The weather finally cooled down this week. You know what that means? FALL! It also means NOT HAVING TO WAIT TO USE THE OVEN UNTIL AFTER 8PM! Thank goodness. Welcome back, the most wonderful of Seasons. I will celebrate your return with a slew of baked goods.
I find baking extremely satisfying. And there’s something about baking bread that really makes me feel like I’m taking care of business. Like, really providing. Reflecting on why I feel this way, I think it might have something to do with years of church-going. I also really enjoy wine as well as sharing a meal with others. Apparently Communion left a mark on my young, impressionable eating habits.
If a grainy wheat bread was representative of a well balanced meal, focaccia bread would be splurge-worthy take out. The melt in your mouth consistency of focaccia comes from the addition of quite a bit of olive oil. So much so, that if it were known by any other name I don’t see how it could not be called Olive Oil Bread. Different bakeries have their own take on focaccia (some recipes are more oily or salty than others) but this here is a basic recipe that’s perfect for adapting to your own preferences.
It seems like people shy away from making bread because they don’t know how to eyeball whether a dough needs more flour or not. For this recipe, if you’re using a stand mixer the dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl. It should feel a little rubbery at first touch but get sticky of it’s held for too long.
Little bread dimples are a focaccia trademark. Yes, they’re cute but functionally they provide pooling nooks to evenly incorporate excess olive oil.
Once the dough is effectively drenched, you add your toppings. This loaf was topped with flaky sea salt (Maldon), freshly cracked pepper, and rosemary from the garden. Simple and delicious. Other topping options include, but are certainly not limited to: caramelized onions, cherry tomatoes, a brushing of pesto, roasted garlic, olives, roasted red peppers, grapes, or sesame seeds.
Golden, flaky glory! This particular loaf barely had a chance to cool down before before it met it’s end.
Easy Focaccia Bread
Recipe adapted from Anne Burrell. This dough requires two rises, so the recipe ends up taking about 3 hours from start to finish.
1 3/4 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
1 tablespoon warmed honey
5-6 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1 cup olive oil, plus a little more
Coarse sea salt
Fresh rosemary, chopped
Combine warm water, yeast, and warm honey in a small bowl. Stir it all up and let it sit for 15 minutes or so, until there’s a thick, yeasty froth on the surface.
In a mixer fitted with a dough hook (or if you don’t have one, put it all in a bowl, you poor fool) add 5 cups of flour, the tablespoon of salt, 1/2 cup of olive oil, and the yeast mixture. Let it mix on a low speed for 5 minutes, until the dough is smooth and uniform. At this point, add flour until the dough reaches the desired consistency. It should feel a little rubbery at first touch but get a sticky of it’s held for too long (picture above).
Move the dough into a bowl that’s been coated with olive oil (just reuse the mixing bowl), cover the bowl with a damp towel, and let it sit some place warm until the dough has doubled in size (should take about an hour).
Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of olive oil into a cookie sheet with a lip. Stretch and press the dough out with your fingers until it’s evenly spread across the pan. Then, flip the dough over so both sides of the loaf-to-be are coated with oil. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit for it’s second rise, which should take about an hour.
About 45 minutes into the second rise, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
When the dough is done rising, flip it over again in the pan to get it all oiled up. Use your fingertips to make dimples in the dough by pressing down to the bottom of the pan. Now add your chosen toppings. I added coarse sea salt, cracked pepper, and fresh rosemary.
Bake the focaccia for 25-30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. When it’s ready to come out, let it cool a few minutes before slicing and serving.