I'd already made three breads by the time I got to this one and I was somewhat weary, so I tried out an overnight rise in the fridge. It worked really well and had the added advantage that the bread could come straight out of the oven for lunch. That’s got to be worth some daughter-not-in-law points, right? I’m so used to being careful with getting the water you add to the yeast warm enough to activate it that it didn’t seem right that rising could happen at such a low temperature, but I suppose it’s because the yeast has already been activated before it goes in the fridge. Anyway, it worked a treat, and I just let it sit on the counter for a while to return to room temperature the next day before shaping and baking it.
The recipe for this bread was a mixture of two Nigella recipes from How to Be a Domestic Goddess. I based it on her schiacciata with gorgonzola and pine nuts because I liked it that it used some ‘00’ flour which was a bit different from the other breads I’d been mixing, but got inspiration for the focaccia style from her garlic and parsley hearthbreads. Somehow a schiacciata/hearthbread cross became a focaccia in my mind, which I imagine just shows I don't know one flat bread from another :) All it took was a bit of stirring up, an overnight stay in the fridge, and then some pulling and shaping the next day. The other focaccia I’ve made recently was a potato one from the Wednesday Chef (and in fact I made this again with rosemary on the top as part of my bread marathon). I really liked that one but The Scientist found it a bit doughy in the middle and that happened again this time even though I was alert to it. The Nigella version (which doesn’t use potato) was crispy all the way through and I was happy to serve it to guests (even ones who aren’t obliged to like me because I live with their son!). We ate it with spinach and thyme soup and some salad out on the deck. The bread was pleasantly thick without being too chewy and the sage gave it a really nice aroma. I love the feel of fresh sage, with its lovely velvety leaves. It’s almost a shame to cook with it but I suppose the leaves wouldn’t stay velvety for long in the fridge!
350g strong white flour
150g plain flour, preferably Italian 00
7g/1 sachet instant yeast or 15g fresh
2 tsp salt
300-400 ml warm water
3 tbsp olive oil
handful of sage leaves
Red onion, chopped into thin slivers
Combine the flours, yeast and salt in a bowl. Pour 300ml of the warm water into a measuring jug and stir in the 2 tbsp olive oil. Pour the liquid over the dry ingredients and mix to form a soft but firm dough, adding more water as necessary.
Now start kneading until smooth, supple and 'full of elastic life'. Form into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with oiled clingfilm and leave to rise for an hour or so until doubled in size - or overnight in the fridge.
If you've let it rise in the fridge, take it out and let it come back to room temperature before shaping. Now sit it in a roasting tin and press to fit, letting it rest for a few minutes if it looks as if it's never going to stretch to all four corners (it will). Cover the dough with a tea towel and preheat the oven to 220C/Gas 7. After 30 mins or so, the dough should be puffy and ready to be topped.
Poke your fingers all over the dough to dimple it and scatter torn sage leaves and onion over the top. Bake ten minutes, then reduce the heat to 190C/Gas 5 and cook for a further 15-25 mins until it's golden brown. Remove from the tin and cut into big slices
Other topping ideas: other fresh herbs, garlic (roasted and smushed, if you like), or mashed up gorgonzola and pine nuts, as Nigella suggests.