Focaccia is a perfect picnic bite and the added feta cheese, artichokes and onions make it a complete meal. A traditional bread found all over Italy, focaccia is well loved for its soft but chewy interior rich with good olive oil and its crisp, salty crust.
Here the focaccia has been given a heavy dose of Middle Eastern flavour with the addition of za’atar, an aromatic herb blend containing za'atar-majorana syriaca, otherwise known as Syrian oregano. This is combined with sesame and sumac to create a spice mix versatile enough to add a fragrant depth to many savoury dishes.
Focaccia's distinctive open texture comes from a very wet dough. You may find it difficult to work with, but persevere. Kneading in a stand mixer makes things easier, so if you are using one, have the confidence to add the extra 50ml of water to make the bread even more moist. A combination of olive oil and water is brushed over the top before baking to give the focaccia its signature golden shine.
For the dough Serves: 6
For the topping
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp water
- 150g artichokes in oil, sliced
- 2 red chillies, sliced
- 1 medium red onion, sliced
- 1 tbsp za'atar
- 2 tbsp sunflower seeds
- A pinch of sea salt
- 1 large baking tray, oiled (25cm x 35cm)
- For the dough, put the flour and 3 tbsp of za’atar in a large mixing bowl and add the yeast and salt to opposite sides of the bowl. Combine the water and olive oil (use 550ml of water if using a stand mixer, just 500ml if kneading by hand - see notes in introduction) and gradually mix into the flour until well incorporated, to form a very wet dough.
- If kneading by hand, turn the dough onto a roughly oiled surface and knead for ten minutes until soft and elastic, or knead for six minutes in a stand mixer. You may need to add more oil if the dough begins to stick. Move the dough to a clean oiled mixing bowl, cover with oiled clingfilm and leave in a warm place for roughly an hour, until doubled in size.
- Pour half of the dough into the oiled baking tray, and gently stretch to cover the base. Evenly scatter over the feta cheese, and carefully lay over the remaining dough to form a sandwich. Cover with clingfilm and leave for another hour.
- Pre-heat the oven to 230 C or 220 C fan. Use your finger to create dimples over the surface of the dough and brush over a mixture of 2 tbsp olive oil together with 2 tbsp water. Toss together the artichoke, chilli slices and onion, and scatter over the dough. In a small bowl mix the 1 tbsp za'atar, sunflower seeds and pinch of sea salt. Sprinkle over the surface of the bread and bake for 20-30 minutes until golden. Leave in the baking tray for 10 minutes to cool, and then lift out to slice and serve.