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Focaccia or ciabatta

Recipe from: February 2010
Focaccia of ciabatte

Ingredients 6
Servings 8
Time 45 minutes


  • 25
    fresh yeast
  • 100
    warm water
  • 830
    white bread flour
  • 30
    olive oil
  • 10
  • 15
    chopped fresh sage, rosemary and thyme


2.45 hours
The taste of boerbrood and boerbeskuit made with salt-rising dough is typical of large parts of our country and imprinted in the genes of many of us. Like injera, some find it delicious and some don’t. But there are few who’ll turn up their noses at let’s say focaccia, that Italian flatbread flavoured with fresh rosemary, thyme and sage from your garden, or your own olives, or garlic, roast peppers and tomatoes. So if you’re already feeling a little more daring, try it. But bear in mind that the dough needs to rest for eight hours. Start by setting a sponge: Dissolve 25 g (25 ml) fresh yeast in 100 ml warm water (blood heat). Now stir in ¾ cup (180 ml) white bread flour and mix to form a batter. Pour 21/3 cups (650 ml) white bread flour on top of the batter but don’t stir. Place the bowl in a sheltered spot until the sponge has risen through the flour – it’ll take about 30 minutes. Now add 1 cup (250 ml) warm water, 2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil and 2 teaspoons (10 ml) salt, and stir to combine. You can also add 1 tablespoon (15 ml) each chopped fresh sage, rosemary and thyme leaves if you like. On a floured surface knead the dough for four to five minutes until it’s elastic. It will be very soft and a little sticky, which is why a dough scraper will come in handy to manipulate it initially. If the dough is too sticky, it’s important to knead it for a while before adding a small handful of flour. It’s the softness of the dough that helps form the holes in this kind of bread. Shape into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for about an hour until it’s elastic. Punch it down by lightly pressing the air out of the dough, shape into a ball, cover once more and leave in the fridge for eight hours or overnight. The next day, tip the dough out onto a floured surface and gently press out the air. Then cut it into two equal-sized pieces, shape each into a ball and place them well apart on a well-floured tray or work surface because they’re going to rise again. Brush the tops with a little olive oil, cover lightly
with a sheet of clingwrap and allow to rise to double the size. This will take about 1¼ to 1½ hours. Heat the oven to 230°C if you have a baking tile; if not, set the oven at the same temperature and write yourself a reminder to buy a large clay tile. Dust your hands with flour, then grab hold of one well-risen ball of dough and stretch and press it until it’s flat and circular with a diameter of 30–35 cm. At this point you could also decide to make two rectangular loaves instead and shape the bread into a rectangle, folding the sides towards the centre as you would fold a letter. It’ll look more like a ciabatta, bread shaped like a slipper. Use a baking sheet with no edges, the back of a baking tray, or even a tray. Dust generously with fine maize flour and place the disc of dough on it. Do the same with the other piece of dough, but place it on a separate sheet. Cover it and place it in the fridge while the first one is baking. Use a fork to prick the dough and, if you like, spread with olive oil, pesto or a mixture of spinach and feta cheese. With a swift flick, slip the dough onto the hot oven tile (now you know why you needed all that maize flour). If you have an Aga, just slip it onto the floor of the top hot oven. Oh, for an Aga! Bake the bread on the baking sheet if you don’t have an oven tile. It’ll turn out fine, although an oven tile supplies the strong heat from below that’s necessary for this kind of bread, and for pizza too. Half a cup of water poured onto the oven floor at the start of the baking time will provide humidity that’ll aid the rising process and produce a fine crust. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until the bread has coloured nicely. Allow to cool on a rack, although everyone knows how good freshly baked bread tastes when it’s still hot.



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