I think I may have missed my calling to make artisan breads—then again, I may have just found it as well! There is a recipe for Focaccia bread in my Better Homes & Gardens cookbook that I have been wanting to try for YEARS but never quite got up the courage to go for it. I thought it would be difficult and laborious, taking way too much time out of my day, and I figured it would be near impossible to get good results, even if I did follow all the directions precisely. I finally threw caution to the wind and made this tasty bread that is served at many restaurants with Italian dishes like spaghetti, as well as soups and sandwiches. Well, there was absolutely no reason for me to be so fearful all these years! It was easy and it turned out GREAT. It did take a long time from beginning to end, but only about 30 minutes of my time was necessary; there was a lot of waiting involved so I could go off and do other things—I love multi-tasking!
from Better Homes & Gardens
- 4 to 4-1/4 C all-purpose flour
- 1/2 C water (105 degree F to 115 degree F )
- 1 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 C warm water (105 degree F to 115 degree F)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- Coarse salt
- optional: basil and oregano to taste
- For the sponge, in a mixing bowl combine 1/2 cup of the flour, the 1/2 cup warm water, and the yeast. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let sponge stand overnight at room temperature to ferment.
- Gradually stir in the 1 cup warm water, the 2 teaspoons salt, and just enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.* Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (8 to 10 minutes total) . Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double (about 1 hour).
- Turn dough out onto a well-floured baking sheet. Place an extra large bowl upside down over the dough to cover; let rest 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven and a bread stone to 475 degree F. Shape dough on the baking sheet into a circle about 11 inches in diameter by pulling and pressing with your fingertips. (Don’t stretch dough too roughly or the dough will deflate; you want to keep air bubbles intact.)
- Dust your fingers with flour and press into dough to make 1/2-inch-deep indentations, spacing indentations about 2 inches apart. Brush dough with olive oil; sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Carefully slide focaccia from floured baking sheet to the preheated bread stone.
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden, checking after 8 minutes and popping any large air bubbles with a sharp knife. Remove foccacia from bread stone with large spatulas. Cool on a wire rack about 15 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 12 servings.
*I added in basil and oregano during step 2 (liberal amounts of basil, a little less of oregano). The original recipe calls for rosemary but H doesn’t like rosemary because the twig-like ‘leaves’ get stuck in his teeth and we both prefer things like basil and oregano for these applications anyway.
To serve: We ate it by dipping it in a little bowl of olive oil and black pepper—delicious! But you can use this bread to make sandwiches, to scoop up leftover spaghetti sauce, to sop up tomato soup… just about anything! I have also seen the bread baked with sliced tomatoes and onions on top, or garlic and black olives, cheeses; it’s a really versatile bread!