I rarely eat breakfast before going to work and, on the weekends, I tend to wake up late, so, really, this dish should be called brunch focaccia. Whatever time of day you eat this (the focaccia also makes a good light lunch), it’s not difficult to prepare and much of the process is spent waiting for the dough to rise.
Focaccia is one of the easiest breads to make. The dough, when freshly made, is very soft and sticky, and you might be tempted to add more flour so you can knead it – but don’t. Just mix the dough quickly with your hands, transfer it to a well-oiled bowl, pour more oil on top then let it rise in the fridge. The chilled, oiled dough is easy to handle, although it will still be soft. For breakfast (or brunch) focaccia, take the dough from the fridge as soon as you wake up; by the time you get washed and dressed, it will have warmed slightly. Cut the dough into eight pieces and shape them before leaving them on the baking tray to rise. In 30 minutes – about the time it takes to preheat the oven and make the toppings – the dough is ready to bake.
I made vegetarian toppings (kale and mushroom, and zucchini and tomato) on this occasion; you can also use other vegetables such as sliced bell peppers or eggplant. You might want to add meat: cubed pancetta, sliced Spanish chorizo or crumbled fresh sausage (no need to cook the meats in advance).
For the dough:
550 grams plain (all-purpose) flour
15 grams fine sea salt
2 grams (½ tsp) instant yeast
450ml tepid water
About 100ml olive oil, or as needed
For the toppings:
About 20ml cooking oil, plus more for frying the eggs
80 grams kale leaves
100 grams button mushrooms
2 garlic cloves, divided
200 grams zucchini
15-20 cherry tomatoes
Fine sea salt, rough-flaked sea salt (such as Maldon) and freshly ground black pepper
8 eggs (optional)
Crumbled feta (or use a vegetarian cheese)
Use about 40ml of olive oil to liberally grease a medium-size mixing bowl. Put the flour into another bowl and thoroughly mix in the salt. Sprinkle the yeast over the water, stir briefly then pour the mixture over the flour. Use your hand to mix the ingredients: the dough will be soft and sticky.
Transfer the dough to the oiled bowl and drizzle more oil on top. Spread the oil over the entire surface of the dough. Cover the bowl with cling film and refrigerate for several hours, or overnight.
Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Cut the dough into eight even-sized pieces. Shape the dough
so each piece is round with a smooth top. Use more olive oil to thoroughly coat two large baking trays. Place the dough balls on the trays, leaving plenty of space between them.
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Prepare the fillings. Cut the kale leaves into 1cm-wide ribbons. Slice the mushrooms about 5mm thick. Thinly slice the garlic. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise, then slice about 5mm thick. Halve the cherry tomatoes. Pour about 10ml of cooking oil into a skillet placed over a high flame. Add the kale and one sliced garlic clove. Sprinkle with salt and cook, stirring often, until the vegetable wilts slightly. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they start to brown. Transfer the kale and mushrooms to a plate to cool. Heat the skillet again over a high flame (no need to wash it) and add about 10ml of cooking oil. Add the zucchini, a garlic clove and a little salt, then sauté until the vegetable softens slightly. Transfer to a plate to cool.
Use your fingertips to press and stretch each piece of dough into a circle about 15cm in diameter. Leaving a 1cm border around the perimeter, press firmly – all the way down to the baking tray – so the centre is very thin.
Divide the toppings between the focaccia, placing them within the perimeter: kale and mushrooms on four, and the zucchini and raw tomatoes (cut side-up) on the other four. Sprinkle with rough-flaked sea salt.
Slide the trays into the oven and bake at 250 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the focaccia are firm and lightly browned around the edges.
Coat a skillet with a little cooking oil and pan-fry the eggs sunny side-up, in batches. Place an egg over each focaccia, sprinkle with black pepper then add some crumbled feta or other cheese. Serve warm.