I adore everything about Italy – the architecture, the passionate people, the pace of life, the glorious countryside and wonderful summer light – but it's the food that will stop me in my tracks. Pizza, pasta, ice cream, wine, sun-ripened fruit and vegetables. Then there's the bread...
The big three are Ciabatta, Focaccia, and Panettone. The latter is meant for Christmas and the former takes two whole days to prove; Focaccia is not only the tastiest of the three, it's (relatively) quick and easy to make.
Finely-milled 00 flour ensures a light, airy crumb, but you can use strong white flour (or a combination of the two). Don't be too liberal with the rosemary; a little will lend the bread an aromatic, floral quality, too much will make it taste soapy. If you wish to add extra ingredients – caramelised onions, parmesan cheese, cherry tomatoes, or even pitted cherries (my favourite) – simply incorporate into the dough prior to shaping it for the second rise.
500g 00 Flour
15ml Olive Oil
5g Instant Yeast
1. Pour 310ml of tepid water, 1 tablespoon of honey and 5g of instant yeast into a bowl.
2. Whisk the water, yeast and honey together and cover the bowl with an upturned plate. Leave to sit for fifteen minutes to let the yeast activate.
3. Put 500g of 00 flour and 10g of salt into the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir the salt into the flour and make a well in the centre.
4. When the yeast mixture has started to bubble, pour it into the well in the centre of the flour.
5. Lower the arm of your mixer, with the dough hook attached, into the bowl. Set on the lowest speed for one minute.
6. With the mixer still going, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the dough. Allow the machine to knead the dough for another nine minutes.
7. Coat your hands with a small amount of olive oil and turn the dough out onto an oiled surface. Shape the dough into a round.
8. Wash out the mixer bowl and coat it with olive oil. Carefully place the dough into the bowl and cover the bowl with cling film, a tea towel, or place the whole thing inside a clean, unscented bin liner.
9. Leave the dough to rise until it has doubled in size. Depending on the temperature of the room and the water you used, this will take from 60–90 mins.
10. When the dough is properly risen, take it out of the bowl and place it on a lined baking sheet. I use a pizza crisper. Deflate the dough and spread it out so that it is about an 3cm thick.
11. Cover the dough and leave to rise again for 25 mins.
12. Set your oven to its highest temperature and allow to preheat.
13. When the dough has risen, dip the end of a wooden spoon in some flour and lightly dimple the surface. You want to push the spoon about 2/3 of the way through.
14. Sprinkle with freshly-chopped or dried rosemary, and drizzle over some olive oil.
15. Put the dough into the oven. Cook it for 10 minutes at the highest heat, then turn the oven down to about 190ºC (375ºF). Cook for another 20 mins or until golden brown.
16. When the loaf is ready, turn it out onto a wire rack and allow to cool completely before serving.
Delicious on its own or dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
900g Loaf | £0.95 | 3 hours