We got this lovely recipe for fluffy focaccia bread from Sarah Raven’s cookbook In Season which is absolutely gorgeous and mouthwatering in every way. Preceeding every recipe is a short personal story, and the book is filled with her own recipes as well as those from friends and family. There are brightly colored photographs of her foods, as well as pictures of Sarah working on her farm and harvesting the fresh produce seen in all her dishes. I also love the way the book is organized; it is seasonal, and for me, in an age and place (California) where nearly all produce can be grown fairly locally in all times of year, this way of reference is very refreshing. It certainly makes me think about what ingredients I’m using and when. For instance, if you want to work with a specific fruit or vegetable, you have to think carefully about what season it is ‘traditionally’ grown in and then you can find a host of recipes to work with. Sarah Raven lists this focaccia recipe as a Sungold Tomato Focaccia (her favorite type of cherry tomato), and it is under the “July/August” section in her book, where she writes that “Good tomatoes are the defining taste of summer, when their round, juicy softness comes into its own. The more of that justpicked, slightly acrid – almost poisonous – smell that they have the better. They are, after all, related to deadly nightshade…”
This recipe is very easy; however, like most yeasted breads, it just requires that you have the time and patience to let it rise. This one has multiple rising times, so it takes awhile. But it is certainly worth the wait, for the finished bread (and baking aroma) is amazing! We used a bit less oil than the recipe called for, and so I’ve written it how we made it below. We also doubled the recipe, and made one loaf savory and one a bit sweeter, which was a nice contrast! The toppings we used for each loaf is also written below, but the bread ingredient amounts are listed for only one loaf of bread.
Bread Ingredients for 1 loaf:
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 level tsp. sea salt, and a little more for topping
2 3/4 cups bread flour
5-8 Tblsp. olive oil
We topped one of our loaves with:1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. peppercorns
1 large tomato, sliced in 1/4 inch thick rounds
1 head of garlic, already roasted and cloves separated
Our other loaf was topped with:1 1/2 tsp. dried lavender (some crumbled into tiny bits, a few left whole)
1 tsp. fresh lemon rosemary
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. sugared safron
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Stir in the salt and all the flour to make a fairly sticky dough. If the dough is very soft it makes the yeast work more quickly and then you get the characteristic holes forming in the bread, so try not to add extra flour.
Cover it with plastic wrap and leave to rise for 30-45 minutes. When it has doubled its volume, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Fold the dough in the bowl to integrate the oil and then cover again with plastic wrap and leave the dough to rise as before.
Repeat this whole process twice, each time adding another tablespoon of the oil and folding.
When the dough has risen for the fourth time, place it on a small flat baking sheet (about 9 x 12 inches) lined with parchment paper or greased with olive oil. Push the dough out to the corners (it should be about 3/4 inch thick) and then add another tablespoon of olive oil and press it into the bread. You’re aiming to make 1/4-inch dents.
Cover the dough with a cloth and leave to rise again for another hour or so until it has doubled in volume and begun to bubble.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Sprinkle the dough lightly with sea salt, scatter over the tomatoes and rosemary, and bake in the preheated oven. Place a heatproof bowl of water in the bottom of the oven. This creates steam, which gives a lighter, fluffier texture to the bread.
Bake until the focaccia has a nice golden color. Allow to cool for half an hour and then place on a wire rack to cool further.
The inside will be nice and fluffy, full of beautiful airy holes. Make sure you eat it when it’s warm and still very soft: