I have taught this rosemary focaccia recipe to hundreds of people over the years and everyone loves it. It has volumes of flavour and a big open airy crumb. Yes, you have to think ahead and start it the night before. Yes, it is messy. Yes, it has to rise twice before shaping then rise again before going in the oven. Is it really worth it? YES, YES, YES! Making the dough in a stand mixer is much easier, but it can be done by hand. Using a stand mixer, be careful not to over mix. It’s good fun and very satisfying to knead this recipe by hand and very possible to achieve great results. We always have great fun in classes kneaded the dough by hand.
This is a simple rosemary version of focaccia, but many toppings can be used. Halved cherry tomatoes placed cut side up topped with basil after it’s out of the oven, roasted garlic and thyme, caramelised red onion and kalamata olive just a few possibilities.
Makes two large trays, but freezes well or you can halve the recipe
For the biga or sponge
400g strong white flour
230g cool water
8g salt a pinch of dry instant yeast (1.5g) or 3g fresh yeast
For the dough
600g strong white wheat flour
8g dry instant yeast (or 16g fresh yeast)
500g warm water
20g good quality extra virgin olive oil, plus lots for drizzling over
20g about 4 sprigs fresh rosemary, removed from the stem and roughly chopped coarse sea salt
Mix the sponge ingredients 12-16 hours before making the dough and leave to ferment at room temperature. This helps with the flavour, texture and crumb and is called an overnight biga.
Mix the remaining flour, yeast, salt and sugar in a large bowl, then add about three quarters of the water. Add the biga in small lumps and start kneading. If you have a suitable mixer with a dough hook, use it, because you need to develop the gluten into a very strong network in order to hold up the big gas bubbles in such a wet dough. Once you have a strong, well-developed dough that has stopped sticking to your hands or the bowl, about 10 minutes, you can gradually add the remaining water and the olive oil in very small increments. You should end up with a wet but manageable dough with a silky sheen. When finished kneading, add in about half the rosemary.
Place the dough back in the bowl. Leave covered in a warm place to rise for an hour. Tip out onto a floured surface. Gently stretch the dough and fold it back in on itself. You may need a scraper to help with this as the dough will still be quite sticky. Place it back in the bowl and leave for another hour or until doubled in size.
Preheat the oven to 240°C / Gas Mark 9. Grease two 23 x 28cm / 9 x 11 inch or similar baking trays with olive oil. Tip the dough onto a heavily floured surface. Sprinkle the top lightly with flour. Cut into two equal pieces and place them on the greased baking tray. Sprinkle the surface of the dough with the remaining rosemary and coarse sea salt.
Leave covered, with greased clingfilm, in a warm place to prove for 30 minutes or until well risen. Just before baking, cover the surface of the loaves with a good glug of olive oil. To get the classic focaccia look, dip your fingers in some olive oil and dimple them into the dough several times, pushing right down to the baking tray beneath.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Be sure to switch the trays between racks about half way through cooking time for consistency, just don’t open the oven during the first 10 minutes of baking as this is when the bread is having its final rise. Additional olive oil can be drizzled over the focaccia (and is highly recommended) after 10 minutes of baking and/or when removed from the oven. The bread is done when the centre reaches an internal temperature of 96C.
Place on a cooling rack to cool and although extremely tempting, do let it cool down for at least 15-20 minutes before tucking in as the bread is still cooking.
Have you made this dish? I love seeing my delicious recipes come to life, so share a picture with me on Instagram by tagging @naturalcookeryschool and I’ll re-share your post!