C
One 30 x 22 cm metal tray
2 cups strong bread flour T65
1 ½ cups Tippo 00 flour
1 ¾ cups warm water
2 tsp activated dry yeast
1 tbs salt
4 tbs olive oil, divided
To decorate as picture: but feel free to improvise – that’s the whole point
3 asparagus spears, trimmed to different lengths and sliced through the middle
6 cherry tomatoes, red and yellow
1 mini yellow pepper
5 black olives
Fronds from one bulb fennel
4 – 5 sage leaves
2 – 3 nasturtium leaves
A few kernels from a corn on the cob
2 walnuts, broken up
Simply sift the flours into a large bowl and mix with the activated dried yeast and salt. Make a well in the centre and add in the warm water, till you have a very soft, pliable and quite wet dough – better a little too wet than a little too dry by the way.
Then pour half the olive oil on top and turn the dough around in the bowl, so it is well coated in the oil.
Cover tightly with cling film and put in the fridge for at least 24 and preferably for 48 hours.
When you are ready to bake, drizzle a further 2 tablespoons of olive oil all over the dough, turn again and transfer into the preheated tray. Push to fill the tray, edge to edge and corner to corner.
Now set to decorating your focaccia.
Get happy. Even if you are not, this will do it!
Baste lightly with a little more olive oil.
Bake on 230C for 12 minutes, then lower heat to 200C for a further 12. Top should be golden brown, should have formed a crust above a crumb which should feel light and bouncy.
Allow to cool for a few minutes if you can, before eating.
Any left overs can be tightly wrapped in cling film and are still good the next day. Otherwise freeze and return to just - baked heat by placing straight from freezer to preheated oven for about 10 minutes.