Overnight Garden Focaccia

Recipe appears in 

Serves 8

Focaccia translates to ‘hearth bread’, which is handy, because while most overnight doughs are hoping for a high rise, this one’s all about the chew. It utilises the no-knead method popularised in The New York Times by Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman over 15 years ago, and improved upon by Kenji López-Alt, but with a wetter dough and olive oil for a chewier crumb, à la Samin Nosrat’s. Lahey aptly credits this technique as being the one originally used to bake bread in ancient Rome … the home of, you guessed it: focaccia! And the best part? Focaccia can totally be way flatter than a regular loaf, so even if yours doesn’t rise quite right, the satisfaction and aroma of freshly baked bread, from your own hand, is just belissima. It’s up to you whether you go the glorious garden route or keep yours more traditional. Just see how you feel come Sunday morning.

Ingredients

Overnight dough

 

3 cups (450 g) strong white flour (see Worth it)
2 teaspoons dried yeast (1 x 7 g sachet)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt flakes
1 1/2 cups (375 ml) lukewarm water
1 tablespoon olive oil

 

Garden toppings
(Think of your favourite pizza toppings and go wild!)

 

Multi-coloured capsicums (peppers) and mild chillies, thinly sliced
Multi-coloured tomato slices
Red onion or spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
Mixed herbs, such as marjoram, basil, chives and parsley, chopped
Olives and/or other pickled goodies such as capers, artichokes or sun-dried tomatoes
Olive oil, for drizzling
Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling

 

Tradish toppings

 

A small handful of rosemary leaves
Olive oil, for drizzling
Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling

Method

Place all the overnight dough ingredients in a bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula to combine, until you have a wet, sticky dough. Cover with a clean damp tea towel and leave in the fridge for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight; you can even leave the dough for 48 hours or more, to really develop the flavour.

About 4 hours before you want to bake it, take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature; during this time, it should rise a little more. Punch the dough down — which is exactly how it sounds! — and give it a little knead to bring it all together into a ball. The oil in the dough will make it easy to handle.

Line a 25 x 30 cm (10 x 12 inch) baking tray with baking paper. Place the dough on top, stretching and pressing it out with your fingers into whatever shape you like — round, oval, square or rectangle. Allow the dough to rise again in a warm spot for 1–2 hours, covered again with a damp tea towel.

 

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). In a bowl, toss your garden topping ingredients (or rosemary leaves if you’re going tradish) in a few tablespoons of olive oil, so they don’t go dry too quickly and burn.

 

Using your fingers, press dimples into the dough, then squish the topping ingredients into your creation. Scatter with salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper.

 

Pour water into a heatproof mug or baking dish and sit it on the bottom of the oven to create steam (this helps the focaccia expand before forming a crust). Bake the focaccia on the middle shelf of the oven for 35–45 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. Some of your vegies might char a bit, but that’s cool — these can even be the most delicious aspects of the bake.

 

Once cooked but while still HOT, drizzle with a little more olive oil, and garnish with more fresh herbs if you like. Then either show off your creative genius as a whole loaf at the table, or cut into jaunty pieces to serve.f

Tips

Tips

 

This dough is super easy to make and can be used for terrific puffy pizza bases as well.

 

Shortcuts

 

Use store-bought pizza dough, straight out of the fridge, or even thawed puff pastry (à la the Bus stop tarta on page 226). Shape into an oiled and lined baking dish, drizzle with plenty of olive oil, poke in some holes with your fingertips, then plant your garden, sprinkle with salt flakes and black pepper and bake as described.

 

Double Duty

 

Slice stale bread or focaccia thinly, brush with extra virgin olive oil and bake in a 140°C (275°F) oven until golden brown and crunchy.
Alternatively, tear the bread into chunks and toss with olive oil, dried herbs and/or garlic before baking.

Worth it

 

Thanks to the recent uptick in sourdough baking at home, you should be able to find strong flour, also called ‘bread flour’, at most supermarkets these days. Strong flour has a higher level of protein, and therefore gluten, which helps with a nice open crumb (that’s the holes or ‘alveolation’ in the middle of the bread).

 

If you plan on baking lots of bread or focaccia, investing in a bag of strong flour (with 11–13% protein) and storing it in the fridge between bakes is worthwhile. Otherwise, plain (all-purpose) flour is totally fine, too — it might not rise quite as high, but if you’re only baking loaves on the odd occasion, you’ll be right.

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