Cook Time: 25 minutes
Prep Time: 1 hour & 50 minutes
Ready In: 2 hour & 15 minutes
3.5 cups (500g) of strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
1.8 tbsp (15g) of fresh yeast or dried equivalent (usually half the amount of fresh; follow packet instructions)
1 cup & 3 tbsp & 1 tsp / 1 and 1/5 cup (300ml)of tepid water
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Plain white flour for dusting
Rock salt for sprinkling prior to baking
1 large sprig of rosemary
1. Mix the flour and salt together in a large mixing bowl. Blend the yeast into the tepid water with your fingers until no lumps remain. Add the yeast liquid and 2 ½ tablespoons of the oil to the flour and mix well using a plastic scraper or your hand. When the liquid is incorporated, bring all the ingredients together into a ball of dough with your hand. Use the dough to pick up the bits from the sides of the bowl so that you leave the bowl clean.
2. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead it by pulling, stretching and folding for around 10 minutes. The dough should be soft, but if really sticky add a little more flour. When the dough is worked enough it should bounce back to the touch and feel elastic; if it doesn't, keep kneading.
3. Fold the edges of the dough underneath so that you have a smooth rounded ball. The top side will be the surface of your focaccia. Grease the bowl with 20ml / 1 tablespoon of the olive oil to prevent the dough sticking to it. Put the smooth, top side of the dough head first into the oiled bowl and turn to coat the top and sides with oil. (This will prevent a crust forming and stop it sticking.) Cover with cling film or place a tea-towel over the bowl and leave it in a warm, draught-free spot for about an hour, or until it has doubled in volume.
4. Preheat the oven to 220°C/425°F/gas mark 7.
5. Next slide the dough onto an oiled baking sheet or roasting tin. Gently ease it out from underneath, trying to keep a good rounded edge. Then use your fingertips to make indentations in the dough, flattening it into an oval about 3 centimetres thick. Add your choice of toppings and drizzle over 30ml / 2 tablespoon of oil but no salt yet. Break sprigs of rosemary or thyme off the main stem and tuck into the dough; press olives and onion rings into the dough to stop them burning.
6. Return the dough to rise in its warm, draught-free place until it is about half as high again – this will take 30–40 minutes.
7. When it has risen, use your fingertips gently again to press more indentations into the dough, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle with rock salt. Bake in the oven for about 15–20 minutes or until golden brown. If the bottom is not cooked turn the focaccia over and bake for a further 5 minutes. Allow to cool in a basket or on a wire rack so that it cannot sweat underneath.
Tip: Focaccia doesn't keep well but if you want to eat it the next day, allow it to cool then wrap in cling film to stop it drying out. To use up any left-over focaccia, split in half, cut into large soldiers and toast. Top with Cheese Paste, Squashed Oven-dried Tomatoes or Sun-dried Tomato, Caper and Olive Paste.