Everything about bread is delicious. From the yummy yeast and the kneading, to a wet dough that starts to bubble away once the yeast is working its magic.
The delectable smell of fresh bread in the oven…
The crumbling sound of a perfect crust…
The melting butter on warm bread or the young spicy green olive oil for dipping…
A sandwich at lunchtime or some stale bread to dollop up the lovely juices of your favorite meat stew…
You name it…
Bread is essential food for me. I couldn’t live without. No matter how many theories and ladies magazines tell me to cut the carbs. Never will I cut bread from my diet.
But there is one bread that I have to admit is just plain sin, indulgence and excess.
When I was camping out in Portofino, I would go for a morning run to the lighthouse and then jog by the panificio for sinful foccacia.
Focaccia is Luguria’s answer to the Roman Pizza Bianco. Pizza Bianco is the pizza base dough rolled out thinly crisp topped with olive oil, salt and some rosemary sprigs. Focaccia is thicker and soggier. It’s a juicy oily bread. You can have it plain or with different toppings: olives, cheese, tomatoes or even sweet with cherries. I prefer the simple one with sage and rosemary. But the caramelized onions are also top notch.
It’s a wonder how the combination of basic foolproof ingredients such as yeast, flour, water and olive oil can make something that is so heavenly delicious.
But it’s very important to have high quality ingredients. Use your best extra virgin olive oil it’s totally worth it!
There are two schools I believe to make focaccia. One is where you bake your bread first and drain it with olive oil after cooking. The other is to bake the focaccia in/with the olive oil. I personally prefer the latter.
This bread makes an easy appetizer. Your guests will adore you and want more and more and then some more. Even my late grandmother was a giant fan of it.
It’s a classic hit. I’ve kept it a secret long enough. But today I’m finally sharing it with you.
Enjoy and spread the sin!
N.B. Be sure to use a large enough bowl for your dough as the yeast triples your dough easily.
Focaccia interpreted by Ariane
Serves 6 as an appetizer
250ml lukewarm water
2 tablespoons of olive oil
20g fresh yeast
1 teaspoon of salt
Topping of your choice:
Sage, rosemary and garlic crushed in a pestle and mortar with extra virgin olive oil.
Thinly sliced tomatoes marinated in olive oil and oregano
Or simply olive oil and sea salt
Put the flour in a bowl. Mix the salt through it.
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Incorporate the water into the flour add the olive oil at the end. You want a runny sticky dough. The wetter the better!!! And very important don’t overwork the dough. Take it easy.
Cover with Clingfilm and a towel. Let it prove between 1 and 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 160°C.
Get out an oven plate, cover with baking paper.
Make a fragrant oil mixture of sea salt, fresh herbs and garlic (if you like) or simply use the best extra virgin olive oil you have. Line the baking paper with this oil. Pour the dough on top of it. Pour more of your fragrant olive oil on top and add your topping of choice. Pierce the dough with your fingers to make little holes in it where the olive oil can make bursting flavour holes!
Bake in the oven for 40 minutes.
Then turn up the heat to 200°C, to make a nice golden crust. Give it another 15 minutes or so.
Remove from the oven and serve while still warm.