While breads made with olive oil are common, the most famous of them all is focaccia. We are all accustomed to its iconic dimpled surface and its springy texture, ready to soak up sauces like a soft sponge. The special ingredient to create that smooth crust and puffy pillow-like center is, of course, olive oil. I know you are going to love my Soft and Crusty Focaccia recipe.
Where did Focaccia Come From?
Focaccia was first made by the Romans and was baked in the coals or a fire’s ashes, known as the ‘focacius’. As the bread would have probably been quite plain, it was used to dip in soups, stews or simply olive oil. Due to its basic ingredients it was relatively cheap to make and therefore became known as a peasant bread, sustenance to feed slaves and workers. As a rustic yet filling meal, focaccia was made in the poorer parts of Italy, usually in the countryside.
One of the ingredients integral to the Italian landscape are olives, and therefore, olive oil.
Ingredients for the Focaccia
I have some simple ingredients in my Focaccia recipe.
- All Purpose Flour
- Dry Yeast
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
- Sea Salt
- Herbes de Provence
The one item you might not have readily available in your pantry is the Herbes de Provence. This is typically a mixture of: savory, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, oregano, and sometimes lavender.
Rosemary is a great substitute for the other herbs and makes a delicious seasoning with the olive oil.
Why is Olive Oil Essential in Focaccia?
Like all foods, focaccia’s flavor is defined by its fat. This fat is olive oil and epitomizes the landscape of its origins. This is why you need to choose a good extra virgin olive oil to make your focaccia as that flavor will linger throughout the bread. Choose an olive oil with a flavor you love – whether it is buttery, grassy or spicy.
Now, focaccia uses plenty of olive oil, not only in the dough, but for kneading, proofing, in the baking pan, and on the bread’s surface before baking. All this fat means the texture is light, moist and springy, the crust emerges golden and crisp, plus the center stays soft for days afterwards.
Tips for Making the Perfect Focaccia
Sometimes, as with any kind of baking, focaccia bread can be pulled from the oven as a flat, crunchy disappointment. Baking is a science and mistakes can happen, so here are some tips to help:
Tip 1 – Focaccia Dough Should be Wet
The dough should be wet. It will stick to your hands, the bowl, the kitchen counter, but be patient. That high water content is what makes it sticky, and therefore makes it rise in the oven. Keep kneading until it is smooth and elastic.
Tip 2 – Dimple the Dough With Your Fingers
Once the dough is in the baking pan, dimple it with the pads of your first three fingers. Push all the way through the dough to touch the pan! This prevents enormous airholes from forming under the crust and holds the olive oil.
Tip 3 – Olive Oil Makes Everything Better
Use olive oil at every stage. Don’t scrimp on olive oil! Pour it over the finished product too.
Tip 4 – Brine Your Dough Before Baking
Cover your dough in brine before baking. This salty water creates a delicious crust as the focaccia bakes.
This soft, crusty focaccia bread makes a delicious addition to my Roasted Chicken recipe or on a sandwich for a light lunch.
Follow my recipe for focaccia and you will feel like a baker-extraordinaire!
Soft and Crusty Focaccia with Olive Oil
- 1¾ cup All Purpose Flour
- 1 tsp Dry Yeast
- 10 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tsp Honey
- ¾ cup Water Lukewarm
- 1 tsp Sea Salt
- 1 tbsp Herbes de Provence (or Rosemary)
For the Brine
- ½ tsp Salt
- 2½ tbsp Water Lukewarm
- Pour the flour and yeast into a bowl and stir to combine.
- Mix together the water with the honey and 3 tbsp of the oil, then gradually pour it into the flour, mixing together to create a wet and sticky dough. Bring it together in your hands and tip it on to a lightly oiled or floured surface.
- Knead the dough for 3 minutes until it is a little less wet, then add your tsp of sea salt. Fold the dough over it and continue to knead until it is soft and stretchy. Put it in a clean bowl with a little oil to stop it sticking and cover with a dish towel.
- Leave to proof in a warm room for an hour, or until it has doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, mix together the remaining 7 tbsp olive oil and Herbes de Provence. Set aside.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and knead with a little oil for a couple of minutes.
- Stretch it out on an oiled baking pan – it will spring back, but pull it out occasionally for 10 minutes as it relaxes.
- Make your brine by combining the salt and water.
- Using your first three fingers, push dimples all over the dough – push right down to the baking sheet! Pour over the herby oil to fill the dimples, then cover it with your brine.
- Leave to rise for 20 minutes until it is puffy and light.
- When you have 10 minutes left of your rise, preheat the oven to 400F/200C.
- Bake the focaccia for 20-30 minutes until the surface is golden and the bread is springy.