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From scratch: olive, semi dried tomato and thyme focaccia

Posted Aug 05 2012 7:56am

It’s no secret that one of my favourite weekend pastimes is to get in the kitchen and cook or bake. Lately, my life has been nothing short of hectic. Work has been very busy, my parents are overseas so I’ve been keeping tabs on my elderly grandmother, sport, making time for friends and not to mention doing my bit to help organise this year’s Eat. Drink. Blog 2012 national conference. Given all of this, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like to potter in the kitchen.

Now, there’s something you must know about me, I love bread. Not just any old bread, in fact; I don’t eat supermarket or fluffy white bread at all. I love artisan bread. I mean the real, home baked, hands covered in flour sort of bread. Sadly, about 95% of the bread commonly available is machine made and full of sugar, salt and preservatives. This includes most mainstream ‘bakery’ bread. That’s why I’ve taken to baking my own sourdough bread. I avoid white flour and I always have stone ground wholemeal, spelt and rye flour on hand, so that I can make the types of bread I prefer, which are hard to come by from a supermarket or mainstream bakery.

If you know anything about baking artisan bread, you’ll know it takes time. It’s not the same as throwing the ingredients in a bread maker, pressing ‘start’ and going about your business for the day.
This morning, I woke up craving bread. The problem was: I hadn’t prepped my starter to make sourdough and I had eaten the last slice on Friday. Thankfully, the wonders of powdered yeast means that fresh, home baked bread (without the use of a bread machine) is only a few hours away.

Given my day was panning out to be pretty busy, I decided to make a focaccia. Thankfully, foccacia is quite forgiving, in that you can experiment with different flours without worrying too much about over-kneading or destroying the enzymes and gluten that help dough rise and hold together. Luckily for me because I’d never made foccacia with spelt before. I set about this first thing in the morning so I could give it plenty of time to rise whilst I was busy running errands through the day. That’s the beauty of this bread, it only takes 15 minutes to prepare and then you can leave it pretty much all day, finishing it off a mere two hours before you’re ready to serve it. Perfect.

Spelt and Wholemeal Olive, Semi Dried Tomato and Thyme Focaccia
Makes 1 large focaccia
  • 350grams spelt flour
  • 150grams stone ground wholemeal flour 
Or 500grams unbleached white flour
  • 5grams powdered dried yeast
  • good pinch of fine sea salt
  • 325mililitres warm water
  • 2 tablespoons marinated kalamatta olives, diced
  • 2 tablespoons diced semi dried tomatoes (plus oil)
  • 1 tablespoon virgin olive oil, plus extra for coating and drizzling
  • Murray river salt flakes and dry thyme to sprinkle
NB: You’ll save time (and avoid a sticky mess) by using a free-standing mixer to do your kneading.
Add the flours, yeast, salt and warm water to the bowl of a mixer and set to low to start combining. Once the dough comes together, oil your hands and fold in the olives and tomatoes by hand. Once folded in evenly, start the mixer again and add the extra oil. Leave to knead on low-medium for 10 minutes, when the dough is silky and smooth.

To avoid a great deal of dough covering your kitchen, have another bowl oiled and ready, set aside. Oil your hands again, take the dough and shape into a ball. Place in the oiled bowl and cover with a dark coloured tea towel or a black rubbish bag (the dark colour helps to retain the heat so your dough rises quicker, particularly if your kitchen is quite cold like mine).

Leave to rise until the dough is doubled in size. I left mine for about six hours.

Flick your oven on to 250 centigrade, oil a shallow baking tray and tip the risen dough into the tray. Flatten it out pressing the dough right to the edges. Cover it again and leave to rise for an extra half an hour.


When the dough has puffed up a bit, use your index finger to press deep holes about 2cm apart across the entire surface. Sprinkle generously with salt, thyme and a good drizzle of oil.

Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200 centigrade and leave to bake for a further 10 minutes. If it looks like it’s browning too quickly, turn down to 200 centigrade after 5 minutes.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the tray and then turn out to a wire rack to cool for a further 5 – 10 minutes.


To serve: Focaccia is best served warm, used for dipping into olive oil, dukkah or dips, or cut in half and used for a sandwich.


Note: It may seem like a lot of oil, so try to use only good quality, cold pressed extra virgin oil, which is far better for you .

Registrations for Eat. Drink. Blog. 2012, to be held in Adelaide in November open TOMORROW 6 August. If you’re a food and/or wine blogger based in Australia, with a minimum of 25 posts over 9 months, get in quick for your chance to score a seat at this free blogging event! You can register your interest or find out more here , but please note you must meet the criteria outlined to be considered for a place, and unfortunately due to limited seating there’s no guarantee you’ll be successful.

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