Focaccia

By popular demand (or frustration, as the case may be) this will not be a recipe as much as it is a tutorial. I’ve shared this recipe with many people only to have them come back at me, after attempting it, with ‘IT DOESN’T WORK!!!’ which always has me scratching my head because it really does just work.

After pondering it for a while I’ve come to the conclusion that folks are a little intimidated by things which involve leavening agents and the fomentation process – I know I am. The temptation is to work it into the ground and that’s the only way one can go wrong with this recipe.

I believe I made my first (failed) attempt at focaccia about 10 years ago through the discovery of a recipe for it in grilled form in an LCBO Food & Drink magazine. It came off the bbq as a charred-bottomed lump of…something. I attempted the same recipe in the oven with better results but it came out with a very un-focaccia-like texture. No good that. So, I played with the ingredients and times and cooking methods until I came up with the recipe I share today:

Ingredients:
1 tbsp liquid honey
1 cup hot (but not boiling) water
2 tsp dry active yeast
2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow corn meal
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil

Instructions:

1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the honey in the water then sprinkle the yeast on top of this and allow to stand about 10 minutes until foamy.

Foamy yeast looks like this:

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2. Add the flour, cornmeal, salt and olive oil to the yeasty mixture.

3. Stir with a wooden spoon. I believe this is where most people go wrong. It’s important to not overwork the dough – there’s no kneading involved. The aim here is to simply get all of the ingredients together as a gooey (and it really should be gooey) mess. Like so:

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As you can see, the dough is not uniform. It’s sticky and doesn’t hold together very well. That’s exactly how it should be.

4. With the spoon work the dough into a rough ball and pour a little olive oil into the bowl. Coat the ball in the oil by rolling it loosely in it. Cover with a tea towel and let stand in a warm place about 20 minutes or until doubled in size.

5. Lightly oil whatever baking surface you’ll use to cook it on (this one is on my extra-uber-special pizza stone – we’ll talk about him another time) and turn your ball out onto it. Loosely pat it down to a circle then use your fingers to poke little craters into it:

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6. Add your topping. On this one I used a very simple blend of 3 cloves crushed garlic, 1 tbsp oregano, loads of cracked multi-coloured pepper and olive oil but you can take the topping anywhere your little hearts desire. Using the back of a soup spoon helps to push the topping around and into the craters. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and allow the focaccia to rest as it heats up. Here’s what our delectable brain child looks like now:

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7. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden brown.

Et voila! We have focaccia =)
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