In a post I published four and a half years ago, I mentioned that everyone in my family has a unique favorite bread. Alex’s favorite is focaccia. That hasn’t changed in four and a half years. What has changed is the price of focaccia. My goodness, you’d think special equipment are used for baking the Italian flat bread to command such prices.
So, not wanting to feel cheated by such unreasonable prices, Alex and I agreed that, instead of buying, we’d bake focaccia at home. That came with the implicit understanding that she’d have to exercise a bit of patience as I go about learning the rudiments of focaccia making.
Unlike breads I’ve baked before like pan de sal and rolls, focaccia dough is soft, sticky and, for first-timers, notoriously difficult to handle. But with patience and a resolve not to be intimidated, I managed. The look on Alex’s face when she took her first bite? Priceless.
I’d love to have more of the step-by-step photos but with sticky dough all over my hands, I couldn’t touch the camera. But since this is only the first and definitely not the last time we’d be baking focaccia at home, rest assured though that, next time, there will be a ton of photos (I’ll ask Sam to be the photographer).
Recipe: Basil and garlic focaccia
Summary: Based on a recipe in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook
- 3 and 1/2 c. of bread flour, plus more for dusting
- 3/4 tsp. of active dry yeast
- 1 tsp. of rock salt
- 1 and 3/4 c. of lukewarm water
- 1/3 c. of extra virgin olive oil
- about 1 tbsp. of dried basil (fresh would be better but use twice as much)
- about 1 tbsp. of minced garlic
- more rock salt
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast. Make a well in the center and pour in the water.
- Mix the dry ingredients with the water, slowly, using your fingers, until the mixture looks uniform.
- Cover the bowl with cling film and let the dough rise until triple in volume, about two to two and a half hours.
- Sprinkle flour on the work surface. Dump the dough. Yes, it will be very sticky but don’t add more flour. Just keep the surface and your hands well-floured at all times.
- Using your fingers, gently pull the dough outward to flatten it into a square.
- Now imagine that the dough is of three portions. Lift 1/3 from the side nearest you and fold inward. Do the same with the 1/3 portion farthest from you.
- Now, fold in the the sides on your left and right. You have a square once again.
- Transfer the dough to the bowl once again, cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Repeat the folding and rising process.
- Pour about 3/4 of the olive oil into a baking pan. Make sure that the bottom and sides are oiled.
- Dump the dough into the pan. Pour the rest of the oil over the dough.
- Cover the dough with cling film. Poke and push the dough outward to flatten it and fill the entire bottom of the pan.
- Sprinkle the basil and garlic on the dough. Sprinkle in more salt as well.
- Cover the pan with cling film and allow the dough to rise for another half an hour.
- Fifteen minutes before the rising time of the dough is up, preheat the oven to 450F and position the rack on the lower third.
- Above, that’s the focaccia dough just before it went into the oven. In the background, cinnamon rolls that would undergo the final 30 minutes of rising while the focaccia was in the oven. The cinnamon rolls were for Sam. You know, to be fair. Focaccia for Alex; cinnamon rolls for Sam.
- So, 25 minutes later, the focaccia is done. There should still be a small amount of olive oil at the bottom of the pan.
- Scoop out the focaccia with a large spatula and pour the oil from the pan over the bread.
- When the focaccia is cool enough to handle, you can slice it.
- The focaccia is great by itself or you can pair it with pasta.
Preparation time: 8 hour(s)
Cooking time: 25 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6