Focaccia is flat oven-baked Italian bread, considered similar to a pizza. It differs though on the toppings and the way it’s prepared.
I have kept away from baking breads and anything that involved yeast, because the yeast ‘beast’ has been intimidating. This time the urge to eat a freshly baked Focaccia got the better of me and I set about making the Focaccia. I must say working with yeast was not bad at all, in fact I no longer feel intimidated, and I hope to bake more breads from now on.
We love the flavour of sun-dried tomatoes, so this Focaccia has loads of it on top. Olives taste good too and go well with the sun-dried tomatoes.
I chose to use the recipe for Tender Potato Bread to make the Focaccia. Tender Potato Bread was a Daring Bakers’ Challenge way back in Nov. 2007. I was not part of the Daring Bakers then yet. It felt good to go back and try a DB challenge. The results were incredible as always.
Sun-dried Tomato and Olive Focaccia:
The dough was very soft and very sticky too, which had me worried while making the bread, but eventually the dough came together beautifully. I halved the original recipe which yielded one 9” x 13” Focaccia, and four herbed flatbreads.
You will need:
2 medium to large floury (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks.
The variety of potatoes you might want to use would include
2 Cups (475 ml) Water
½ tbsp plus ½ tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast
3 ¼ cups to 4 ¼ cups (500g- 675g) unbleached All-purpose flour
½ tbsp unsalted butter, softened
½ cup (65g) whole wheat flour
¼ cup Olive oil
½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, in oil, cut into thin strips
¼ cup whole black olives, quartered
½ tsp Oregano
1 tbsp Garlic, chopped
A little of dried Oregano, Thyme and crushed red chilli flakes
Pastry brush, to brush on olive oil
Making the Dough (Directions will be for making by hand):
Put the potatoes and 2 cups water in a sauce pan and bring to boil.Add 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, half covered, until the potatoes are very tender.
Drain the potatoes, SAVE THE POTATO WATER, and mash the potatoes well.
Measure out 1 ½ cups(375ml) of the reserved potato water. Add extra water if needed to make 1 ½ cups.
Place the water and mashed potatoes in the bowl you plan to mix the bread dough in. Let cool to lukewarm (70-80°F/21 - 29°C) – stir well before testing the temperature – it should feel barely warm to your hand. You should be able to submerge you hand in the mix and not be uncomfortable.
Add yeast to 1 cup all-purpose flour and whisk. Add yeast and flour to the cooled mashed potatoes & water and mix well. Allow to rest/sit 5 minutes.
Sprinkle in the remaining 1/2 tablespoon salt and the softened butter; mix well. Add the 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, stir briefly.
Add 1 cups of the unbleached all-purpose flour and stir until all the flour has been incorporated.
Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, incorporating flour as needed to prevent sticking. The dough will be very sticky to begin with, but as it takes up more flour from the kneading surface, it will become easier to handle; use a dough scraper to keep your surface clean. The kneaded dough will still be very soft.
Place the dough in a large clean bowl or your rising container of choice, cover with plastic wrap or lid, and let rise about 2 hours or until doubled in volume.
Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface and knead gently several minutes. It will be moist and a little sticky.
Forming the Focaccia:
Take about 2/3rd of the dough and flatten it out onto a 9”x 13” inch baking sheet covered in foil. Spread it out to all the ends of the sheet using your finger tips. Brush the top of the dough generously with olive oil, sprinkle on a little coarse sea salt, and then dimple all over with your fingertips. Cover with plastic and let rise for 20 minutes.
After the 20 minutes, top the Focaccia with the sun-dried tomato strips, olives, garlic and oregano. Dimple again.
Forming the Herbed Flatbreads:
Cut the remaining dough into 4 equal pieces. With a floured hand shape into rounds and lay flat on a baking sheet lined with foil. Brush tops with olive oil, sprinkle each with a little of oregano, thyme and red chilli flakes. Space them about 2 inches apart. Cover and let rise for about 35 minutes.
Baking the Focaccia and Flatbreads:
Preheat oven to 450 F(230 C).
For the Focaccia: Place the Focaccia in the centre of the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. If you feel the toppings are getting brown quickly reduce temperature to 425 F and continue to bake.
Remove from pan, and let cool for at least 10 minutes on a cooling rack before cutting. I brushed on a little more olive oil as soon as it was out of the oven, this helps keep it moist.
For the Herbed Flatbreads: Reduce oven temperature to 400F and place the flatbreads in the centre of oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden on top. Cool on a wire rack.
The Focaccia was out of this world and so were the herbed flatbreads. This recipe will surely be my go-to recipe anytime I need to eat freshly baked bread.