Focaccia is a beautiful flat-style of Italian bread with regional variants. It burst onto the bread scene in the 1980s eventually becoming infamous for unremarkable versions, then forgotten, as bread eaters switched their allegiances to Turkish pide bread. This recipe is utterly delicious, lightly textured, with a full flavour redolent of olive oil and meltingly sweet roasted garlic that won’t be forgotten.
1.Place flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on medium speed until just combined. Add water and oil; mix until well combined. Beat on medium speed for 15 minutes.
2.Transfer dough to an oiled large bowl; lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap. Stand at room temperature for 3 hours or until dough has doubled in size.
3.Meanwhile, make poached garlic.
4.Line a 30cm x 40cm (12in x 16in) oven tray with baking paper; brush paper with half the extra oil. Using oiled hands, press and spread dough on tray; don’t stretch the dough too much. Rest dough for 10 minutes. Repeat stretching the dough with your fingertips to fit the tray. Stand in a warm place for 1 hour. Poke dimples into the dough with your fingertips; press poached garlic and rosemary into dimples.
5.Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200°C.
6.Drizzle dough with remaining extra oil; sprinkle with salt flakes. Bake focaccia for 20 minutes or until golden and it sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Serve warm.
7.Place garlic in a small saucepan over low heat; pour oil over garlic, making sure garlic is completely covered. Bring to a gentle simmer; cook for 20 minutes or until soft (but not mushy). Using a slotted spoon, remove garlic from oil (reserve oil for another use; see tip). Cut any large cloves in half.
This bread has so many uses. Serve it with soup or instead of sandwich bread. Use to mop up the juices of a curry or casserole, on antipasto platters or served hot from the oven with pre-dinner drinks. You can add extra toppings such as sliced olives, sun-dried tomatoes or red onion to suit your occasion.
Keep the leftover oil from the poached garlic to use in stir-fries or for marinating and grilling meat, fish and chicken.
For a variation you could omit the poached garlic and use black or green olives.