Focaccia is one of my favourite breads. It is soft, moist, with a nice crust on the outside. Gold by Harlan Goldstein in Hong Kong serves a really good focaccia which comes with a pesto dip. My brother, who is usually really particular about not eating bread before dinner as not to ruin his appetite, would have at least 3 pieces of this focaccia everytime we went to Gold. Each piece was about the size of my fist! It was that delicious. But bread was something I never thought of making myself. It just seemed so hard and time-consuming with all that kneading, yeasty stuff, and having to let it rise.
Then came my study break, and I had a week off from school. I was lazing on the couch one day catching up on my TV shows when my brother walked past, complaining that we had run out of bread (he wanted to make a sandwich). So, being the nice big sister that I am, I offered to make him fresh homemade bread! I looked online for the easiest recipe I could find, tweaked it a bit, and the focaccia came out amazing. My brother loved it (yay!) and I brought it to school to let my classmates (aka guinea pigs) try some. I’m sure they were being polite, but everyone gave positive comments.
This recipe is versatile. You can omit the red onions, switch herbs, and add other toppings. I made another version with garlic and sun-dried tomatoes, which worked really well too. Or make it with just olive oil and garlic, and make your own pesto!
- In a small cold saucepan, combine olive oil, garlic, thyme, rosemary and the black pepper. On low heat, stir the mixture occasionally until aromatic, for about 8 minutes. Do not let the garlic brown. Pour into a bowl and let it cool.
- Using the same saucepan, cook the onions on medium low heat until they begin to soften, but not yet translucent. If they are cooked through, they will catch in the oven when you bake the focaccia. Remove from heat.
- In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast and honey. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Add 1 cup of flour and ¼ cup of the infused oil mixture. Using a spatula, stir a few times until the flour has moistened. Let sit for another 5 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining 1 ½ cups of flour and the salt. Once the dough comes together, transfer to a floured board and knead the dough 10 to 15 times until smooth. Here is a great tutorial on how to knead dough.
- Transfer to a large oiled bowl, cover with a warm, damp towel and let it rise for 1 hour. Make sure the bowl is in a warm area without air conditioning or draft, as this will affect the rise of your dough.
- After 1 hour, heat oven to 230 C/450 F.
- Use 1 tablespoon of the oil mixture to oil a 9 x 13 inch rimmed baking sheet. If you are using a non-stick pan, then you can skip this step, as the dough itself is oily enough.
- Transfer dough to the baking sheet and press it down into the pan. Use your fingers to dimple the dough then drizzle the top with 1 tablespoon of the oil mixture. You can save any remaining oil as a marinade, like for lambchops.
- Let the dough sit for 20 minutes uncovered then bake 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. Transfer focaccia to a rack and cool.