I'll be honest with you: I don't care for focaccia that's topped with a lot of stuff. I like my focaccia to be a simple, herby bread with the emphasis on salt and olive oil. I may allow for one or two additions besides the sea salt, olive oil and herbs. But that's it. You may feel differently, and of course, that's just fine. You can use this recipe as a base for all your favorite focaccia toppings. But just for today, try it plain and simple with a glass of deep red wine and maybe a wedge of cheese on the side. It's really quite delicious!
Focaccia is a wonderful thing to have on hand. It is best served warm, just from the oven, either on its own as a pre-dinner nibble or as the bread to accompany the main meal. It's also fashionable in some circles to make sandwiches with it.
This recipe is close to one we featured a few years ago, from the fine ladies at Canal House Cooking. That recipe has slices of thin lemon scattered over the top, which is divine, and I've included this as an optional ingredient here. Another change is that I use a little whole wheat four for the taste and texture.
This dough is fairly wet, but the addition of olive oil means it will still be pliable and easy to work with. If you use a food processor or stand mixer, you won't have to knead it by hand.
How To Make Easy Rosemary Focaccia
What You Need
1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups warm water
3 1/2 cups white flour
1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 tablespoons (approximately) good extra virgin olive oil, divided
5 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Several pinches of Maldon salt (or other flakey sea salt)
11-cup (or larger) food processor (See Recipe Notes for other mixing options)
Measuring cups and spoons
Medium sized bowl
Large sized bowl
1 baking sheet (16"x12" or similar size)
Wire cooling rack
1. Dissolve and proof the yeast. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water in a medium bowl. Wait a few minutes for the mixture to start to foam up. This is proofing the yeast. (You can skip this step if you are confident that your yeast is good and strong.)
2. Make the dough. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the flours and salt to combine. Add the yeast mixture and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Pulse until a rough ball of dough forms, about 1 minute. Remove from the dough from food processor. It should be moist but not too sticky. Form it into a ball. (See Recipe Notes, below, for instructions on making dough without a food processor.)
3. Leave it to rise. Add about 2 teaspoons of olive oil to a large bowl. Put in the ball of dough and turn it so it is coated on all sides. Cover with a tea towel and place it in a warm place to double in bulk, about 2 hours.
4. Put the dough into the pan. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon of olive oil onto the baking sheet and rub it over the bottom and sides. Punch down the dough and place the dough on the baking sheet. Using your fingertips, coax and stretch the dough to cover the bottom of the pan; it may not reach all the way to the edges. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rest, about 30-40 minutes.
→ You can also divide the dough in half with a sharp knife to make one smaller loaf for smaller gatherings, and freeze the other half of dough for later. Smaller focaccia breads can be baked on a quarter-sized baking sheet (9-1/2" x 13") or in the center of a regular baking sheet. To freeze the second half, place the dough in a freezer bag, squeeze out the excess air, seal, label, and freeze.
5. Preheat the oven and prep the rosemary. While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 450°F with a rack in the middle of the oven. Strip the rosemary leaves from the stems. If the rosemary leaves are large, chop them with a knife. You can leave a few of the smaller, softer leaves whole. You should have about 2 scant tablespoons.
6. Prep the focaccia for baking. When the focaccias have puffed up in the pan a little, sprinkle the rosemary evenly over the surface. Using your fingertips, dimple (make shallow indentations) the surface of the focaccia all over. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons of olive oil over the loaf, so the oil pools in the indentations here and there. Use a little more if needed. Sprinkle the loaf with 2 or 3 pinches of the flaky salt.
7. Place in the oven and bake. Place in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 375F. Bake about 20 - 25 minutes, checking after 15 minutes. The focaccia is ready when it's golden-brown.
8. Remove from oven and cool. Remove bread from oven. Using a hot pad or spatula, remove the bread from baking sheet and place on a wire rack to cool slightly. Focaccia is best eaten when warm, but perfectly fine at room temperature. If the crust gets too soft, try popping it back in a 350°F oven for a few minutes to crisp it up.
• Make Focaccia in a Mixer: Knead the dough in a standing mixer fit with a hook attachment for 5-8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
• Make Focaccia by Hand: Mix the dough in the bowl with a sturdy spoon until it is as smooth as possible. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, 8-10 minutes.
• Make Focaccia Rounds: To make 4-8" round focaccia, just divide the dough in half and bake in two 8" cake pans.
• Additional Toppings: Add any of these toppings before baking — very thinly sliced lemons, olives (whole or sliced in half), thick slices of fresh garlic or shallots, a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, a few chopped sundried tomatoes, cubed pancetta. Instead of rosemary, try using fresh thyme, chives, or oregano. If you want to use fresh basil, sprinkle it on after baking.
• Working with Refrigerated Dough: The dough can also be held overnight in a covered container in the refrigerator, which will retard the yeast and result in a slow rise and extra flavor. Pick up the instructions with step 4 above. No need to warm the dough before using, but allow extra time for it to rise before baking.
• Working with Frozen Dough: If you are using frozen dough, let it defrost in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. When you are ready to bake, take it out of the refrigerator and stretch it in the pan, as directed in step 4 above. Continue to follow instructions from there.
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(Images: Dana Velden)