Focaccia Garden

This cheery Focaccia Garden is the perfect side on a gloomy day. It tastes of olive oil, rosemary and garlic – a combination that’s heaven! Pair it with a hot soup, or use it to mop up every last drop of a hearty stew / pasta sauce.

Making any kind of bread can seem intimidating at first, but is actually quite simple if you get the proportions of flour, yeast and water right! I followed this Gennaro Contaldo & Jamie Oliver recipe for the dough, and drew inspiration from Instagram for the topping. If you’ve ever made any sort of dough or Roti, this is going to be a cake-walk. All you need is good quality olive oil, and a little bit of patience for optimum results.

Recipe: Focaccia Garden

Prep Time 35 mins
Cook Time 25 mins
Proofing 2 hrs
Total Time 3 hrs
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Italian

Equipment

  • An Oven (Oven, Toaster, Grill kind)
  • An 8” diameter Round Baking Tin OR an 8” Square Baking Tin

Ingredients
  

  • 10 gms Dry Yeast
  • 300 ml Water [lukewarm, not hot and not room temperature!]
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • 500 gms All Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsps Salt
  • 1 – 2 tsps Semolina [Alternative: Bread Crumbs or Skip!]
  • 8 tsps Olive Oil [4 tsps to mix into the dough, 1 tsp each to grease the pan bowl and baking tin, a final 2 tsps to top the baked focaccia]
  • 4 cloves Garlic [finely chopped]
  • 1 tsp Rosemary
  • 1 small Tomato [cut into small cubes]
  • 1 Yellow / Red Bell Pepper [purely for decoration]
  • 1 – 2 Spring Onions [purely for decoration]
  • 4 – 5 Basil Leaves [purely for decoration]
  • Coriander Stalks [purely for decoration]
  • Black Sesame Seeds [purely for decoration]

Instructions
 

  • Add the honey to the lukewarm water1
  • Pour the dry yeast into the liquid and stir well. Allow the yeast2 to rest and bloom for about 10 mins.
  • This is what the yeast will look like when initially stirred into the water:
  • 10 mins later, it should get frothy and have a few large bubbles as you see in the picture below:
  • Add the flour and salt to a large mixing bowl; make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the yeast-water in. Mix with a wooden / silicone spatula until it starts to combine into a sticky mass. Here’s what it will look like:
  • Its now time to go in with your hands! Knead gently until it all comes together to form a soft, rough dough.
  • Next, turn the dough out onto a surface, and knead for a whole 10 mins until you have a smooth dough. Grease a glass bowl with about a tsp of oil and place the dough in it. Here's a reference picture of how smooth the dough needs to get:
  • Cover with a damp cloth and allow to proof for an hour. Here’s a before and after picture of the dough once proofed.
  • Also check out the aeration from the side view! This is essential to making your focaccia nice and spongy.
  • While the dough is proofing, make a mix of 4 tsps of olive oil, chopped garlic and a tsp of dried rosemary. Leaving this mix to rest for about an hour ensures that the garlic and rosemary flavours infuse the oil really well!
  • Prepare a baking tin by oiling it and then sprinkling some semolina at the bottom3.
  • After an hour, use a spatula to release the dough from the sides of the bowl. Turn it out onto your counter/ a flat surface and knead until you get all the air out. Now stretch the dough out into the prepared baking tin.
  • Pour the olive oil mix onto the dough; use your fingers to make dimples all the way to the bottom of the dough, so that the oil seeps in!
  • Fill a few of these dimples with cubes of chopped tomato.
  • Cover the dough with a damp cloth and allow it to proof for another hour. You want the dough to rise and envelop the tomatoes altogether, so that you have a nice little surprise in the middle4.
  • Once done with the second proofing, pre-heat the oven to 200° C / 390° F. Decorate the focaccia while the oven heats. You can either keep it simple and just use strips of bell pepper and onions, or you could play around and make sunflowers like in the picture below. Don't forget to sprinkle with salt before you put it into the oven!
  • Place the focaccia in the middle rack of your oven. Bake for 15 mins with the bottom heating element on (bake mode) and for a final 10 with the top heating element on (grill mode). It’s these final 10 mins that help you get a golden crisp, top. Remove from the oven and immediately feed the focaccia with good quality olive oil! I poured about 2 tsps over the top.
Keyword Bread, Focaccia, Focaccia Garden, Italian Bread, Italian Side Dish, Italian Starter, Sunflower Focaccia

Recipe Notes:

1Its really important to use lukewarm water to bloom the yeast. Will not work if the water is either hot or cold.

2Jamie Oliver recommended 7 gms of instant yeast, I had only dry. Used 10 gms instead and made sure to bloom it for at least 10 mins.

3This step should give you crispy bottomed focaccia, but honestly, I did not see those results. Maybe the semolina/ bread crumbs can be skipped.

4Slice of focaccia with little cubes of tomato in the middle (yumm.. I want to try sun dried tomatoes next time, hoping that they’d be a bit more tangy!)

This is one of those recipes that’s slow, creative and the kind you can get lost in. It’s perfect for a gloomy day, weather-wise and when you need to take your mind to a better place. Let me know in the comments below if making this Focaccia Garden brightened your day. Cheers!🌞

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