I used to dislike focaccia, and thought it was a sad topping-less version of pizza, pizza’s younger slightly depressed cousin. After all, I don’t even like eating pizza crusts, so why would I make something that is essentially one big pizza crust? Then one day I had really good focaccia and realized that it’s not pizza’s worst cousin. I tried many recipes, tweaked this and that, in search of the perfect soft melt-in-your-mouth focaccia, but all my efforts only yielded monstrosities which could be used as part of home protection systems. Hard enough to wield as baseball bats. Until this recipe. Perfectly soft pillowy focaccia bread with garlic, herbs, infused oil and bruschetta dip.
What is bruschetta dip? Well, I’m not sure if they still do it anymore, but years ago when I was pregnant with devil number two, I used to go to an Italian restaurant near work the odd time for lunch. Before they brought out the starter, they would leave a bread basket with thick rectangles of focaccia with different toppings, and a dipping sauce. The sauce basically tasted like all the ingredients of bruschetta, whizzed up together. Come to think of it I’m fairly sure it was one of La Tagliatella restaurants – an Italian restaurant chain, but an awesome chain! I my have sniggered at my poor brother who was visiting from New York and went to Valencia, returning raving about this lovely Italian restaurant he and his lovely girlfriend had enjoyed a romantic meal at. He was amazed to hear that it was a chain restaurant, because the recipes there are actually THAT good.
This focaccia is the perfect consistency and has the perfect heft for dredging in and scooping up the yummy bruschetta dip, made with fresh tomatoes, basil, olive oil, garlic and balsamic vinegar. In another nudge towards its more successful cousin (pizza fangirling here), you can also press some toppings into your focaccia. As you can see from the photos, I prefer to top it with sliced onions that then get crispy and sweet and blackened. Other great toppings are sliced olives, sliced tomatoes, herbs herbs herbs…ooh and paper-thin sliced potatoes. Although don’t get too enthusiastic about your toppings or you will end up with the top of your focaccia slightly soggy and under-cooked.
This recipe has lots of olive oil – and I mean lots. It’s totally worth it but if you’re counting calories this is probably not the focaccia for you. It’s great served as a starter when entertaining, cut up and serve with the bruschetta dip and a platter of olives, sun-dried tomatoes, stuffed pimentos, grapes, whatever takes your fancy. Or use it to make a tasty open top sandwich. It’s also perfect for sopping some soup up with, and absolutely amazing with my roast pear pepper and tomato soup.
I have my eye on a low-calorie focaccia and have been experimenting to get it really soft. I think I’ve just about got it right so stay tuned and I’ll post that recipe later! For now, make, and dig into this perfect focaccia with a soft inside and a crispy onion studded exterior. FYI for this recipe I couldn’t find my rectangular baking pan. I may have eyed my round cake tins (don’t judge! It was in the midst of some focaccia-making desperation!) before deciding to bake it in my pyrex 8×10 inch baking dish. It came out just how I wanted, nice and thick, but if you’d prefer a thinner focaccia or one for making open-faced sandwiches, then switch to a 9×13 inch, no change in baking time necessary.
On another unrelated note, I was completely and utterly annoyed with the photos for this recipe. I must have mucked up some setting on the darned complicated camera and all the photos were absolutely gigantic, I kinda forgot to take enough photos of the bruschetta dip, and the flash had accidentally gone off in the dip photos – which I hate. So apologies in advance! Still trying to get the hang of food photography….
- 500 g white flour
- 1 sachet dry yeast, 7g
- 3/4 tsp salt
- ½ cup 120ml olive oil
- 4 cloves crushed garlic
- 1.5 teaspoons dried rosemary chopped
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 cup warm sugar free soy milk (240ml)
- 1/4 cup warm water (60ml)
- 1/2 small onion sliced into thin half moons
- 6 large ripe but firm tomatoes, seeded and roughly chopped
- 20 g fresh chopped basil (stalks and all)
- 2 cloves crushed garlic
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- Mix the dry ingredients (the flour, the yeast, and the salt) in a bowl.
- Heat the oil to medium-high, and then add in the garlic and herbs. Allow the raw garlic smell to cook off, and then take off the heat and leave to cool a little.
- Mix the warm soya milk and water together, add half the oil when it's cooled down a bit but still warm. (not if it's sizzling hot! DANGEROUS!). Reserve the rest of the oil, you'll need it later on.
- Mix the wet into the dry ingredients. Stir the ingredients until the dough comes together as much as possible. Then oil up your hands and get them in there! Work the dough, kneading and folding it, for around roughly 3-4 minutes until it's smooth and springs back when you poke a hole in it with your finger.
- Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel or cling film, and leave to rise for one hour.
- Knock the dough back, knead it 2 minutes and either roll it out or use your hands to squish it into the oiled baking tray/dish of your choice. I use a pastry brush and some of the reserved garlic herb oil to oil the dish on the bottom and sides.
- Leave for 15 minutes, covered with a damp cloth or cling film, then see if it the edges of your dough have crept inwards and need to be teased or smushed out again with your fingers.
- Dimple the top of your focaccia with your fingertips, and pour over the reserved oil. Add the sliced onion, pressing it into the surface, and dimpling with your fingers again.
- Bake in a preheated oven for 25 minutes at 180C or 160C (fan), with either a tray above it or covered with tin foil to prevent overbrowning. Now would be the perfect time to make the bruschetta dip!
- Remove the tray or foil and bake in the middle for a further ten minutes or until brown enough to your liking.
- This focaccia can then be tipped out on to a wire tray to cook and eaten as soon as your fingers and mouth can take the heat! I recommend slicing it into thick rectangular wedges and enjoying it with the bruschetta dip.
- Chuck everything in the blender. Blend (embarrassingly simple, I know).
- Decant the sauce to a dish or tupperware container and leave to chill in the fridge for at least twenty minutes.
- Serve with good bread to mop it up!
Serving Size3 slices
Amount Per Serving Calories 507 Total Fat 19g Saturated Fat 3g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 15g Cholesterol 0mg Sodium 460mg Carbohydrates 78g Fiber 3g Sugar 27g Protein 8g