Meera Sodha’s vegan recipe for 10-clove garlic focaccia | Vegan food and drink Leave a comment

I’ve always loved garlic bread, and it still has a hold over me like no other bread does. But what has always bugged me is, why baguette? It has such a dense crumb that often the garlic flavour cannot soak through. At the risk of offending multiple nations, I have a bold proposal: after weeks of experimenting with different types of bread, I believe that focaccia, with its more open structure and dimples, is a far superior loaf to create a more even distribution of a garlic-infused, parsley-flecked olive oil. I hope you’ll agree.

10-clove garlic focaccia

A plastic dough scraper will be your friend here, because it will allow you to work cleanly with this very sticky dough – look for one in your local kitchen shop or online. You’ll also need a 25cm x 35cm baking tray.

Prep 10 min
Prove 1 hr 45min
Cook 1 hr
Makes 1 large focaccia, to feed 6-8

550g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tsp (1 x 7g sachet) instant yeast
Fine sea salt
10 cloves garlic
, peeled and crushed
8 tbsp (120ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing and more to finish
1½ tbsp lemon juice
1 small handful polenta or cornmeal
5-6 tbsp (20g) finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

Coarse sea salt

Clean and dry a work surface, then dust it generously with flour. Put the flour, yeast and a teaspoon and a half of salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine. Put 400ml warm water in a jug, and slowly pour it into the bowl, mixing as you go, until you have a very sticky dough.

Turn out the dough on to the floured work surface, then scrape the bowl clean and set it to one side. Stretch and fold the dough for about five minutes, until the dough is smooth and springy.

Lightly oil the bowl, put the dough inside smooth side up, cover with a clean tea towel and leave to (roughly) double in size – this could take up to an hour.

Meanwhile, make the garlic oil. Put the crushed garlic and oil in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over a low to medium heat – this will take a couple of minutes. Leave to bubble for two minutes, then take the pan off the heat and set aside to cool. Once cool, add the lemon juice and half a teaspoon of fine sea salt.

Heat the oven to 240C (220C fan)/465F/gas 9. Grease the base and sides of a 35cm x 25cm baking tin with oil, and scatter over the polenta (this will help stop the bread sticking). Gently lift the dough from its bowl, keeping it smooth side up (don’t worry if it deflates – this is normal), and push into the tray, spreading it out as evenly as you can – it may not completely reach the sides, but that’s OK. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove again for another 45 minutes.

Push (clean) fingers all over the top of the dough, to make holes, then gently spread two tablespoons of the garlic oil (but not the garlic itself, because that will burn in the oven) over the top of the dough. Bake for 30 minutes, until golden, then remove from the oven. Mix the chopped parsley into the remaining garlic-oil mixture, then pour the lot over the bread, distributing the crushed garlic as evenly as possible across the top of the bread. If you like your focaccia generously oiled, as I do, add an extra drizzle of olive oil. Sprinkle over a little sea salt for crunch, and eat while warm.

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