Festive Focaccia

As the clock ticks closer to Hogmanay, we scatter around the shops looking for supplies to stock up the house for guests coming over to welcome the New Year.

I love being a host, but there is nothing worse than the fear of running out of food and starving your guests. Being the host comes at a cost though and if you’re too generous, you can end up spending a weighty sum.

Save yourself a few pennies and bake a Focaccia to be shared out between guests. Packed with flavour, Focaccia is an ideal bake and cut right can serve up to twenty people (ten if you have hungry Horus’ in attendance).

Teeming with holly red and green, this vine tomato and pesto focaccia adds extra festive colour to the household stepping in as an arrival appetiser, a side to your soup and even a post dinner bite to offer to your stuffed guests.

Before I go into the nitty gritty, I’ll give you a few pointers:

  • Make sure you give yourself enough time, don’t do what I do and start at 9pm, unless you’re ok with going to bed at 1am
  • Most recipes will tell you to use type 00 flour, this is quite a pricey flour so don’t worry if you don’t have any in the cupboard or have much money to splurge, plain flour works just as well

What you need

  • 300g strong white flour
  • 200g plain flour (most recipes tell you to use 00 flour, but plain flour works just as well)
  • 7g fast action dried yeast
  • 300ml warm water
  • 100ml olive oil
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • ½ tbsp fine salt
  • 1 pack of vine tomatoes

For the basil pesto

  • Large bunch fresh basil
  • Olive oil
  • Juice 1⁄2-1 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic

How to make

  1. Add both flours, yeast, salt and sugar to a large mixing bowl and make a well in the middle of the mixture. Pour in the water and combine with your hands until the mixture just combines
  2. Pour in the olive oil and mix again with your hands, you’ll be left with a very wet, loose and soft dough
  3. Turn out the dough onto a clean surface and knead away. The dough will be pure slop at this point, but be patient, the dough will eventually form together. Focaccia dough is an airy dough, so be sure to pick the dough up, drop it to the surface and fold the dough onto itself continuously to get as much air in as possible (think of Bake Off). Knead for about 8mins
  4. Once kneaded, place the dough in a lightly oiled large clean bowl and cover the bowl with a lightly oiled piece of cling film. Leave in a warm place and leave to prove for 1.5-2 hours. The dough will be doubled in size
  5. Once risen, empty the dough onto a work surface and knead gently for ten seconds – you want to redistribute the air in the dough to try and keep as much in as possible
  6. Lift the dough into a 20 x 30cm deep rectangular tin. Gently press the dough with your fingertips to spread the dough across the tin. Don’t stretch or pull the dough – it might not stretch to the edges of the tin but once in the oven, it will spread out
  7. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for a further hour, we want it to double in size again
  8. Preheat the oven to 220°c / 200°c fan / gas mark 7
  9. While your dough proves and the oven preheats, it’s time to make the pesto. Put the basil leaves into a food processor and blend until finely chopped. Add in the lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper for taste and add in enough oil until the pesto can be drizzled
  10. Once your dough has proved, cut the vine tomatoes into short lengths and arrange around the dough and press them into the dough slightly. Generously drizzle olive oil over the dough and sprinkle salt
  11. Bake the dough for 10-15 minutes until golden then reduce the heat to 200°c / 180°c fan / gas mark 6 and bake for another 20 minutes.
  12. Once cooked take the focaccia out of the oven and leave in the tin for 5 minutes. Remove from the tin and place on a cooling rack for 30-40 minutes. When cooled, drizzle the pesto over the top and your focaccia is ready to be cut and fed to the masses.
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