Focaccia: the best bread for summer.

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Summer has come to Finland in full blast and apart some brief moment of discomfort I am thoroughly enjoying is. This unfortunately also means less time to bake, less tome to blog and most of all less will to put the hot oven on…

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However a couple of weeks ago I decided to defy the dreaded heat machine and prepare something that although not sweet is something that I identify as summery especially: focaccia. Don’t get me wrong, I like focaccia so much I think one should eat it all year round but for some reason for me focaccia is the epitome of the summer bread. Maybe because one can add different flavour and make it more suitable for the season, maybe because its format is perfect for picnics and eating “al fresco” or maybe also because it is so simple and quick to make that it even needs much less cooking in the oven compared to a regular bread loaf (again, the dreaded heat machine 🙂 ).

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Whatever your reason is, it is undeniable that a fresh summer salad, with a slice of fresh home-made focaccia makes a perfect dinner in a slow relaxed evening of mid-summer. This time I made my with rosemary and garlic, for a more robust flavour, but when it comes to focaccia the limit is only your imagination: sage, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, grilled vegetables, cured meat, I could go on for a while…

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Just make sure you stick to a few, but important, principles:
– Oil. Make sure to use is olive oil, extra-virgin if possible, no other oil can compare to it in terms of the flavour imparted.
– Do not get scared by the amount of water, the dough will get very sticky, it is supposed to. And try to resist the temptation of adding more flour, use oil to not let it stick to the bench and to your hands.
– The oven has to be very hot, almost like with pizza (actually if you have it, baking it on a pizza stone would be perfect) to get the crisp crust and soft centre.
– If you can, sprinkle rough and not fine salt at the end.

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Have a good Sunday!

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Recipe

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500g/1lb 2oz strong white bread flour
2 tsp salt
1 sachets dried fast action yeast
2 tbsp olive oil
400ml/14fl oz cold water
olive oil, for drizzling
rough sea salt

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Place the flour, salt, yeast, olive oil and 300ml/10½fl oz of the water into a large bowl. Gently stir with your hand or a wooden spoon to form a dough then knead the dough in the bowl for five minutes, gradually adding the remaining water. If you prefer this can be done with a machine too.

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Stretch the dough by hand in the bowl, tuck the sides into the centre, turn the bowl 80 degrees and repeat the process for about five minutes. If you are using a machine, mix at full speed for a bout 4-5 minutes.

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Tip the dough onto an oiled work surface and continue kneading for five more minutes. Return the dough to the bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size. Make sure the bowl is well oiled before returning the dough.

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Line 1 large oven tray with baking paper. Tip the dough out of the bowl and flatten it onto the baking tray pushing to the corners, then leave to prove for one hour.

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Preheat the oven to 230C. Drizzle the loaves with oil, sprinkle with the salt then bake in the oven for 20 minutes. When cooked, drizzle with a little more olive oil and serve hot or warm.

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