I'm a bit late. Again. While David is, at this very moment, working on his post for next week, yours truly needs the pressure of a deadline to produce. Why is that?
Being a creature of habit, I typically have the same breakfast every morning. Toasted focaccia drizzled with (yet more) olive oil, chicken & apple sausage, orange juice and - depending how foggy I am - tea for a gentle prod or coffee for a serious wake-up. On the weekend, eggs with fresh fruit and Greek yogurt, or a rich, indulgent chocolate croissant from the neighborhood bakery. Weekdays, however, are for toasted homemade bread. Warm, comforting scent wafting through the kitchen, its chewy goodness filling your tummy. The supply in the freezer was down to a few slices, so I baked focaccia today.
This recipe is among my favorite yeast breads. It is incredibly easy and requires just a few ingredients. I use SAF Red Instant Yeast instead of active dry yeast, so I am including measurements for both. If you haven't tried it, buy a brick here. It's great stuff - add directly to dry ingredients, no proofing or dissolving required. I also experiment with Italian 00 Flour, either using it exclusively or mixing it with all-purpose flour, as I did here, if I don't have enough.
Adapted from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan
This dough produces a thick, tender focaccia with a crisp surface, which can be topped in a variety of ways.
For the dough
2 teaspoons instant (not rapid rise) yeast*
1-1/2 cups warm water
6 cups unbleached flour
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
For baking the focaccia
A heavy-duty rectangular metal baking pan, about 14x18 inches
Extra virgin olive oil for smearing the pan
A baking stone
A mixture of 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons water, and 1 teaspoon salt
A pastry brush
Combine the yeast and 1 cup of flour in the bowl of a food processor, mixing them thoroughly. Add the 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon salt, 3/4 cup water and half the remaining flour. Mix thoroughly until the dough begins to come together. Put in the remaining flour and water, and mix thoroughly once again. When putting in flour and water for the last time, hold back some of both and add only as much of either as you need to make the dough manageable, soft, but not too sticky. On a very damp, rainy day, for example, you may need less water and more of the flour.
Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it for a few minutes, at the end patting it into a round shape. Smear the middle of the baking sheet with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, put the rounded dough on it, cover it with plastic wrap and leave it to rise for about 1-1/2 hours.
When the dough has doubled in size, stretch it in the baking pan, spreading it toward the edges so that it covers the entire pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough rise for 45 minutes. At least 30 minutes
before you are ready to bake, put the baking stone in the oven and preheat oven to 450 degrees.
When the second rising time has elapsed, keeping the fingers of your hand stiff, poke the dough all over making many little hollows with your fingertips. Beat the mixture of oil, water and salt with a small whisk or fork for a few minutes until you have obtained a fairly homogeneous emulsion, then pour it slowly over the dough, using a brush to spread it all the way out to the edges of the pan. You will find that the liquid will pool in the hollows made by your fingertips. Place the pan on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Check the focaccia after 15 minutes. If you find it cooking faster on one side, turn the pan. Bake for another 7 or 8 minutes. Lift the focaccia out of the pan with spatulas, and transfer it to a cooling rack.
Serve focaccia warm or at room temperature on the same day. It is better to freeze than to refrigerate if keeping it longer. Reheat in a very hot oven 10 to 12 minutes.
*If using active dry yeast
1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
Dissolve the yeast by stirring it into warm water, and let it stand about 10 minutes. Proceed with recipe.