For the longest time, I’ve been telling myself I’m going to make more bread recipes; specifically, I’ve been referring to yeasted breads. When I was making my 30 by 30 list, I knew I needed to include a few breads on there, but which ones? Well, it took me about zero time to narrow in on focaccia, because it’s one of my favorites. You really can’t go wrong with a perfectly textured bread — just a little crusty on the outside and soft and light inside — that has absorbed a good amount of delicious olive oil. Yum.
Incidentally, Kelsey, from whom I completely ripped off the 30 by 30 idea, also had focaccia on her list. So, we decided to both tackle it and post it on the same day. She actually used a different recipe than I did, so be sure to check out her blog to see her focaccia!
I’ve seen this particular recipe on several different blogs, and I always hear wonderful things about Peter Reinhart’s bread recipes, so I decided to give it a go. This bread is a little time-consuming. Well, the active prep time is not terribly time-consuming, but it is a two-day process (which I wish I would have realized before the day I planned on having fresh bread for dinner…I really need to read through recipes in their entirety at least a day before I plan on making them.) That said, each step is very easy, and even a bread novice like myself had absolutely no trouble with this recipe. In fact, I had an Ina Garten moment while making this.
You know how Ina is always like, “the temperature of this should be 140” and then she sticks a thermometer in and it is precisely 140 degrees? Not 138 or 141. Always 140. It doesn’t matter if she is roasting a pork tenderloin or making candy, she always miraculously tests it at the right time and gets the perfect temperature. When I tested this bread before pulling it out of the oven, it was 200 degrees on the nose.
I accidentally left the flash on my camera, so I’m sorry you can’t really get a good look at the airy, light pockets in the bread. But believe me, this bread is the perfect texture. Light and tasty, with the perfect amount of chew. We used this to accompany one of our favorite stews one night, for ham/salami/provolone panini another night, for lunch sandwiches, and yep, for breakfast, too. Some of this made its way to work, since it makes a lot of bread for two people. Not that I couldn’t finish off this whole loaf myself because believe me. I could.
Adapted from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice
5 cups bread flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. instant yeast
6 Tbsp. olive oil + 1/4 cup for shaping the dough
2 cups room temperature water
1/4 – 1/2 cup herb oil (recipe follows)
Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the 6 Tbsp. oil and water and mix on low speed using the paddle attachment until the ingredients form a wet, sticky ball. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium for about 5-7 minutes, or until a smooth, sticky dough forms. It should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick to the bottom. Add additional flour to firm up the dough enough to clear the sides of the bowl, if necessary.
Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to form a 6 inch square. Using a scraper or spatula dipped in water, transfer the dough to the flour bed. Dust liberally with flour and pat into a rectangle. Allow the dough to relax for 5 minutes.
Coat your hands with flour and stretch the dough from each end to twice its size. Fold it, letter style, over itself, into a rectangle. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, dust with flour, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rest for 30 minutes.
Stretch and fold the dough again, mist with spray oil and dust with flour, cover loosely in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes. Repeat this step one more time, but this time allow the dough to rest for one hour. It should swell in size, although not necessarily double.
Line a 17×12″ baking sheet with parchment. Drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil over the sheet, and use your hands or a pastry brush to cover the sheet with oil uniformly. Lightly oil your hands and using a scraper or spatula, transfer the dough to the baking sheet, trying to keep its rectangular shape as much as possible.
Spoon half the herb oil over the dough. Using your fingertips, dimple the dough and spread it in the pan simultaneously. Do not use the flat of your hands, to avoid tearing. Try to keep the thickness as uniform as possible across the surface. If the dough becomes too springy, let it rest for 15 minutes before proceeding. Don’t worry if you are not able to completely fill the pan, especially the corners. As it relaxes and proofs, the dough will spread out naturally.
Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and set in the fridge overnight, or for up to 3 days.
Remove the pan from the refrigerator 3 hours before baking. Drizzle additional herb oil over the surface and dimple it in. (You can use all of it if you want; it will look like a lot, but the bread will absorb it.) This should allow you to fill the pan completely with the dough about 1/2″ thick. Add any other pre-proof toppings desired. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and proof at room temperature for 3 hours or as long as it takes the bread to double in size, and become 1″ thick.
Preheat the oven to 500 with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Place any pre-bake toppings on the dough.
Place the pan in the oven. Lower the temperature to 450 and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking for 5-10 minutes or until it turns a light golden brown. If you’re using any other toppings, put them on at this point and bake an additional 5 minutes. If you are adding cheese, it should melt but not burn. The internal temperature of the dough should be 200 degrees.
Remove the pan from the oven and immediately take the focaccia out of the pan and place on a cooling rack.
Allow the focaccia to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving
1/2 cup olive oil
4 tsp. dried herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, sage
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 cloves minced garlic
Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the remaining ingredients and continue to heat on low for 1-1.5 hours, in order for the flavors to infuse.
Leftovers may be kept covered in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.