OK…for those of you who love those flat, semi-hard focaccia that you see in the grocery stores …you will swoon when you taste this plump, flavorful version permeated with all those beloved airy holes, melt-in-your-mouth soft texture and baked in a fragrant bath of garlic and rosemary scented olive oil. It is not only heaven as an accompaniment to a meal, but wonderful as a sandwich bread…or for those delicious panini we all love!
Yes, it does take time to develop the flavors, but on the upside, you don’t have to knead the dough…honest! This is a ‘wet dough’ bread whose gluten develops from gently folding the fairly wet dough over on itself with a spatula at half hour intervals 3 times as the dough rises….right in the same bowl you mix it in! Now I happen to enjoy the latent aggression and repetitive motions of bread kneading…however, there are those times when less mess is best.
Don’t have time to develop your sponge overnight? I invite you to taste the delectable difference in allowing this teeny bit of yeast to gorge overnight in a veritable wealth of yummy flour and water (well…yummy to the yeast). You will never go back to flat focaccia!
Non-believers can follow the official version on the Americas Test Kitchen website…here is how I do it in a similar fashion….oh, and one more note: there is a lot of covering going on during this focaccia event. You may use either plastic wrap, or a clean cotton dish towel. I prefer the dish towel.
- 1/2 cup all purpose unbleached flour
- 1/3 cup lukewarm water (110 degrees F or warm on your wrist)
- 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
Mix this sponge together and cover and let sit at room temperature overnight. This long, slow proofing step adds more taste to your finished bread as it allows the yeast to slowly develop the desired alcohol without too much CO2 gas, resulting in more flavor. However, if you’re too impatient…please feel free to simply combine the sponge ingredient measurements with the main mixture and proceed without the overnight proofing.
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 1/4 cup lukewarm water (110 degrees F or warm on your wrist)
In large mixing bowl, using paddle attachment, mix all ingredients with the sponge. Cover and let sit 15 minutes. This resting period allows the gluten and starch molecules to realign properly as they hydrate resulting in great texture.
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
Now sprinkle the salt over the dough and using a spatula, fold the salt into the dough. The salt addition was delayed to allow the yeast to begin the process of feeding on the carbohydrates, since salt will cut down on fermentation. Cover and let rise 30 minutes in a warm spot. I use my turned-off gas oven. The pilot light creates the perfect proofing box environment without drafts. If you have an electric oven, before adding your covered mixing bowl, turn your oven to a low temperature of 200 briefly for only 5 minutes. Then turn off. Now place your covered dough inside and close.
Fold dough over itself with spatula in bowl 8 times gently. Cover and let rise 30 minutes in a warm spot. Repeat this procedure 3 times. I just leave the spatula in the bowl and cover the whole thing with a dish towel for the repeated foldings. I’m not trying to seal in moisture, I’m keeping out dust and cold drafts.
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 peeled garlic cloves, sliced thinly
Meanwhile during one of your resting intervals, in small saucepan, heat the oil and garlic together just until hot, then remove from the heat and let steep until the dough is ready to form. I remove the garlic slices before proceeding.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (after removing your covered dough of course). Pour oil (after removing the garlic slices) into bottom of 10″ X 7″ baking pan, reserving perhaps 2 tablespoons. Sprinkle the oil in the baking pan with:
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
Turn the focaccia dough out into the oiled pan. Using fingertips, spread dough out and turn over in the oil to coat it all over, making indentations with your fingers as you do so (puncturing any large bubbles)….pushing it out to fit the pan somewhat. An imperfect shape looks homemade, so don’t obsess over the shape.
Cover and let sit 10 minutes to rise. Before baking, uncover and push your fingertips into the puffy top again to make indentations, drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons garlic oil, sprinkle with a little more chopped fresh rosemary and sea salt. This may seem like a lot of olive oil…but believe me, none of it is wasted. Your soft focaccia will not be soggy, just imbued with garlicy fragrant olive oil.
Bake 25 to 30 minutes until golden brown and excess oil is sizzling. Cool in the pan so it absorbs the excess olive oil. When you remove the focaccia from the pan, drizzle any excess oil remaining in the pan over the top, or if there is no remaining oil in the pan, brush the top with a little olive oil while still warm.