Overnight garden focaccia

Focaccia translates to ‘hearth bread’, which is handy, because while most overnight doughs are hoping for a high rise, this one’s all about the chew. It utilises the no-knead method popularised in The New York Times by Jim Lahey and Mark Bittman over 15 years ago and improved upon by Kenji López-Alt, but with a wetter dough and olive oil for a chewier crumb à la Samin Nosrat’s. Lahey aptly credits this technique as being the one originally used to bake bread in ancient Rome… the home of, you guessed it: focaccia! It’s up to you whether you go the glorious garden route or keep yours more traditional.

Serves 8


For the overnight dough
450g white bread flour (see *Worth It)
2 tsp dried yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt flakes
375ml lukewarm water
1 tbsp olive oil

For the garden toppings
Multi-coloured capsicums and mild chillies, thinly sliced
Multi-coloured tomato slices
Red onion or spring onions, thinly sliced
Mixed herbs, such as marjoram, basil, chives, and parsley, chopped
Olives and/or other pickled goodies such as capers, artichokes, or sun-dried tomatoes
Olive oil, for drizzling
Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling

For the traditional toppings
A small handful of rosemary leaves
Olive oil, for drizzling
Sea salt flakes, for sprinkling


To make the focaccia

Place all the overnight dough ingredients in a bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon or spatula to combine, until you have a wet, sticky dough. Cover with a clean damp tea towel and leave in the fridge for at least 8hrs, preferably overnight; you can even leave the dough for 48hrs or more to really develop the flavour.

About 4hrs before you want to bake it, take the dough out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature; during this time, it should rise a little more. Punch the dough down and give it a little knead to bring it all together into a ball. The oil in the dough will make it easy to handle.

Line a 25 x 30cm baking tray with baking paper. Place the dough on top, stretching and pressing it out with your fingers into whatever shape you like—round, oval, square or rectangle. Allow the dough to rise again in a warm spot for 1–2hrs, covered again with a damp tea towel.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 180°C. In a bowl, toss your garden topping ingredients (or rosemary leaves if you’re going traditional) in a few tablespoons of olive oil so they don’t go dry too quickly and burn.

Using your fingers, press dimples into the dough, then squish the topping ingredients into your creation. Scatter with salt flakes and freshly cracked black pepper.

Pour water into a heatproof mug or baking dish and sit it on the bottom of the oven to create steam (this helps the focaccia expand before forming a crust). Bake the focaccia on the middle shelf of the oven for 35–45mins or until golden and cooked through. Some of your vegies might char a bit, but that’s cool—these can even be the most delicious aspects of the bake.

Once cooked but while still hot, drizzle with a little more olive oil and garnish with more fresh herbs if you like before serving.


*Worth it

If you plan on baking lots of bread or focaccia, investing in a bag of strong flour (with 11–13 per cent protein) and storing it in the fridge between bakes is worthwhile. Otherwise, plain (all-purpose) flour is totally fine, too—it might not rise quite as high, but if you’re only baking loaves on the odd occasion, you’ll be right.

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