Daen Lia is a Melbourne-based cook and author, known for balancing modern Australian cooking with bold Mediterranean flavours.
Inspired by her Italian and Spanish heritage, Daen has garnered a loyal following by embracing simple ingredients to create impactful dishes. In celebration of warm summer days, here Daen shares her recipe for a picnic-ready pesto focaccia.
Having an Italian background, focaccia is my go-to. It’s made with minimal ingredients yet what makes it extra special is the use of extra virgin olive oil and those iconic dimples on top. The olive oil gives it that unique golden and crispy exterior, while it remains beautifully soft on the inside.—Daen Lia
There is something extremely satisfying about pulling a loaf of bread out of the oven and knowing that you have made it from scratch. My no-knead focaccia is best served with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on the side, but it’s such a blank canvas that you can serve it with whatever you are in the mood for.
For the pesto
- 1 bunch basil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- Sea salt flakes
- 40g pine nuts
- 20g pecorino romano, grated
- 20g parmesan, grated
- ¾ cup olive oil
For the focaccia
- 700g bread flour
- 680g lukewarm water (100°F / 34°C)
- 7g dry yeast
- 12g fine sea salt
- 1 tsp honey (optional)
- 60g extra virgin olive oil
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 4 tbsp pesto
- To make the pesto, submerge the basil leaves in a bowl of iced water for 5 minutes. Remove from the ice bath and pat dry with paper towel.
- Place the garlic cloves and sea salt flakes in a mortar and pestle and crush until a paste-like texture forms. Add the pine nuts and pound until they are broken down but still have some texture to them. Add the basil leaves in three or four batches and pound until you have a bright green paste. Add the pecorino romano and parmesan in three batches and gently mix through.
- Pour in the olive oil and stir through until the pesto is at a consistency you like.
Prepare the focaccia dough 2-3 days in advance.
- Start by stirring lukewarm water, yeast and honey in a medium bowl with a whisk. Wait for about 5 minutes until the mixture becomes frothy, signalling that the yeast is ready.
- In a different large bowl, whisk flour and salt. Then, pour in the yeast mixture, stirring with a spoon or your hands to form a wet, sticky dough without dry spots. Cover the bowl with plastic or a damp cloth for 10 minutes.
- Afterward, with damp hands, stretch a piece of the dough and fold it across itself. Turn the bowl and repeat this action three more times, covering the dough again for another 10 minutes. This is the stretch and fold method and it will strengthen your dough.
- Continue this stretching and folding process until the dough shapes into a ball.
- Coat a new bowl with 20g of olive oil, place the dough inside, and cover it tightly with plastic. Let it rest in the fridge between 18 to 72 hours; this is the first proof.
- Oil a baking tin with another 20g of olive oil. Move the dough there, gently stretching it to a rough rectangle, but not to the tin’s edges—it will spread as it rises. Protect it with a damp cloth and let it rise for 2 to 3 hours in a warm spot.
- Preheat your oven to 200°C (390°F).
- After the rise, dimple the dough with your fingers. Spread a generous amount of pesto on top and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil. Season with flaky sea salt. Bake for 30 minutes until golden on top.
- Allow the focaccia to cool slightly before transferring it to a wire rack to rest for 30 minutes.
- Finally, it’s time to cut and enjoy the focaccia.