Baking is all about sharing. Even after more than three decades in many different professional roles, nothing beats making something for someone else and seeing their eyes light up when they taste it. My mother was great at making biscuits and pastries, but my father was the bread and pie man. He would always come home from work at his bakery smelling of bread. It’s the same with me now—I love my pastry, scones and doughnuts, but it’s bread that’s my real passion.
When I joined the industry, I started out working at my father’s bakery and the first thing I learnt was how to make a proper loaf. My father put me with the best guys who mixed and shaped the dough on the table, and who ran the ovens. They taught me so much and I’m so grateful to them.
The Ultimate Focaccia
I’ll often take one of these with me if I’m going to a dinner party—it always disappears very quickly! There’s a lot of water in the dough which you need, as otherwise you can end up with a cakey texture. Focaccia is simple to make though, because it’s in a pan, so there’s only one way for it to go. Make sure you push the olives, tomatoes and onions right down into the indentations and use plenty of olive oil on the bottom and drizzled over the top. And don’t over-bake this one; you want it to stay light and soft inside. Makes one large focaccia.
4 cups (500g) bread flour
1 tsp (8g) fine salt
3¾ tsp (10g) instant dried yeast
2 tbsp (30g) olive oil, plus extra for oiling
1½ cups (370g) water
½ cup (75g) pitted Kalamata black olives
1 small red onion
10 cherry or grape tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
About ⅔ cup (135g) olive oil, to drizzle
Flaky sea salt
Put all of the dough ingredients into a large bowl and stir together to combine and form a dough. Fold a corner of the dough into the middle and push firmly, then rotate the bowl 90° and repeat. Continue this folding and turning action for 2 minutes then tip the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and knead for 10 minutes until soft and elastic. Alternatively, use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook to mix and knead the dough, for 2 minutes on slow and 7 minutes on medium speed.
Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with a large freezer bag and leave to rise at room temperature for 2 hours until at least doubled in size.
Liberally oil the base of a large, shallow baking pan, about 9 x 13 inches (22½ x 32½cm). Tip the dough out onto a lightly oiled surface and stretch it to fit the dimensions of the prepared pan. Drizzle with lots of olive oil and make firm indentations all over the surface with your fingers. Put the pan into a roomy freezer bag and leave to proof for 1½ hours.
Remove the pan from the freezer bag and put the olives evenly on the dough, pressing them firmly in place. Cut the onion into slim wedges and distribute these over the dough, pushing them in too. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and press them evenly into the dough. Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with the dried oregano and a generous amount of flaky sea salt.
Heat your oven to 450°F. Bake the focaccia for 20 minutes or until golden brown. As you take the focaccia from the oven, drizzle more olive oil over the surface. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.
Bake by Paul Hollywood is available from Bloomsbury