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Focaccia with Fresh Rosemary

March 24, 2010

If you have never tasted homemade, crisp-topped, soft-inside focaccia, you need to immediately get up, go to your kitchen, and make this. I’m serious. Go. You can thank me later. Focaccia (pronounced: foe-kau-chee-a) is an Italian flat bread that typically has salt, herbs, or olives on top. It is far better than the brittle, skinny bread sticks sitting on your table at many “Italian” restaurants. It is even better than those tempting garlic rolls some restaurants serve.

I could quite happily live on focaccia (aside from the fact that Jesus says in Matthew 4:4 that man cannot live by bread alone…but that’s another topic). And, I did actually live on focaccia the last several times I was in Italy–at least for breakfast. Many Italians will sip down a cappuccino or eat a light breakfast, but let’s be honest, if I am going to be working in the kitchen from 7 in the morning until after the 2 pm, I need more than caffeine to keep me going. So, my cousin started ordering a nice, nearly plate-size square of focaccia for me with her daily bread order for the restaurant. When I arrived in the kitchen each morning, my own personal slab of salted focaccia was waiting for me. And, depending on my mood, I would either spread some butter or apricot jam on top (the salty focaccia was amazing with the sweet jam), or I would cut some prosciutto or other charcuterie to place atop my loaf. It was a wonderful start to my day. I only wish I could justify continuing this practice at home.

Note: Focaccia really takes on whatever flavor you put on top. Try making this with just salt on top, or try adding olives, onions, bacon, fresh rosemary, fresh sage, or other fresh herbs on top. I sprinkled a little bit of Parmesan cheese on top of mine, right before taking it out of the oven.

Focaccia with Fresh Rosemary

From Marcella Hazan’s Essential of Classic Italian Cooking

Time: 2-1/2 hours preparation and cooking

Ingredients:

1 package active dry yeast

2 cups lukewarm water

6-1/2 cups unbleached flour

2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 Tablespoon salt

Sprigs of fresh rosemary

Directions:

Dissolve the yeast by stirring it into 1/2 cup lukewarm water, and let it stand about 10 minutes.

Combine the yeast and 1 cup of flour in a bowl, mixing them thoroughly. Then add the 2 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 Tablespoon salt, 3/4 cup water, and half the remaining flour. Mix thoroughly until the dough feels soft, but compact, and no longer sticks to the hands. Put in the remaining flour and 3/4 cup of water, and mix thoroughly once again. When putting in flour and water for the lat 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.

Take the dough out of the bowl, and slap it down very hard several times, until it is stretched out lengthwise. Reach for the far end of the dough, fold it a short distance toward you, push it away again, gradually rolling it up and bringing it close to you. It will have a tapered, roll-like shape. Pick up the dough, holding it by one of the tapered ends, lift it high above the counter, and slap it down hard again several times, stretching it out in a lengthwise direction. Reach for the far end, and repeat the kneading motion with the heel of your palm and your wrist, bringing it close to you once more. Work the dough in this manner for 10 minutes. At the end, pat it into a round shape.

Note: You can use the food processor to mix and knead the dough.

Smear the middle of the baking sheet with about 2 Tablespoons olive oil, put the kneaded, rounded dough on it, cover it with a damp cloth, and leave it to rise for about 1-1/2 hours.

When the indicated rising time has elapsed, stretch out the dough in the baking pan, spreading it toward the edges so that it covers the entire pan to a depth of about 1/4 inch. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough rise for 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. When the second rising time for the dough 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 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 and spread over it the small sprigs of rosemary. Bake for another 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Serve focaccia warm or at room temperature that same day. It is preferable not to keep it longer, but if you must, it is better to freeze than refrigerate. Reheat in a very hot oven for 10 to 12 minutes.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 29, 2010 8:55 am

    Thanks for the recipe. The photo looks great.

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