I WANT to give a shout-out to Rohani Jelani for her original recipe that I had modified with the addition of fresh basil into the mix.
Adding basil into the dough enhanced the flavour of rosemary, and the specks of green in the focaccia gave this gourmet treat extra visual interest.
100ml warm water
1 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp dried yeast or 15g fresh yeast
500g bread flour
1½ tsp salt
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
200ml cold water
50g fresh basil, finely minced
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for the mixing bowl
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil for the baking pan
Maldon sea salt or coarse salt
10g fresh rosemary, keep whole fronds for
topping, mince remaining for dough
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Dissolve sugar in warm water, test with finger to ensure it is not too hot. Sprinkle dried yeast or crumble fresh yeast into the sugar solution and allow it to ferment until frothy, about 5 to 10 minutes.
If kneading by hand, pile flour and salt into a hill on a clean and dry tabletop. Make a well in the middle of the hill and pour in yeast sponge and olive oil. Be careful not to break the surrounding flour bund. Add a bit of the flour into the liquid to thicken its slightly before pouring in the remaining water and minced herbs.
Work in more flour into the liquid until mixture is thick and can be scraped off the table and folded into a dough. Then, using the base of your palm, knead the dough by pushing it away from you and gathering it back towards you in a smooth rocking motion. Knead for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
If kneading with a stand mixer, fill the bowl with half the amount of flour and make a well in the middle. Pour in yeast sponge, olive oil and water and beat with the paddle attachment on medium speed for five minutes to activate the gluten. Then, change to the dough hook attachment before adding the remaining flour, salt and minced herbs. Knead on low speed for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Grease a large mixing bowl with lots of extra virgin olive oil and place the kneaded dough in it. Turn over the dough so the top is covered with a film of oil. Place a wet tea towel over the bowl and leave to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 to 1½ hours.
Punch down the dough and knead lightly to expel large pockets of air bubbles, then roll it out into a 25cm square loaf. Generously grease a 25cm baking pan with extra virgin olive oil. Place the dough in it, pressing it out to fill up the entire bottom of the pan. Cover again with a wet tea towel and leave to rise for 30 minutes to one hour until the dough is light and spongy.
Dimple the surface of the dough with your fingers to make indentations and drizzle with one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Using a skewer, plant sprigs of rosemary fronds all over the dough. Drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
Place in a pre-heated 200°C oven and spray the inside of the oven with water to create steam, closing the oven door quickly after spraying. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until well-risen and light golden. Slice and serve warm with a small dish of extra virgin olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
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