Crisp, chewy, rich, flavourful and massively moreish, focaccia is everybody's friend, perfect for sharing or keeping all to yourself. Once you're au fait with making one of the most fuss-free loaves in the home-baking gamut, focaccia is your flexible friend, too: you can bring in all kinds of variations on the theme, such as caramelised onions, sun-dried tomatoes, roast garlic, olives or mozzarella (or a combination of up to three of these) – just knead your optional extras in after the first rise, before you press the dough into the tin.
Top tip: don't stint on the olive oil or the salt – both are intrinsic to the flavour
Best enjoyed with: a selection of antipasti and a glass of light Chianti Classico
500g strong white bread flour
5g dried yeast
325ml warm water
1 tbsp olive oil
To finish: flaky sea salt, a generous drizzle of olive oil and a handful of fresh rosemary sprigs
Mix the flour, yeast, salt, oil and water together in a bowl until it forms a sticky dough. Turn the dough out on to a clean, floured work surface and knead until smooth and silky (about 10 minutes), occasionally dusting your hands with flour if the mixture is too sticky to be pliable.
Shape the dough into a ball, plop it into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film or a clean tea towel and leave to rise (preferably in a warm place) for around one hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
Knock the risen dough back and tip it into a lightly oiled, shallow baking tray approximately 26 x 36cm. Using your fingertips, stretch and press the dough into the the edges and corners of the tin before leaving to rise again – covered, as before – for about 30 minutes.
Towards the end of the second rise, preheat your oven to 250°C/Gas Mark 10 (or as high as it will go.)
Just before baking, use your fingertips to poke deep holes across the whole surface of the dough, almost to the base. Drizzle the dough generously with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and tuck the rosemary sprigs in the dimples. Bake for about 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to about 200°C/Gas Mark 6 and bake for a further 10–15 minutes until crisp and golden on top.
Allow to cool on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before serving.