By now, you guys should be aware that to me, Dan Lepard is to bread-making what Pierre Hermé is to pastry. My icon and absolute role model.
I never really used to make bread, except for the occasional pizza dough; but since I’ve discovered Dan’s take on bread making I’ve literally been unstoppable. Fresh yeast has become a staple in my fridge and I’m known to run to the grocery store as soon as my flour stock approaches 2kg.
So far, I had only made white loafs or buns; to which I regularly added ingredients such as herb butter, cheese or mashed potatoes.
However, I needed a focaccia for the Christmas Eve dinner my sister and I were hosting. And while I firstly intended to make my reliable pizza dough, only slightly wetter; I quickly moved on Dan’s recipe. And boy, I’m glad I did!
This focaccia is the best flat bread I’ve ever had and it’s a delight to make. Still, the whole process can seem a little daunting because of the different steps and resting times.
Given that I really want you to make this focaccia and bite into a crusty yet moist square of this fragrant bread, I thought it would be great if we made some together. Get your aprons ready!
Again, the mise-en-place is fundamental and will make you save precious time. Here, we’ll make a ferment then add water, oil, flour and salt.
For the ferment, you’ll need:
200g water at 20°C
150g flour tipo 00 (French type 45 works well too)
7g fresh yeast, finely crumbled
To which you’ll add:
150g water at 20°C
15ml olive oil, plus extra for folding
375g flour tipo 00
10g fine salt
Mix together the ingredients for the ferment in a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a cloth and leave at warm room temperature for 2 hours, giving the mixture a good stir after the first hour.
After the resting time, the mixture should be all bubbly and have doubled in size.
Whisk in the water and oil. Then mix in the flour and salt with a spoon, until roughly combined.
Cover the bowl and allow to rest for 10 minutes.
Rub your hands, the work surface and the dough with some oil and scrape the dough onto the work surface. Work the dough by gently stretching it with your right hand, keeping it in place with your left thumb. Then fold and rotate the dough. Repeat this kneading about 10 times, but make sure to stop before it starts sticking to the work surface.
Knead again twice at 10-minute intervals. The dough will change from lumpy to smooth and elastic.
Cover with a cloth and leave to rest for 40 minutes.
It’s now time to do some serious stretching and folding. This will stretch and elongate the upcoming bubbles making for big and uneven holes in the final bread.
Stretch the dough into a rectangle then fold it into thirds first in one direction then the other. Repeat this twice with 40-minute intervals.
Once you’ve stretched-folded three times, allow the dough to rest for 30 minutes before going on with the shaping.
Rub a baking tray with olive oil and place the dough onto it. Lightly flatten the dough using your fingers – it’s normal if it springs back. Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220°C. Pick the corners of the dough and stretch them out until they reach the corners of the tray. Sprinkle with a little water and some oil.
Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200°C and bake for a further 15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.