I have recently begun experimenting more with bread making. While back at school it was difficult for me to really do anything big in the kitchen, and making bread never seemed like an option. So, while I visited home during summer and winter holidays I looked up some simple, rustic bread recipes.
One of the first recipes I decided to try was, oddly enough, for Rosemary Focaccia. I had gotten the cookbook Sarabeth’s Bakery as a Christmas present and decided I wanted to try her recipe. I am so glad it was the first bread I ever truly tried. It is AMAZING.
The process may seem a little weird to anyone who has never made this type of bread before, the first time I made it the whole thing baffled me, but it really creates an incredible crusty, fluffy, flavorful bread. Plus it’s soaked in olive oil, which gives the loaf (if that’s what you can call it) a nice fruity and fresh feeling. It will also make the whole kitchen smell of freshly baking bread and rosemary, which are two of my favorite smells!
1/4 cup warm water
3 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 3/4 cups cold water
3 tsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour, as needed
1 3/4 tsp. fine sea salt
4 Tbsp. high-quality, fruity extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus additional for the bowl
You will also need:
a spray bottle filled with water
two tall glasses
very hot water (enough to fill the two tall glasses)
a “kitchen-sized” plastic bag
Place the 1 3/4 cups cold water and rosemary into the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer. Dissolve the yeast in the warm water, let stand until frothy (about 5 minutes), then add to the water and rosemary in the stand mixer bowl.
Attach the bowl to the mixer and fit with the paddle attachment. With the mixer on low-speed, gradually add half the flour, then the salt. Add enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough. Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. Knead on medium-low speed just until the dough is smooth and it cleans the bowl, about 3 minutes. Do not over-knead. Gather up the dough and shape it into a ball.
Coat the inside of a medium bowl generously with olive oil. Place the ball of dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap (or a towel). Let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Pour 2 Tablespoons of the oil in a half-sheet pan, and spread evenly with your fingers. Punch down the dough and transfer to the oiled pan. Using you hands, coax and stretch the dough to fill the pan. If the dough is too elastic, cover the dough in the pan with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes, then try again.
Choose a warm place in the kitchen for proofing. Slip the pan into a tall “kitchen-sized” plastic bag and place two tall glasses of very hot water in the bag at opposite ends of the pan to keep the plastic from touching the dough. Tightly close the bag, trapping air in the bag to partially inflate it. Let stand in a warm place until the dough looks puffy, about 45 minutes.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450˜° F. Fill a spray bottle with water. Remove the glasses from the bag, then the pan. Using your fingers, gently dimple the top of the dough. Drizzle the remaining 2 Tablespoons olive oil over the top of the dough. Using the palms of your hands, taking special care not to deflate the dough, very lightly spread the oil over the focaccia.
Place the focaccia in the oven. Aiming for the walls of the oven (and not the top of the focaccia), spray water into the oven. The water will create steam to help crisp the focaccia (and it will not harm your oven, it’s just water). Bake until the focaccia is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Cool in the pan for 20 minutes before serving. Cut into rectangles and serve warm or at room temperature.
Recipe adapted from Sarabeth Levine and Sarabeth’s Bakery