A hot summer’s afternoon is perfect for a picnic with nothing else to do but sit in the sun, tear off some of this focaccia bread and eat some pickles.
- 400 ml water, at room temperature
- 7 g dried yeast
- 1 tbsp milk
- 50 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 600 g plain flour, sifted
- 15 g table salt
- 3 tsp fresh marjoram leaves
- 60 ml (¼ cup) extra virgin olive oil, extra
- extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- river salt and freshly ground black pepper
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
Resting time: 1½ hours
Place a little of the water in a medium jug, add the dried yeast and combine with a fork until it dissolves. To this jug, add the remaining water, milk and 50 ml olive oil.
Place the flour and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, start it on low and slowly add the liquid in the jug. Continue mixing on low for about 2 minutes or until the dough starts to come together.
Increase the speed to high and continue mixing for 10 minutes to knead the dough, which works the the gluten.
Place the dough into a lightly oiled container, cover it with a tea towel and let it sit in a warm spot for 45 minutes. Once it’s had this little rest, pull it out of the container onto the bench, give it a quick book fold (which means folding the dough into thirds as best you can) and then place it back into the container in the same warm spot for another 45-minute break.
So to bread baking. Preheat the oven to 220°C and select a 30 cm x 40 cm large heavy-based baking tray. Make sure you use one with at least a little lip. Onto this tray, pour the extra 60 ml olive oil, using your hands to make sure it spreads all the way to the edges.
Turn your dough onto the bench – at this stage it should be feeling warm, bouncy and a little soft. With your oily hands, stretch the dough out into a nice rectangular shape until it’s about a nice even 5 cm thickness. Give it another book fold and carefully lift the dough onto your baking tray. Make sure your hands are still a little oily and stretch out the dough until it again becomes about a 5 cm thickness. Then, using your fingertips only, gently prod all over the top of the dough, leaving lots of little indentations (if your dough is behaving properly, you’ll notice that it springs back slightly). Drizzle over the top some more olive oil and season generously.
Place the tray into the oven and bake for 25–35 minutes. Open the oven door quickly and use a pair of tongs to lift the bread so you can see the underside – you want it to look crisp with a little colour. If it’s not quite there, close the door and bake for another 5–10 minutes. Once it’s ready, pull it out and allow it to cool on a wire rack.