A classic focaccia with an airy, soft crumb and a light, crispy, slightly oily crust. This loaf celebrates the promise of spring with bittersweet blood oranges and a burst of licorice from fennel seeds.
I’ve been wanting to bake my own bread since I saw Lidia Bastianich bake a focaccia on TV well over a year ago. But I’ve been too intimidated. It just seemed like…so much could go wrong. It seemed like something you should really go to school for. And, hopefully, your teacher would be Lidia Bastianich.
Focaccia Bread with Blood Oranges and Fennel Seeds
Every time I’d see a beautiful homemade loaf on Pinterest my desire to try it myself would rise up only to wither and die in the face of my insecurity. I may be the most nervous baker (of anything) that ever lived.
Recently, though, my inherent desire was fueled rather forcefully by the bread chapter in Michael Pollan’s fantastic book, Cooked. And I just knew it was time to give it a try. I rolled up my sleeves, dusted my counter tops with flour and finally dove into making a focaccia.
And now I can’t stop.
There’s a sensuality involved in baking focaccia I haven’t experienced in any other kind of cooking or baking. The yeasty smell. Lightly kneading that soft, spongy ball of dough. The magical rising that happens in the moist, warm air under your kitchen linens. And then there’s all that oil! It’s pure pleasure.
If, like me, you’re a nervous baker let me put your concerns to bed. Focaccia is one of the simplest, most forgiving loaves out there so it’s the perfect way to begin your bread baking adventures. If you feel the need to watch a video first (I certainly did!) this one by Gordon Ramsay is quite good – if you can stomach the overly dramatic voice over. I particularly liked seeing his way of combining and then kneading the dough.
The stained glass effect of the blood oranges in this focaccia make it particularly impressive. It’s large enough to feed a crowd so it’s great to bring to a party or potluck. The bright notes of citrus make it seem very brunch-y to me. And, even more specifically, Easter brunch-y because of it’s spring like optimism. It goes well with a cup of coffee or Earl Grey tea or an Aperol Spritz, if your brunch goes that way. Mine usually does.
The one thing you don’t want to do is bake one of these babies without an opportunity to give some away. Self-control goes right out the window when this bread is around. Especially when it’s fresh out of the oven.
I plan to move on to other types of bread and at some point I am sure I’ll attempt a sourdough. But focaccia will always be my first love.
Do you enjoy baking bread? Do you have any good gluten free bread recipes to share with me? Let me know in the comments.
- 1 3/4 cups of warm water
- 1 package of active dry yeast
- 1 Tablespoon of sugar
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1 Tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 cup of extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 Tablesoons of fennel seeds, crushed with mortar and pestle
- 2 blood oranges, in 1/4 inch slices with rinds removed
- Coarse sea salt for topping
- In a small mixing bowl with a spout, combine water, yeast and sugar. Cover with kitchen towel and let sit in a warm area of your kitchen for at least 15 minutes until it's frothy and smells a little like beer.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the two flours, salt, 1/2 cup of the olive oil and the yeast mixture.
- Whisk your hands around inside the bowl in a loose claw-like manner until the dough just comes together. It will be sticky. (A good visual for this is the Gordon Ramsay video mentioned in the post.)
- Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead gently into a soft ball.
- Lightly oil the mixing bowl and place the dough back into it.
- Cover and let sit in a warm area until it doubles in size, about an hour.
- Cover your baking sheet, with half of the remaining olive oil (1/4 cup) and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
- Place risen dough on baking sheet and stretch out evenly to meet the edges of pan.
- Create craters on surface of the dough with your fingers.
- Sprinkle liberally with crushed fennel seeds.
- Cover and let rise again for about an hour.
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Push orange slices into the surface of the dough.
- Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and drizzle with remaining olive oil (1/4 cup.)
- Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top crust turns gold.
- Let cool slightly before cutting but best served warm and fresh.
A note on types of pans to use: I have always used a regular baking sheet around 11" x 18". It makes a thinner focaccia than some I've seen. I've seen recipes that call for a 9x13 jelly roll pan which would make this loaf considerably thicker.