Gluten-free onion and thyme focaccia

Gluten Free Onion and Thyme Focaccia recipe



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Interesting breads are often off the menu for gluten-dodgers. In fact, those following a wheat-free diet are usually lucky to be offered so much as a gluten-free crumb in most places, much to the constant dismay of my gluten intolerant boyfriend. After sharing a wistful reverie with me, which placed focaccia centre-stage in his most missed breads, I was determined to brighten his plate and create a more exciting receptacle for a slathering of butter.

Gluten-free bread is the perfect choice for the idle or most puny of arm, as there’s no need to knead. Gluten-free dough is far too sticky to get that involved with and, besides, there would be little point. Kneading releases the gluten in wheat flour to make a stretchy, springy dough. As there’s no gluten to work here, kneading would only serve as a particularly messy way to combine the ingredients together.

I set to work trying to calculate a way to recreate that oily, soft dough, peppered with bubbles of air that is characteristic of a wheat flour focaccia. I decided that adding a little bicarbonate of soda to the batter, fizzed up with acid (in this case vinegar, but lemon juice will also do the job) might help the yeast along with creating a nice, fluffy loaf. It turned out rather well, if I do say so myself, so I thought I’d share the recipe with you.

You can top your focaccia with anything you like, from a simple scattering of sea salt, a few spikes of rosemary or a handful of sun-dried tomatoes and olives. I chose onions for mine, because I think they often get a rough deal. Onions seem forever doomed to play second fiddle to another, more starry ingredient, which is completely unjust, given how versatile and delicious they are. I used two small white onions and one red because that’s what I had in, but you can use whatever you like.

Hopefully, this focaccia will cheer the spirits of other gluten-dodgers as much as it did my boyfriend’s. Although I may have made a rod for my own back with this bake. After polishing off the last of the focaccia crumbs, he looked up and, with hopeful eyes, asked, 'Next time, can you try to make a baguette?'

  • Dough

  • 7g of fast-action dried yeast
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 200ml of milk, warm, use rice milk for a dairy-free version
  • 250g of gluten-free flour
  • 1 tsp xanthan gum, gluten free
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 tsp fine salt
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tsp white wine vinegar
  • Topping

  • 2 large onions, finely sliced into half moons
  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked
  • coarse sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Grease a 9-inch square cake tin with oil
Mix the yeast, sugar and a splash of milk together in a bowl and leave to foam up a bit while you get on with measuring out the rest of your ingredients
Sift together the flour and xanthan gum, add the egg, oil, salt and the rest of the milk and whisk the lot together. Scrape in the foaming yeast and whisk together until smooth, sticky and fully combined
In a separate bowl or mug, fizz up the bicarbonate of soda with the vinegar then fold into the mixture. Smooth the dough out into your prepared tin with a palate knife dipped in oil
Cover with a sheet of greased cling film and pop in the airing cupboard, or somewhere warm, for an hour to prove, in which time it should rise and puff up
In the meantime, you can slice your onions and add to a large pan. Gently sauté them in olive oil until tender and golden, then season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat
Preheat the oven to 190°C/gas mark 5
Once the bread has doubled in size, take off the cling film and plunge your fingers into the dough to make indentations to collect delicious pools of oil
Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil and scatter over the onions, picked thyme leaves, and a little extra sea salt and pepper
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until golden and nicely puffed up. This is best served warm and eaten on the day it’s baked
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