Born in Italy, the Focaccia is a flat, oven-baked bread, quite similar in texture to the pizza. In fact, it even looks like a pizza, and is on many occasions also used as a base for rustic pizzas. A focaccia is usually herb-topped, flavoured with olive oil, sea salt and eaten with sides, salads or as a main component with meals. It has to be hand-kneaded, and is traditionally baked in a stone oven or wood-fired oven.
A Focaccia can be as simple as you like, or as opulent as you wish. Focaccia al rosmarino (Rosemary focaccia) or Caprese Focaccia (topped with tomato, basil and mozzarella cheese) are two of the simplest and most commonly found Italian variants. Since I was out of mozzarella, I decided to experiment with my favourite topping – Mushrooms! 🙂
The basic difference between a pizza and focaccia is that the focaccia dough is dotted all over, often with a fingertip or the back of a spoon/ladle, etc, to create multiple dimples all over its surface. Fat, usually olive oil, is applied liberally over the unbaked focaccia, allowing it to absorb moisture and remain soft and spongy, even after baking.
With mushrooms went a handy bunch of purple onions, adding to the sweetness, and a liberal dash of red chili flakes and herbed oil. The Focaccia dough is very forgiving, so don’t be afraid to experiment! I actually used the leftover to make pizzas!
Remember, don’t hold back on the olive oil, though you can skip the toppings and bake a plain focaccia or herb focaccia; herb-topped focaccias work great as sandwich bread too! Focaccia bread can also be enjoyed by itself, as a snack with butter, or as antipasto!
Mushroom & Onion Focaccia… (this recipe makes 4 medium-sized or 2 large Focaccias. I’ve used half the dough to make 2 medium-sized ones)
Ingredients: (Recipe adapted from the internet)
For the Dough:
- All-purpose or Bread Flour – 3 and 1/2 cups
- Active dry yeast – 2 and 1/2 tsp (or 2 tsp instant yeast)
- Sugar – 1 and 1/2 tbsp
- Salt – 1 tsp
- Olive oil – 1/4 cup
- Warm water – 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups
- Oil for brushing dough
- For the Topping:
- Onions – 2 small, sliced
- Mushrooms – 1 cup packed, sliced
- Coarse salt – 1 tsp
For the Herbed Oil:
- Olive oil – 1/4 cup (I have used melted butter and olive oil)
- Dried herbs – 2 tsp (I’ve used oregano and thyme)
- Garlic flakes/powder – 1 tbsp
- Red chili flakes – 1/2 tsp
- Salt to taste
- First make the herbed oil; this ensures that the oil imbibes all the flavours.
- Tip in all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together. Keep aside till required.
- The dough can either be kneaded by hand or in a machine. I did it with a hand-held mixer with the dough hooks.
- Tip in flour and salt, and oil in a large bowl.
- Warm 1 cup of water (water should be just warm, not HOT or COLD), to this dissolve sugar and the AD yeast.
- Let yeast proof for 10 mins.
- When the yeast is active, make a well in the flour and add the yeast mix.
- Start kneading and add the remaining warm water little by little; every flour has a different absorption rate, so add more or less until a soft, elastic dough that is just short of turning sticky, is formed.
- Shape into a round and place in an oiled bowl, rubbing the surface of the dough with oil.
- Cover it with a damp cloth or cling film and let it rise until double in size (1 and 1/2 to 2 hours..mine rose in 1 and 1/2)
- (If you live in cool region, keep the dough covered in the oven with the light ‘on’ or in a microwave.)
- After the first rise, punch down the dough and divide into 2 halves.
- Reserve one half for later if making 2 Focaccia like I did (wrap in cling film and refrigerate up until 3 days)
- Now roll out 2 rectangular or square shapes, using flour to dust the surface.
- Don’t bother with perfect shapes/edges, as this is a rustic bread.
- Oil two baking tins, and place the rolled dough gently on to them. They will shrink from the sides, use your fingers to gently push them from the center towards the edges.
- Leave to rise for 30 mins.
- Later, oil your fingertips and make equally-placed dimples all over the surface.
- Brush the surface liberally with herbed oil, and then spread the sliced onion and mushrooms, and sprinkle salt.
- Bake at 200 C for about 20 mins, or until top is golden brown.. (took me 23 mins)
Note: Many of you might like your topping less baked, I would suggest adding a foil half-way through. We like it a bit crunchy and caramelized 🙂