Monthly Archives: March 2015

Basil and Olive Focaccia

Basil and Olive Focaccia fresh from the oven.  © Sue Todd Photography 2015

Basil and Olive Focaccia fresh from the oven. © Sue Todd Photography 2015

This is a Paul Hollywood recipe from his ‘100 Great Breads’ book and is delicious.  If you haven’t come across this book I can recommend it.  Paul used all black olives which I didn’t have, so ours used a mixture of green and black and worked well.  Gary prefers green olives so he loved it though I think I’d prefer it with all black olives – but what is life without compromise?

This goes wonderfully well with Gary’s Tomato Soup and together they make a smashing lunchtime treat that is substantial and warming as well as really tasty.

Ingredients:  Basil and Olive Focaccia for 1 loaf

  • 500g or 1lb 2 oz strong white bread flour, and extra for dusting,
  • 1 tbsp salt,
  • 100 ml/3 ½ fl oz olive oil,
  • 30g/1 oz fresh yeast,
  • 300 ml/¼ pint of water,
  • 125g/4 oz pitted olives, black or green, left whole
  • a handful of freshly chopped basil leaves,
  • salt water – made using 30g/1 oz salt dissolved in 100 ml/3½ fl oz warm water

Method:  Basil and Olive Focaccia

If you like to knead your dough with your hands,  tip the flour, salt, half the olive oil, the yeast and water into a large bowl.  I prefer to use my KitchenAid Stand Mixer to do the hard work so I put my ingredients in there and mix on speed 2.  Combine your ingredients in the bowl, before turning it out for kneading – approx 6 minutes.  I like to use a floured marble slab for kneading, but actually these days I prefer to let my KitchenAid do the work, so it continues and my dough generally spends about 10 minutes in total being well and truly pummelled.

I like to lift the dough out of the KitchenAid bowl and quickly oil the bowl lightly before popping the dough back in and setting it to rise on the AGA.  But any oiled bowl and warm place will suffice.  Cover with a clean tea towel and leave it to rise until doubled in size, time for this will vary depending on how warm it is but generally it shouldn’t take longer than a couple of hours.

I like to lay a sheet of greaseproof paper/baking parchment on a tray now instead of greasing the tray – it makes removal of the loaf so much easier when it’s cooked.  Paul recommends a baking tray  with raised edges (a bit like one for tray bakes), but I used a trusty cold shelf for the AGA instead.  His way may make it easier to inset the olives though!

Once your dough has risen, mix the basil and 100g or 3½ oz of your olives into the dough.  This is a bit messy and the odd olive may escape – our spaniels keep a keen watch out for any such tasty morsel.  Next put the dough into/onto your flat or tin and flatten it out until it’s about 2.5cm in thickness.

Basil and Olive Focaccia, ready to eat.  © Sue Todd 2015.

Basil and Olive Focaccia, ready to eat. © Sue Todd 2015.

Brush the surface of your Focaccia with olive oil and press indentations into the surface using your fingers.  Set to rise once again for about an hour.

If you are using a conventional oven you’ll need to preheat it to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8.

When it’s ready to go in, brush the dough with salt water before drizzling with what’s left of the olive oil.  Press the remaining olives into the surface of the dough before popping it in the oven.  If you are using an AGA, mine goes into the baking oven.

It will need to cook for around 20-25 minutes until its turning a nice golden brown.  Lift it from the oven and transfer gently to a cooling rack to cool.  This is where the parchment/greaseproof paper comes in very handy indeed – and it makes washing up a breeze too.

I think this works well with soup – see Gary’s Tomato Soup but it’s also great with cheese and makes a lovely light meal with a glass of wine.

Gary’s Tomato Soup

Gary's Tomato Soup © 2015 Sue Todd Photography.

Gary’s Tomato Soup © 2015 Sue Todd Photography.

We wanted soup and I had in mind some bread, specifically some focaccia bread via a Paul Hollywood recipe – for which I of course didn’t have the right ingredients as per usual so had to amend it slightly – I’ll post that shortly.  It needed a good soup and we discussed ‘the soup’ and this is what transpired ….

It was wholesome, filling, warm and welcoming.  I ‘needed’ tomatoes and beans, it was cold, I ‘wanted’  rich and warming.  Armed with that Gary went dutifully off to the kitchen bless him.  The long slow cooking brought out the best in the tinned tomatoes and I’m looking forward to trying this with home-grown fresh tomatoes later in the year.  I can’t help thinking that come summer this will be luscious with fresh beans of any kind from the garden in place of the borlotti beans.  So there will be updates on this one I think.

In my ideal world this would have hit the blog at the beginning of March, but life kinda got in the way as it does from time to time.  Indeed we had a plan for the year for our English Country Cooking Blog, but with Gary out of action for several months, once he was on his feet again we had to catch up once more.  Catching up has taken way longer than we thought and I’m not sure we’re there yet, but hey ho, tis the way of the world.  So it’s the end of March and not a word from us … what can I say?  I can say we’re fired up again, but slow because there’s still issues with what we can actually achieve in the course of a day (of course in my mind the endless task list should always be cleared … UGH!), reality slows us down somewhat.  But there will be more and I hope lots, hopefully as I’ve planned it but if not, well let’s face it the world isn’t gonna end is it? (Issues note to inner self to listen to what I write!).

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