Focaccia with Olive Oil and Rosemary
Focaccia, that sometimes wildly aromatic flat bread from Italy, can be made using many different herbs or flavorings. At the bottom of this recipe I’ll list several options that change it up quite a bit. If you have a stand mixer, this is an incredibly easy bread to make…and if you don’t, it’s only slightly more time-consuming. (Many food processors are large enough to accommodate it too.)
If your focaccia is around long enough to start to turn stale, you can slice it down the middle, fill it with the sandwich ingredients of your choice, including a good cheese (being sure to add some pesto to prove you’re part Italian) and make a grilled panini of it. Or turn it into croutons for your salad or for scattering on your soupa! If you haven’t made homemade bread before, this is a delicious (and pretty much fool-proof) place to start.
Focaccia with Olive Oil and Rosemary
- 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 Tablespoon sugar
- 1-1/2 cups warm water (115° to 115° F)
- 1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra for greasing
- 1-1/2 teaspoon salt
- 4 to 4-1/2 cups bread flour, plus extra as needed
- Coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top
- 1- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (or more to suit your taste)
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, sprinkle the yeast and a pinch of sugar over 1/2 cup of the water and stir to dissolve. Allow to stand at room temperature until the mixture is foamy (about 10 minutes.) Add the remaining water and sugar, 1/4 cup of the olive oil, the 1-1/2 tsp. salt and 1 cup of the flour. Beat on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add another cup of flour, and beat on medium-low for 2 minutes. Change to the dough hook attachment, and add the remaining flour, only 1/2 cup at a time, allowing each to incorporate before adding the next. You’re looking for a soft and, what is often described as, a “shaggy” dough to form that will start to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Continue kneading on low speed, adding flour 1 Tablespoon at a time until the dough is only slightly sticky and nearly as soft as a baby’s bottom. (About 6 or 7 minutes probably.) Cover the bowl with a moist clean towel or plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
Line a heavy-rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and brush the paper lightly with olive oil. On a lightly floured board, using oiled fingers, press the dough out into either a rectangle roughly the size of the baking sheet or into a long oval about the same length. It should be about 1-inch thick. Put the stretched dough onto the parchment paper and cover with the same damp towel or plastic wrap. In about 1 hour it will have risen to 2-inches in height.
With your fingertip or with a knuckle, make deep indentations 1-inch apart all over the dough – almost to the bottom of the pan. Scatter the focaccia with 1 – 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary (or see other variations below.) Drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
In the meantime, put a pizza or baking stone in the bottom rack of your oven, and pre-heat to 425°F. Lightly sprinkle the dough with coarse sea salt. Place the baking sheet directly on the pizza stone, and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until bread is lightly browned. (If the bottom appears pale when you remove it, give it another couple minutes.) Slide the bread onto a rack to cool slightly. Serve either warm or at room temperature.
VARIATIONS: Herb options: Sprinkle up to 1-1/2 Tablespoons finely chopped sage, basil, oregano or summer savory over the dough before topping with oil and salt. Or for olive and sun-dried tomato focaccia, sprinkle 1/2 cup pitted black or Kalamata olives and 1/4 cup chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes over the dough before topping with oil and salt. For a cheesy version, sprinkle with 1 cup (about 4 oz.) your choice of cheese – grated Parmesan or Asiago, or with crumbled Gorgonzola – before adding the oil – omit the salt. Or replace regular olive oil with a garlic-infused olive oil - or simply dip wedges of warm focaccia in a dipping bowl of peppery, spiced and garlic-y oil.