Olive and Rosemary Focaccia

Nicolette van Niekerk
While hovering over the bread and taking photos, I had to constantly wipe the lens of the camera from all the steam being released from this freshly baked bread. Even while it baked in the oven, I could smell olives cooking, olive oils toasting the top crust of the bread and rosemary settling into the already delicious sweet dough while being baked – irresistible! Just before baking the bread, sprinkle olive oil over the dough, crush the sea salt and together with freshly ground black pepper, finish it off with fresh rosemary. It makes 2 loaves of bread and I’ll serve it with a rack of lamb or lamb chops that have been roasted on the fire and some dry red wine. DSC_2008 copy   Preparation time: 15 minutes Proving time: 2 Hours Baking time: 20 -25 minutes Ingredients: 700g /5. ½ Cups Strong White Bread Flour 3ml salt 10ml castor sugar 7g quick dry yeast 2 tsp dry rosemary 450ml / 1 ¾ cups warm water 3 tbsp olive oil 75g pitted black olives- chopped To finish: Drizzle olive oil Coarse sea salt Freshly ground pepper Fresh rosemary sprigs 5-10 olives pitted, pushed into the dough before baked unbaked bread Method:
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and oil a baking tray.
  2. Sift the flour; salt and sugar in a bowl then stir in the yeast and rosemary.
  3. Make a well in the center. Pour in the warm water and olive oil and mix by hand until soft dough is formed.
  4. Turn out onto a light floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. (I kept adding a little bit of flour to the dough until it gave me a “non-sticky” workable soft dough. Be careful though to make it too dry).
  5. Chop the olives and pat them dry before adding kneading them into to the dough. Put in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to proof in a warm place for 1 ½ hours or until it’s double in it’s size.
  6. Turn the dough out of the bowl and knead again for 2 minutes. Divide the dough in half to make two loafs and roll out each piece into a circle of about 25cm.
  7. Transfer them to an oiled baking trays and cover with oiled cling film. (I made mine in an oval form, just because I preferred to ).Leave them for another 30 minutes to rise a bit further.
  8. Using your fingertips, make dimples in the dough. In our Afrikaans language, we call this a “matras brood” or translated, “matrass bread”. Drizzle the oil over the dough, then insert some of the olives into the dimples. Sprinkle with course salt and grounded black pepper as well as rosemary springs.
  9. Bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until risen and golden brown.
  10. To test, knock on the bread, and when it has a hollow sound, it’s probably ready. Rather take it out of the oven as it could bake for too long after that and burn.
  11. Serve with a roasted rack of lamb or lamb chops, roasted on the fire and a dry red wine.