Pesto Focaccia

I’m a bread lover. I come by it honestly, genetically coming from a long line of bread eaters. When I was a kid, there wasn’t a meal served where a loaf of bread did not occupy the most prestigious position on the table, right beside the salt and pepper. There is something magical about a crusty loaf of bread, but when you feel the need to live dangerously you can jazz up your loaf by rolling it flat and adding a few toppings. Feel free to experiment and be creative. Here is one of my favourites. 
What you need: (a basic bread recipe)
  • 2 packages of active dry yeast (2 tbsp)
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 600-700ml lukewarm water (adjusting as needed)
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 kilo (8 cups) of flour
What you need for the topping:
  • A good handful of basil leaves 
  • 4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup of toasted pine nuts
  • 4 tbsp commercially prepared pesto (optional)
  • Coarse sea salt (a generous sprinkle)
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil for the surface 

How it’s done:
  • Dissolve your yeast and honey in half of the water and let sit for a few minutes
  • In a large mixing bowl combine the flour and salt
  • Make a well in the centre of your flour and add the yeast water mixture 
  • Using a fork slowly combine the flour into the water with short circular movements until all of the initial water in incorporated.
  • Add the remaining water and work the dough with your hands until you have a nice ball of elastic  dough.
  • Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead for 5-10 minutes. 
  • Grease a large mixing bowl.
  • Place your ball of dough in your bowl, cover with a towel and put it in a draft free place.
  • Let rise for an hour or so or until it has doubled in size.
  • I usually use round pizza pans so I divide the dough into thirds and roll out 3 rounds about 1/2 inch thick.
  • Using a trick I learned from reading Jamie Oliver, I use the tips of my fingers to push into the dough creating a dimple effect, allowing places for the olive oil to pool. 
  • As you guessed it, now is the time to add the oil. Don’t be shy, with a spatula or pastry brush evenly coat the surface with oil.
  • At this point if using prepared pesto take a teaspoon and evenly drop the pesto onto the surface of the dough.
  • Sprinkle the surface with the coarse salt, and add the garlic, basil leaves and pine nuts.
  • Place into a pre-heated oven and bake at 200C/400F for about 20 min. 
I am warning you this recipe is rather addictive and if indulged will have serious consequences on your waistline! Be warned.
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