The pillowy Italian flatbread makes the perfect starter, side or sandwich base, and celebrates classic Italian flavour combinations through its lavish use of olive oil and toppings such as rosemary, olives and tomatoes. Making it is relatively simple, but imbuing the dough with layers of olive oil is imperative.
There’s a couple things you need to know about this recipe before you jump in. Firstly the ingredients are important here. For example, this is not the recipe to swap fancy flour for plain (all-purpose). This is also the time to use a higher-quality olive oil because it will really shine through.
Second, if you’ve never made focaccia you should know that this recipe is a little different as you brine the focaccia before putting it in the oven. You’re going to think the dough looks too wet, but I promise it will be perfect. The brine adds a delicious saltiness that you won’t find in other recipes.
For the dough:
For the brine:
1.In a medium-sized jug, stir together water, yeast and sweetener to dissolve. In a very large bowl, whisk flour and salt together to combine and then add yeast mixture and olive oil. Stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated, then scrape the sides of the bowl clean and cover with plastic wrap. Leave out at room temperature to ferment for 12 to 14 hours until at least doubled in volume.
2. Spread 2 to 3 tbsp oil evenly onto a large rimmed baking sheet. When dough is ready, use a spatula or your hand to release it from the sides of the bowl and fold it onto itself gently, then pour out onto pan.
3. Pour an additional 2 tbsp olive oil over dough and gently spread across. Gently stretch the dough to the edge of the sheet by placing your hands underneath and pulling outward. The dough will shrink a bit, so repeat stretching once or twice over the course of 30 minutes to ensure dough remains stretched.
4. Dimple the dough by pressing the pads of your first three fingers in at an angle. Make the brine by stirring together salt and water until salt is dissolved. Pour the brine over the dough to fill dimples. Set the focaccia aside to rise for 45 minutes until the dough is light and bubbly.
5. Thirty minutes into this final proof, adjust rack to centre position and a second rack to the upper position. Preheat oven to 230C/fan 210C/450F/Gas mark 8. If you have a baking stone, place it on the centre rack. Otherwise, invert another sturdy baking sheet and place on that rack. Allow to preheat in the oven until very hot, before proceeding with baking.
6. Sprinkle focaccia with flaky salt and any other toppings your heart desires. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes directly on top of stone or inverted baking sheet until bottom crust is crisp and golden brown. To finish browning top crust, move focaccia to upper rack and bake for 5 to 7 minutes more.
7. Remove from oven and generously brush 2 to 3 tbsp oil over the whole surface (don’t worry if the olive pools in pockets, it will absorb as it sits). Let it cool for 5 minutes, then release focaccia from pan and transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.
8. If – and it’s a big IF – there’s any left, wrap tightly in cling film (plastic wrap) and either store in fridge or freeze for later.