When the weather begins to get chilly and nights drop in earlier, I crave freshly baked bread. Since pasta is common on our dinner table, I decided to bake a batch of focaccia – a simple yeast bread poked on top, drizzled with oil and sprinkled with fresh rosemary and coarse salt. Use this recipe as a blank canvas – like doughy pizza without the cheese, focaccia can be topped with anything from olives to cherry tomatoes – or try a sweet version for breakfast, topped with fresh plums or berries, which go well with rosemary too.
Focaccia is a fun project for kids to get involved with – stirring and kneading the dough, then watching it rise.. and poking the top with their fingers before sprinkling over toppings is the most fun ever.
It’s best served warm, with butter or olive oil and balsamic vinegar, for dipping.
Adapted from Epicurious
1 pkg. (or 2 1/4 tsp) active dry yeast
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp. coarse salt (divided)
Stir the yeast into 1/3 cup warm water in a large bowl or the bowl of your mixer and let stand until creamy/foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 4 cups of flour, half of the oil, and 2 tsp. salt and beat by hand or with the paddle attachment of the mixer until a dough forms. Replace paddle with a dough hook, add the remaining flour and stir until well blended and sticky – 3-4 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead, adding another spoonful of flour if it’s too sticky, until the dough is smooth but tacky. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and turn dough to coat with oil, then cover with a towel. Let rise for an hour or so, until doubled in bulk.
Press dough into two 9×13″ pans that have been sprayed with nonstick spray. Cover with a tea towel and let rise another hour. Preheat oven to 425°F.
Stir together the rosemary and remaining oil. Poke all over the surface of the loaves with your finger – poke deep! – and then brush with rosemary oil, letting it pool in the indentations. Sprinkle with salt and bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden.
Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 2 loaves.