Garlic, Rosemary and Black Olive Focaccia

I’ve played around with so many focaccia recipes this past year, given there was not much else to do during lockdown! But with most of the recipes I tried I failed to reach that light and airy texture that you get in a good Italian restaurant. I then discovered the ‘slapping’ kneading technique – you literally have to slap the dough against the counter and pick it up again – and my life changed forever, I was left with a soft and airy loaf of bread. I also place a tray of water on the bottom of the oven which creates steam during the cooking process, which all contributes to creating the perfect loaf of bread.

I love olives and garlic so have stuffed my loaf with these, but you can omit these or substitute with sundried tomatoes, regular tomatoes, onions or cheese for example.

Ingredients:
Makes one large loaf

  • 500g strong white bread flour,
  • plus extra for dusting
  • 8g dried yeast
  • olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
  • handful of black olives
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 6g fine sea salt

Method:

  1. Place the flour into a large bowl, and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast and 360ml of lukewarm water, and leave for a few minutes. Gradually pour the yeast/water mixture into the well, stirring with a fork and bringing the flour from the outside to form a dough. The dough will be pretty wet but don’t be alarmed and don’t add more flour, it will start to come together in the kneading process.
  2. Knead the dough on a surface lightly dusted with flour by picking it up and slapping it back down. Continue for 8-10 mins or until the dough is smooth and springy.
  3. Grease the same mixing bowl you used for the dough with 1 tablespoon of olive oil using your hand. Place the dough into the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for at least an hour. I like to turn my oven on for 1 – 2 mins and then turn it off again to create a warm space ideal for proving.
  4. When the dough has almost doubled in size, leave in the bowl and sprinkle a little water on top and add half the sea salt, then fold the dough a few times. To fold the dough, wet your hand with a little bit of water and grab the dough at one side, lift it up, and fold it over on top of itself. Fold the dough four or five times. Then cover the bowl and let the dough rest in a warm place until doubled in size again, this should take roughly another hour.
  5. Line a deep baking tray with baking parchment (about 40cm x 30cm). Take the dough, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil on top and spread the dough all around the tray by pressing it with your fingers and then use your fingers to make dimples. Place the olives, the halved garlic cloves and the sprigs of rosemary on top and press them into the dough. Try to place them fairly deeply into the dough so that they don’t burn. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle the remaining sea salt all over the dough.
  6. Preheat the oven to 230°C/gas 9 and place a small tray of cold water at the bottom of the oven (this will be used
    to create steam in the oven and create the perfect environment for the bread to bake).
  7. Bake the focaccia for 15 to 20 mins, or until nice and golden.
  8. Once the focaccia is out of the oven, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top and let it cool for at least 30 mins.
  9. Store in foil or an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. It also freezes nicely!

Hot Cross Buns

Easter is coming up, which means warm, glossy hot cross buns are on the menu. My birthday is around Easter, and two years ago (my last pre-pandemic birthday *sigh*!) I went on a hot cross bun making class on my birthday at a cookery school in London where we learnt how to make the perfect hot cross bun. They’re worth making from scratch, I promise you’ll never buy a store bought version after this! They’re not too difficult to prep, plus your kitchen will smell amazing afterwards! You’ll need a piping bag for this recipe.

Ingredients:
Makes 6 buns

  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • 35g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice powder (you can also use allspice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 5g salt
  • 5g fast-action dried yeast
  • 20g butter
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g sultanas
  • olive oil, for greasing
  • 35g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup

Method:

  1. Mix the bread flour, sugar, mixed spice, cinnamon and lemon and orange zests in a bowl. Move this half of the mixture to one side of the bowl and then add the salt and yeast on the opposite side.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and warm the milk in a separate pan or in the microwave (until just warm/tepid).
  3. This step and step 4 can either be done by hand or using a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add the butter and half the milk to the dry ingredients, then add the egg and use your hands to bring the mixture together, incorporating the dry ingredients from the edges of the bowl as you do. Gradually add the remaining milk until you have a soft dough. You may not need all of the milk.
  4. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes and incorporate the sultanas and lemon and orange zest into the dough. The dough should be silky and elastic and form a smooth ball.
  5. Oil a large mixing bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. I usually warm up my oven for 3-5 minutes, turn the heat off and then place the bowl in there to prove.
  6. Divide the dough into 6 balls and line a baking tray with baking parchment and place on top, fairly close together and flattening them slightly. Cover in clingfilm and leave to prove again for 60 minutes until doubled in size.
  7. Preheat your oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7.
  8. For the ‘cross’ toppings for your buns, add your plain flour to a bowl with 50ml water. Mix together to make a paste and spoon into a piping bag. Pipe a cross on each bun.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pale golden-brown, turning the baking tray round halfway through if necessary.
  10. Melt the golden syrup in a pan and while the buns are still warm, brush the buns with the syrup to give them a shine and then leave to cool on a wire rack.

Cheesy tear-n-share Garlic Bread

Garlic bread is easily the best type of bread, and this recipe creates an amazing tear and share loaf that tastes as good as the ones you get in a fancy Italian restaurant! There’s actually not much proving time required compared to other loafs I have made, you only really need to let it rise for an hour or so.

Prep Time: 1.5 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

For the dough:

  • 120ml warm water
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon active dried yeast
  • 14g butter (softened)
  • 120ml milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 360g strong white bread flour

For the topping:

  • 56g melted butter
  • a handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Method:

  1. Mix the warm water, yeast and sugar together in a bowl. Whisk and leave to stand for 5-10 minutes until foamy.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare your flour mixture in a separate bowl. Mix the butter, milk, salt and 180g of bread flour in a bowl. Stir in your yeast mixture and then gradually add the remaining flour until a dough is formed. Knead for 10 minutes on a floured surface.
  3. Combine the butter, parsley, oregano, garlic and salt in a saucepan on a low heat until the butter is melted.
  4. Cut your dough into 1 inch pieces and roll into balls (each ball should roughly weigh 35-40g each).
  5. Place the balls on a lined baking tray and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour, or until the dough is doubled in size.
  6. Once your dough has risen, chop up your mozzarella into small chunks and slot in the creases of the dough balls. Pour the remaining butter mixture over your dough.
  7. Bake at gas mark 4 for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.