Focaccia — that thick, fluffy Italian flatbread often drizzled with savoury herbs, olive oil, and sprinkled with cheese — is something most of us would readily tear into, but not something most of us would seriously consider making from scratch. 

"It's really easy," said Chef Janice Docherty with ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen.

"It's forgiving, so you don't have to really monitor your times, your kneading or your structure quite so much as you do with other breads that you're shaping," she said.

The actual making of the bread takes at most ten minutes, said Docherty. Waiting for the yeast to activate and build the bread structure, on the other hand, requires a bit more patience.

"They're two hours that you're waiting, so you can get a lot of bad TV in that two hours, or you can go for a run so you can have more bread when it's all over."

Breadmaking focaccia

"Drizzle it with substantial amounts of oil," says Docherty. Other toppings could include any cheese or herbs, such as feta, bocconcini, parmesan, or oregano, basil, thyme and rosemary. (Getty Images)

As you scan through the recipe, you may be surprised to find it calls for one-third cup of mashed potato. 

"They add a little bit of lightness and flavour, and some chewiness," said Docherty.

"You just take the tiniest portion that you would've maybe rinsed down the sink, put it in your freezer in that third of a cup portion, and the next time you're ready to make bread, you've got those little portions ... so you're not wasting anything."

Crispy and Chewy Focaccia Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 3 ¾ cups bread flour 
  • 2 ¼ tsp instant yeast (one 8 g package)
  • 1 ½ tsp salt
  • 1 ¾ cups warm water (100 - 110°F)
  • 1/3 cup cooked, plain mashed potato
  • 4 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp basil, crumbled
  • 1 tsp oregano, crumbled
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Breadmaking focaccia

"You need a bowl and a wooden spoon. That's all you need," said Docherty. "You don't have to pre-form or shape or make buns. You just spread it out into a giant pan." (sweetbeetandgreenbean/Flickr)

Method:

  1. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add flour, instant yeast and salt. Mix with a flat beater attachment on low to combine.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, stir together water, mashed potato and 4 tsp oil. Make sure to break up any clumps of potato. The mashed potato may seem like an odd ingredient, but it will make the bread very moist and chewy.
  3. Add potato mixture to flour mixture and mix on low speed until dough comes together. Switch to a dough hook attachment and knead on low for eight minutes.
  4. Add 1 tbsp oil to a large bowl, spreading the oil around until the bowl is evenly covered. 
  5. Transfer the dough from the mixer bowl to the oiled bowl. Pat dough with oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough ferment until doubled in volume, about two hours. The dough will be very soft and somewhat bubbly.
  6. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  7. Transfer dough to pan and gently stretch the dough by hand to fill the pan.
  8. Drizzle and spread 6 tbsp olive oil onto dough. If possible, use a good quality olive oil. You will taste the difference!
  9. Create dimples in the dough by making indentations with the tips of your fingers. You don't want to press your fingers through to the bottom of the pan, otherwise, oil will seep to the bottom and burn during baking.
  10. Sprinkle dough with herbs and cheese. Fresh herbs tend to burn, so we recommend dried herbs for this recipe. Feel free to switch up seasonings to suit your tastes.
  11. Loosely cover dough with plastic wrap and let proof for one hour.
  12. Preheat oven to 375 F. 
  13. Remove plastic wrap and bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes.
  14. Cool in pan until cool enough to handle before transferring to a rack. Cut into wedges. Makes 24 wedges.

ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen has just released a free digital cookbook, Love to be Kneaded. For the next four weeks, Chef Janice Docherty will be walking CBC's The Homestretch through a few of the recipes, to prove just how simple breadmaking can be.