Focaccia was the first bread I ever made. And there is a very good reason for this – it’s dead simple. I mean, of course, you can make focaccia complicated. You can obsess over minute details and tirelessly perfect the process, like a sushi chef trainee making batch after batch of rice. But in my perfectly imperfect daily life, quick and dirty but delicious focaccia is all I’m after. So that’s exactly what today’s recipe is. A chill approachable rendition of an almost universally loved bread. And if you’re new to the world of yeasted doughs, this is the perfect place to start. This Orange Feta Focaccia is a confidence-building recipe.
If this recipe looks familiar it’s because you’ve seen it before. Most recently I decked it out in apricots and olives in the dead of the summer. I’ve also transformed it into pillowy-fat pizzas more than once. But today I’m giving it a winter makeover, with the help of some winter citrus and sharp and salty feta cheese.
In my mind, focaccia is a summer food. The perfect thing to nosh on while sitting on a sunny patio with half a liter of wine. I’m deeply and sadly aware that we haven’t even reached Spring yet. But does my sun lust know that? Apparently not. So on a Friday evening, I made this Orange Feta Focaccia and deluded myself into believing I was near the sea in Sicily. I’m not saying it was a particularly convincing delusion but it did give my winter-weary brain a little bit of relief. And I want the same for you, so let’s make this focaccia.
Focaccia is great for beginners because of its minimal ingredient list and cookie-cutter, potato head method. Make one loaf of focaccia and you’ll interact with all the basic hallmarks of bread making. Proofing the yeast, mixing the dough, kneading the dough, and proofing, punching, and shaping the dough. It’s a great crash course. Plus, there is a multitude of ways to make the bread your own. Switching up the toppings is the most overt variation but trust me, there are plenty of other ways to switch up a bread recipe as basic as this one. So let’s start with step one and proof the yeast.
Proofing the yeast is more or less introducing the yeast to some warm liquid, in this case, water, to sort of wake it up. Adding a little sugar to the liquid can help this process along. Proofing the yeast tests its vitality. If you leave the yeast to proof in warm water and nothing happens, you know your yeast is expired or was perhaps exposed to excessive heat at some point and died off. If your yeast is foamy at the end of those ten minutes, that means your yeast is alive and kicking and ready to make a truly righteous loaf.
Once your yeast is foamy add some salt, sugar, and olive oil – a.k.a all the remaining ingredients except the flour. When I said this was a simple recipe, I meant it. Whisk everything together and pour it into the bowl of a stand mixer. It is possible to make focaccia without a mixer but it will require more patience and forearm strength on your part. Once the wet ingredients are in the mixer, bring on the flour.
Now, I like to add half of the flour, mix the dough, and then add the remaining half in third-of-a-cup increments. Bread dough is very dependent on its environment. High humidity can result in a stickier dough, which means you might have to add more flour than was called for. If conditions are fairly dry, you may have to add less. That’s why I prefer to add the last leg of the flour slowly, so I can pull back if I need to. And this brings me to my next point, getting to know your dough.
Stand mixers are marvelous inventions. They save us time, and exertion, and give us the ability to multitask. But a dough hook is no substitute for the human hand. That’s why I like to finish bread dough by hand. It gives me the opportunity to gauge the hydration, texture, and elasticity of the dough. And because I know what I’m looking for, I can predict how well the dough will rise and subsequently bake. This is of course something you learn over the course of time through trial and error. So make a habit of getting to know your dough and you’ll be a bread soothsayer in no time.
Once the dough has been put down to rest, this is the ideal time to prep the feta and oranges as well as preheat the oven. Focaccia doesn’t require a second rising interlude after shaping, so once the dough is dressed, it’s ready to go in the oven. And speaking of the oven, this bread bakes in a 375°F oven for 30 minutes. You can turn the oven to broil to get a little more color on the focaccia if you like. I particularly like what the broiler does to the oranges. They blister ever so slightly and it brings a hint of bitterness to the finished loaf. Garnish with a little parsley and crushed red pepper flakes and your bread is ready.
And that’s everything you need to know about this Orange Feta Focaccia. An approachable bread recipe that will surprise and delight your tastebuds while bolstering your confidence as a baker.
Orange Feta Focaccia
- 1 9×13" baking sheet
- 1 Stand mixer with a dough hook
- 1⅓ cup warm water
- 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp salt
- 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 oranges skin removed, sliced
- 125g (4.5oz) feta cheese cut into cubes
- sea salt for sprinkling
- ¼ cup fresh parsley finely chopped
- 1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
- Pour the warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast and let stand for 10 minutes or until foamy. **1⅓ cup warm water, 2¼ tsp active dry yeast
- Add the olive oil, sugar, salt, and half of the flour. Mix on low until a loose dough forms. Add the remaining flour in 1/2 cup increments, waiting for each addition to become fully integrated before adding more. ***2 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tbsp salt, 3½ cups all-purpose flour
- Once the dough cleans the sides of the bowl and feels only slightly tacky to the touch, transfer it to a floured surface and knead it for 5-7 minutes or until the dough feels smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to an oiled bowl. Cover and let rise for an hour and a half or until doubled in size.
- Once the dough has risen, preheat the oven to 375°F. Punch the dough down and grease a small baking sheet with a little olive oil. Stretch the dough to fit the baking sheet and create a series of dimples with your fingers on the surface of the dough.
- Drizzle the dough with additional olive oil and press the orange slices on top. Repeat with the pieces of feta and sprinkle the dough with sea salt. Transfer the focaccia to the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn on the broiler and broil until golden. This should take less than 5 minutes. Don't walk away.2 oranges, 125g (4.5oz) feta cheese, sea salt
- Take the focaccia out of the oven and garnish with parsley and crushed red pepper flakes. Slice and serve.¼ cup fresh parsley, 1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes