In a fairly off hand way the other day, Mike commented to me that he loved bread and he didn't think he would ever want to give it up. It might've helped that at the time, he was chomping on several squares of this.
But it made me think.
Every so often, Mike and I indulge in one of our favourite little treats: a loaf of freshly baked bread.
Purely for convenience, and because we tend to fuel this urge as it strikes, we tend to rely on our local supermarket for this (it's a great ploy to have in-store bakeries and while there are a few artisan bakeries in and around Cardiff they're, sadly, not easily accessible for us).
Sometimes it's a simple Farmhouse loaf, sometimes it's one of those fancy flavoured breads the supermarkets have started to introduce.
One of my favourites is a Rosemary Focaccia. Freshly baked, it's heady aroma is irresistible.
It's on the days when I fancy something savoury, rather than sweet.
Perhaps when it's a bit wet, grey and windy, and when you just want to curl up with a bowl of something comforting.
Sometimes that's soup.
Other times (for me anyway) it could be a pasta dish, with a rich, creamy sauce.
Either way, something that's just perfect for mopping up with some ciabatta or focaccia.
I'd never thought of making Focaccia myself though.
In the past I haven't tended to make too much bread at all. But now, since learning how to make Sourdough properly last October, I have a weekend ritual of making my own.
It's been miles better than anything I have managed to buy locally, after I have tweaked the dough and baking to fit in with my preferences.
So emboldened by this, I decided to try something else. And therefore what better to try than my own Focaccia?
This recipe is easy (especially using a stand mixer) and for bread, (I think) fairly quick. It produced a lovely loaf which disappeared faster than I had anticipated.
I think you can safely anticipate that I'm going to be experimenting some more.
Rosemary and Sea Salt Focaccia
500g strong white bread flour
7g fast action dried yeast
6 tbspns extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
300ml warm water
2 tspns fine salt
1 tbspn coarse sea salt [I used Maldon as I love the flaky texture]
2 tbspns fresh rosemary, chopped
You'll need a large bowl and a baking tray, both brushed with a little of the oil.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, place the yeast, flour, salt 3 tbspns of the oil and the water. Turn the mixer onto slow, and gradually, as the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium-slow. Leave to knead for about 5-6 minutes, until you have a soft, smooth dough. If it's really sticky, add just a little extra flour.
Turn out the dough, and fold the edges down on themselves a few times to try and form a smooth, rounded ball. Place, seam side down in the bowl, brush with a little oil and cover the bowl with cling film. Leave to rest in a warm place (not too hot though) until doubled in size (about an hour).
Place the dough on the oiled baking tray and press out gently to flatten to about 3 cm deep, using your fingertips to make little indentations. Brush over a little oil and then cover with cling film.
Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size again (about 45 minutes). Preheat the oven to 200 Fan / 220 conventional / Gas 7.
Remove the cling film, and then using your fingertips again, press some more indentations into the dough. Sprinkle over the rosemary (tucking some small sprigs, if you have them, into the dough gives a nice touch), and then some of the sea salt. Drizzle over the remaining 3 tbspns of oil.
Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes until golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack.
* Adapted from Italian Home Baking by Gino D'Acampo