Focaccia Bread Recipe by Ben Tish
Focaccia Bread Recipe by Ben Tish
Award winning writer and culinary Director of Norma in Charlotte Street Soho, chef Ben Tish shares his recipe for Focaccia
Focaccia is steeped in ancient history with its first official documentation recorded in Ancient Rome – a simple flat bread, cooked hearth side and smothered in olive oil, spices and herbs. Now, whilst it is eaten all over Italy (and the word) its mainly associated with Liguria, where it has many variants from town to town. I’ve eaten my fair share of this most delicious of breads, travelling around Italy and developing my recipe for Norma, it’s the only bread we serve, and we make it twice a day, every day. Here’s the recipe, I developed and its certainly got its Sicilian influences-fragrant herbs, pine nuts and green olives, although these can be omitted if you can’t get them. The olive brine may sound odd but adds a depth of the flavour to the bread and an intrinsic seasoning. The olive oil is very important here, I use a delicious, fresh Nocellara extra virgin olive oil from Sicily, but you should use what you like.
This focaccia recipe makes enough for about 10-12 servings
- 375g strong white bread flour
- 375g “tipo 00” flour (sometimes sold as pasta flour)
- 1 tbsp fine sea salt
- 7g active dry yeast
- 130ml extra-virgin olive oil (100ml for the dough; 30ml for the topping, mixed with 30ml water, the brine (see below) and 1 tsp Maldon salt flakes
- Water- about 550ml in total
- 2 tbsp coarse semolina
- 150g pitted green olives (halved) – with 30ml of the olive brine
- Maldon sea salt
- A good handful of pine nuts
- A handful of fresh marjoram or oregano leaves
- A handful of fresh mint leaves
Put the flours in a large mixing bowl with the salt and yeast. Whisk well to combine, then make a hole in the middle and add 100ml olive oil, plus 300ml water. Stir together and add more water (I used about 100ml extra) until you have a very soft, but not too sticky, dough. Now mix in 2/3 thirds of the pine nuts.
Knead until soft and elastic; in a food mixer (preferable) on a medium-slow speed for about 7 minutes, or by hand on a lightly oiled work surface for 10-12 minutes. Put the dough on a lightly oiled rimless baking sheet and leave to rise in a draught-free place for 60-90 minutes until roughly doubled in size.
Knock back the dough, and lightly dust the baking tray with the semolina. Gently press the dough out with your fingers to fit the baking tray. Brush with olive oil and leave to rise again for about another hour, or until doubled in size again. When this time has nearly elapsed, heat the oven to 220C and put a pizza stone or baking tray in there to heat up. If you have a water spray, ready it.
Whisk together the remaining 30ml olive oil with 30ml water and the 30ml of olive brine until emulsified. Transfer the dough to the pizza stone or baking tray and poke dimples into the surface of the focaccia with your fingertips. Pour the oil-olive brine-water mixture on top and scatter with the salt flakes and press in the marjoram or oregano and the green olives and transfer to the oven and squirt a little water into the base of the oven. Bake for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden on top and it will feel hollow when tapped.
Transfer the focaccia to a cooling rack and leave for 10 minutes to cool slightly. Serve whilst still warm.
Chef Ben Tish is an award winning writer and published three cookbooks, his last book Moorish was published by Bloomsbury Absolute in April 2019 receiving.