Lorraine Pascale's focaccia bread

Great for sharing, and made even better with the use of a really fine extra-virgin olive oil, this is brilliant when served warm as a starter or as a meal in itself with fresh tomatoes, artichokes and cold meats.

Serves: 6-8
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 25-30 minutes

You will need

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet of fast-action dried yeast
80ml olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
150–250ml warm water
Vegetable oil or oil spray,for oiling
1 bunch of fresh rosemary
Large pinch of sea salt

Method

1.   Dust a large flat baking tray with flour. Put the flour in a large bowl, add the salt and yeast, then add the olive oil plus enough warm water to make a soft but not sticky dough. The dough should feel quite loose and not tight and difficult to knead. If the whole amount is added it may appear that the dough is beyond repair, but gently kneading by way of scooping up the dough, scraping any sticky bits on the surface and slapping it back down again for a few minutes will see the dough begin to become ‘pillowy’ and more manageable. The more water that can be added (the full 250ml is great) then the lighter the bread will be. But it can take some perseverance. Also resist the temptation to add more flour as it will make the dough too heavy.

2.   Knead the dough for about ten minutes by hand on a lightly floured work surface or for five minutes if using an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. The dough will feel stretchy when pulled. To test if it is ready, make a ball with the dough then, using a well-floured finger, prod a shallow indent in the side (no more than ¾cm). If the indent disappears by way of the dough springing back then it is ready to shape. If the indent stays, knead for a few minutes longer. Shape the dough into an oval and place it on the prepared baking tray. Flatten it out to about 30cm long and 20cm wide. Cover the dough loosely with oiled clingfilm, making sure it is airtight.

3.   Preheat the oven to 200°C/ 400°F/ gas mark 6. Leave the dough in a warm place for about 1 hour, or until it has almost doubled in size. With a floured index finger press holes in the dough at regular intervals, about 4cm apart in rows across the dough, pressing right down to the bottom. Take 3cm long sprigs of the rosemary and push them into the holes. Sprinkle some sea salt over the dough and place in the top third of the oven. Bake for about 25–30 minutes, or until the bread is well risen, light golden brown and feels hollow when tapped underneath.

4.   Remove from the oven, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and leave to cool on the baking tray.

Recipe, Baking Made Easy by Lorraine Pascal (HarperCollins, RRP £18.99).

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