Baking bread feels like such an accomplishment.
Bread is such a readily-available staple that for non-bakers, it seems impractical to try to make one. I, for one, have never really thought of making my own bread. I’m not sure what has brought on the desire to bake – it might be just the sheer opportunity of having an oven to bake it in ( I didn’t have an oven in my condo in Manila), or it might be just because I am surrounded by fairly skilled bakers in the flat. Whatever it was that got me started, I’m glad I decided to take that first step!
After all, bread baking is one of the most useful culinary skills out there. Baking bread feels rewarding and peaceful. Like with all things in life that are worth having, it requires time, hard work, and practice. Putting your hands on the dough is such a time-tested way of doing things, and one that can’t be escaped even if you use a mixer. It shows that some things are just done best old school.
I’ve practiced making several other breads, but this one, my Red Onion and Sage Focaccia, was a hit! It was delicious and slightly easier than the other ones I’ve tried. It looks insanely impressive, so it is really one to share. Serve with some olive oil or eat on its own.
- 500g strong white bread flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 4 tsp instant yeast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 300ml cool water
- Extra olive oil for kneading and brushing over the bread
- 1 big bulb of red onion, slice into thin wedges/crescents
- ½ cup or a handful of fresh sage
- Dry ingredients first! Put the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other.
- Time for wet ingredients. You can now pour in the oil and about half of the water. Now get to work! Use your hand to mix the ingredients together. You can start adding the last of the water bit by bit until the dough becomes soft and sticky and the flour is all incorporated.
- This is quite messy. Pour olive oil on your work surface (just clean a part of the counter!) Put the dough in and start kneading. You need to use the ball of your palm to really get the dough to build into itself. You need to put this labor of love in for 5-10 minutes. You will notice that gets smoother as you knead. You will know it is ready when you can knead it into a ball, poke it, and the dough rises back.
- Place the dough into a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with cling film until it doubles in size. This takes about 2-3 hours. Warmth will speed it up. If you want to get it to rise on its own time, you can place it in the fridge over night.
- Get a baking tray (I use a round one), oil the sides, and line the bottom with parchment. Place the dough in and slowly but forcefully flatten it into shape with your hands and fingers.
- Brush the top of the dough with olive oil and then using your fingers, make dents on the bread. You can now scatter the sage and red onion on top of the bread. Cover with cling film and leave to rise another hour in the baking tray.
- Pre heat the oven to 230C. Before you put in the bread, sprinkle over some sea salt. Bake this for 20-30 minutes or until the bread is golden brown. You will also know it is ready when you tap on it and hear a hollow sound under that crisp, golden, exterior. Remove from the oven, and then leave on the cooling rack for 10 mins.
- Serve warm with more olive oil.