The lightness of fresh-out-of-the-oven french bread combined with the herbaceous crispy crackliness of hand-tossed and well-oiled pizza crust.
What could be better?
This part-time baker can’t think of anything. That’s why we’ve got focaccia.
This panned focaccia is filled with roasted garlic (4 whole bulbs!), which was added to the dough after a brief autolyse, and topped with fresh rosemary, a few pinches of Herbs de Provence and a very generous sprinkling of the only flaky sea salt worth its… well… salt. Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.
If you haven’t used Maldon’s famous sea salt, you’re missing out. This will probably sound ridiculous, but I swear it’s saltier than regular salt. And the burst of saltiness it gives when it hits your tongue is a perfect complement for the flavours of this bread.
The Litibaker’s Tips for a Good Focaccia
- There are tons of recipes on the internet, and sorting through them can seem like a momentous job. The best focaccias are simple. The dough itself should be nothing more than flour, water, yeast, salt, and olive oil (plus no more than one flavour addition – like my roasted garlic). I’m a big fan of whole grains, but there’s a time and a place for them, and focaccia is neither the time nor the place. Good old unbleached white bread flour is the best bet here.
- Use lots of oil. Again, there is a time and a place for watching our calories and cutting back on oil, but focaccia is not one of them. It’s the olive oil that gives you the gold, crispy and crackly crust that sets this bread apart from pizza dough. And while you’re at it…
- Use good olive oil. This is the time to make a special trip to your local Greek/Italian market for the top shelf EVOO. The cold-pressed, organic, first pressing bottle. The bottle that when you open it up and smell its grassy, herbaceous and fruityness, will transport you to the orchard. That’s what takes this from the bland doorstop they serve you in the too-expensive restaurant, and turns it into the sheet pan of bread that gets devoured in one sitting.
- Keep it simple. Go easy on the toppings. Some people treat focaccia like a pizza, layering on carmelized onions, lemons, figs, olives, etc. With a good focaccia, the bread should be as big a star as the toppings, and piling them on will take away from that (not to mention filling up your guests faster). After I roasted the garlic on this one, I mashed it up and added it to the dough, so it was evenly distributed. On top, all you’ve got is the salt, rosemary and herbs de provence. They complement the bread, they don’t overwhelm it.
- But that said, don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path. A friend once made a lemon and sage focaccia which was shockingly good, and I plan on making lavender a dominant flavour in my next batch. A good rule of thumb is to stick to no more than two or three flavours at once.
No recipe posted on this, as I used the ‘Pain l’ancienne Focaccia’ recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day, and I don’t have permission to republish his recipes. Anyways, the book is amazing and is what started my love of bread, along with his earlier book The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, so you might as well just buy them anyways..