This recipe was almost a disaster. I had volunteered to make a starter for dinner at my friend Nicky’s house and had got all the ingredients together for an olive and rosemary focaccia. I was organised enough and started making the focaccia a few hours before dinner until I read with horror instructions in the recipe such as “leave to rise in a warm place for two hours”. My mental math calculations are not what you would call lightening quick but it did not take me long to realise that the only way we would be eating focaccia at Nicky’s house was as a dessert at the end of the meal. I had to abandon the focaccia and turn to a back up plan for a starter but when I returned from dinner several hours later the focaccia had risen beautifully and was all ready to be popped into the oven for a toasty treat the next day.
The moral of the story boys and girls is that if you are going to make this focaccia you will need at least five hours to spare. It is not like you are working away those whole five hours, most of the time you are doing something else while the yeast works its magic. Sadly though this process can not be rushed. No amount of blasting with hairdryers will make the dough rise more quickly (I have learnt this from personal trial and error). In a way that is quite a nice thing. The focaccia takes its time but sometimes the good things in life can’t be rushed.
330g strong white bread flour
1 tsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
50g pitted kalamata olives
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 1/2 tsp active dried yeast
420ml bottled still spring water luke warm
330g strong white bread flour
1. For the starter put the yeast and water in a large mixing bowl and stir until the yeast dissolves. Add the flour and stir until there is a porridge like consistency. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave somewhere warm (next to the heater works well for me!) for about two hours or until it has doubled in size.
2. Mix the starter with the flour, sugar and olive oil. Knead for about six minutes, then add the salt and knead further until the salt is mixed through.
3. Brush a large bowl with oil, place the dough in it and brush the surface of the dough with more oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for one hour or until the dough has again doubled in size.
4. Turn the dough on to a floured bench and stretch and flatten it into a rectangle. Take one of the short ends of the rectangle and fold it into the centre, take the other end and fold it over the first one to form three layers of dough.
5. Brush a heavy baking tray (around 30cm x 40cm) with oil. Lift the dough on to the tray and flatten it by pressing hard with your hands. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for another hour. During this time check on the dough a couple of times and press it down, spreading it to the edges of the tray.
6. Preheat the oven to 220C. Press the olives and rosemary into the top of the focaccia and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in the oven for 10 mins and then reduce the heat to 190C and continue for 15-20 mins or until golden. When it is out of the oven and still hot brush with plenty of olive oil.
Adapted from the Ottolenghi Cookbook.