Quick & Easy Focaccia
This focaccia is as quick to bake as it is bursting with rustic flavour. Fresh basil, oregano and flaky sea salt add much character, while cherry tomatoes and mozzarella crown this Italian flat bread with beautiful simplicity. Serve it as an appetiser with a bowl of olive oil and balsamic vinegar to dip in!
- 2 ¾ (330 gm) all-purpose flour (+ more as required)
- 1 tbsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp caster sugar
- 1 cup (240 ml) lukewarm water
- olive oil (as required)
- 1 tbsp dried oregano (optional but recommended for flavour)
- 1 tsp sea salt (+ more for sprinkling)
- 3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped (+ more for sprinkling)
- pinch of black pepper
- handful of cherry tomatoes
- ½-¾ cup mozzarella
Proof the yeast
Stir the yeast and sugar into a cup of lukewarm water (ideally 110° to 115°; if the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast).
Let the mixture sit for 5 – 10 minutes until the yeast has completely dissolved and the mixture is foamy, a sign that the yeast is active. If the mixture isn’t bubbly, your yeast might be old (or dead!). At this point, it’s better to throw out the mixture and start afresh with new yeast.
Bring the dough together
Add salt and 1 tbsp of olive oil to the yeast mixture, followed by the oregano, fresh basil and a pinch of black pepper. Mix it all together.
Pour this wet yeast mixture over the flour in a large enough mixing bowl. Use a spatula to bring the dough together into a shaggy mass.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface to knead until it comes together in a smooth, supple and elastic ball. This might take about five minutes. (If the dough is feeling too sticky, sprinkle more flour on the surface and continue kneading until smooth)
First dough rise
Liberally grease the bottom of a large bowl with olive oil before placing our ball of dough in it (avoid using a metal bowl, which might impede the activity of yeast).
Turn the dough as required until it is completely coated with the olive oil.
Cover the bowl with a damp cloth, leaving it in a warm place for 1 - 2 hours (depending on how much time you have).
Second dough rise
When you check in on the dough after this time, you will find that it has risen in volume. Punch the dough down with your fists and tip it out onto a 8x8 inch baking tin (grease this tin beforehand with olive oil).
Gently shape the dough into a large ball (brush over with olive oil if required) and cover the baking tin with a damp cloth, leaving it in a warm place for 30 - 45 minutes or so.
Baking the focaccia
Pre-heat the oven to 220°.
After the dough has risen a second time, pat it out into a square shape reaching the edges of the baking tin (note: if you don't have a square baking pan, you can pat it into a rectangle shape with 1/2 inch thickness, on a regular baking tray)
Dimple it with your fingers, making little wells that reach down to the bottom of the baking tin. Generously brush over these little crevices with olive oil and toppings of choice. I used cherry tomatoes, more fresh basil, mozzarella and lots of sea salt
Put the focaccia to bake in the oven until its’ a beautiful golden-brown on top (15 minutes or so). If the focaccia has not evenly baked, turn the oven to 180°C after 15 minutes for another few minutes until done.
Serve while it’s deliciously-warm, a touch crusty at the edges but soft and fluffy within!