This Italian flatbread is thought to have originated from the Etruscans, and was a staple part of the diet in Ancient Rome. Emmer was commonly used to make focaccia, but I’ve created a recipe using our ciabatta flour, which gives it a fantastic structure. If you can’t get hold of ciabatta flour, a strong white bread flour will also work well. Popular to this day, focaccia is delicious with all sorts of toppings – rosemary and rock salt are the classic but you can easily adapt this recipe to vary the flavours. In the spirit of being as authentic as possible, be generous with your olive oil when drizzling it on the top, as the bread will soak this up and it will add extra flavour and moisture. Whether you’re making this by hand or by machine, put some time and effort into the kneading at the beginning to get the gluten working. After this kneading, handle the dough as gently as possible to allow the bubbles to develop.
TIMING NOTE: there are a few resting periods in this recipe. This is to ensure you are working with a relaxed dough that is properly developed and able to retain the shape and texture required for an authentic focaccia.
Weigh your water into a large mixing bowl and mix in the olive oil and yeast. Add the flour and mix, then add the salt. The dough will be sticky and wet, as focaccia is a relatively high hydration dough. Once combined, transfer your dough to a mixer fitted with a dough hook and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, or knead by hand on a work surface very lightly oiled with olive oil.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Knock it back by drawing the sides up and then folding them into the centre, cover with a cloth, and leave to rest for 1 hour at room temperature, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Knock the dough back a second time. Don’t overwork it, however, as you want an open crumb that’s not too tight. Leave the dough to rest for another hour, and then repeat the knocking back. Be very gentle with the dough while doing this, to preserve the bubbles that are developing. Leave it to rest for another hour.
Preheat your oven to 240°C/gas 9. Generously brush a baking tray with olive oil. Turn the dough out on to the tray and prod it outwards into a round. It will expand a bit when baking, so leave some room at the sides of the tray. Drizzle with oil, then add your toppings. Prod holes into the dough with your fingers. You can make these deep, as even though this is a ‘flatbread’, it will rise a bit due to the yeast. If any bubbles form on the surface, poke them with a knife to prevent them developing crispy crusts.
Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Check it after 10 minutes, and if it is colouring too quickly turn the oven down to 220°C/gas 7 for the remaining time. Once baked, the bottom should sound hollow when tapped. Drizzle more olive oil on top before serving (be generous!), and allow the focaccia to cool before slicing.
Picture copyright of Jonathan Gregson