Ahh, Paul Hollywood, you make everything look so easy. I have to say I’m definitely becoming a better baker because of you. How To Bake is a genuinely brilliant book and I’ve probably peddled it before but I shall do so again – everything in it is begging to be made! Go buy it with your hard-earned pennies and get baking!
I’ve modified this recipe ever so slightly but only in the peripheral aspects not the major components. If you like focaccia, you’ll like this guaranteed.
250g strong white bread flour
190ml cold water
5g fast-action yeast
1 tbsp oil*
3 tsp mixed herbs
handful fresh oregano, ripped up
handful fresh basil, ripped up
*I replaced PH’s suggestion of olive oil with the oil in which sundried tomatoes are preserved. I also chopped up the capers that came in my standard supermarket tomatoes and threw them over the bread with the other herbs. I must admit I must have used a fair bit more than 1 tbsp of oil too
Sift the flour into a large bowl, add the salt to one side, yeast to the other, oil anywhere you like and three quarters of the water. PH says to use a mixer but a. I don’t have one and b. the exercise means you can eat twice as much bread! So shape your hand, dough-mixer-stylee and start mixing together in a circular motion.
Once everything is incorporated add the remaining water a little at a time, continuing to mix as vigorously as you can. Feel free to take a break every now and again! In the end I took mine out of the bowl, put plenty of oil on the work surface and kneaded it for 5 minutes before oiling the bowl and returning the dough to it. Cover with clingfilm and leave for at least an hour – my dough probably quadrupled in size.
Line a baking tray with baking parchment, dust a work surface with flour and semolina/polenta and tip the dough out on to it – save the clingfilm to use again later. Gently push out into a round and lift onto the baking tray before squishing out further. Make slits with a pizza cutter in a “leaf pattern” and gently pull the dough apart to emphasize the holes. Dust with flour and semolina/polenta, mixed herbs, basil, oregano and capers if you have any.
Preheat the oven to 220oC/425oF/gas mark 7. Cover the dough with the clingfilm and leave to prove while the oven warms up. Before you put it in the oven, drizzle with oil. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Tap the bread in various places to check it’s cooked through – it’ll have a lovely hollow sound. Cool on a wire rack and eat with an olive oil/balsamic vinegar dip.