If I were to tell you this recipe defies all reasonable expectations of proper baking technique, would you believe me? And would you still want to eat it, even with the reassurance that this is the best damn (funny-looking) focaccia I think I’ve ever had? Well, it IS the best damn focaccia I’ve had, despite the bubbles. It captures the best part of rosemary, encapsulates it in a light, chewy, pizza-like crust, and turns the humble sandwich into a fragrant, unearthly experience.
The secret? Oh, well I couldn’t possibly tell you, could I? I warned you it would ruin your appetite, if you’re the unadventurous sort. If you like sourdough, though, this recipe’s really not so frightening. And if you think about it, the technique (brought about by laziness and a fast-approaching committee presentation) makes perfect sense
Rosemary focaccia beast for lazy / hectic weeks
Makes 1 12″x17″ focaccia.
You will have guessed by now that the recipe sort of comes from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. The extra step, the hastened cooking time, and the amazingly fresh rosemary from the market down the street, is the result of a recipe modified and tweaked by both James and myself. It’s one of those perfect “Oh, I’ll make bread this week … Oops, I have no time to cook it!” recipes, because that secret I went on and on about involves leaving the poolish starter in the fridge for an entire week. Yes, we thought it was a bit excessive, too, but then, we’re poor grad students and really don’t like to waste flour. Besides, the poolish smelled so fragrant … Could it really hurt to go ahead and finish the job?
If you want to avoid the bubbles, cook it properly, at a lower temperature (I’ll include instructions below). When I made this, I was in a bit of a hurry to go to bed before dawn started reminding us that we really shouldn’t be such night owls, now — we’re adults, right? (Ahem — don’t answer that.)
- 2 c. (4 oz.) all-purpose flour.
- 1 c. water.
- pinch instant yeast.
- leaves from 2 stalks fresh rosemary.
Start the poolish a few days before you want to make your focaccia. Mix all ingredients together until the flour is uniformly hydrated and the rosemary is evenly distributed throughout the dough. Place in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate.
- Poolish, from above.
- 2-2/3 c. (12 oz.) all-purpose flour.
- 2 t. (0.5 oz.) salt.
- 1-1/2 t. (0.17 oz.) instant yeast.
- 6 T. (3 oz.) olive oil.
- 3/4 c. (6 oz.) lukewarm water (90-100°F)
- 1/4 c. good olive oil.
Make sure you have ~4 hours free. Remove the poolish from the fridge ~1 hour before you want to start baking. Don’t make the same mistake I did, in other words!
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast. Pour in the poolish, oil, and water, and mix until the ingredients come together in a wet, sort of tacky ball. This may take a bit of time to do by hand, and is easier (and better) if you dip your hands in water as you’re working. This will help you get the tacky dough you want, and will turn the dough into the gorgeous, gluten-filled beast you want. When you have something that looks like that dough-ball pictured above, stop working. It shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, and if your dough’s not tacky, add some more water. If it’s so wet you can’t work with it, add a bit more flour and knead some more.
Sprinkle a counter with flour (oh, don’t you wish they had let you do this in kindergarten? We did once, but with chocolate pudding, and it was the best day of my 5-year-old life). You want a decent amount of space, so don’t be stingy. Turn the dough ball out onto the floured surface, and sprinkle it with flour. Let it rest 5 minutes.
Cover your hands with a bit of flour, and stretch the dough into a rectangular shape about twice the size of the original ball. Fold it over like you would a business letter, spray it with a bit of olive oil, and cover with a bit of plastic wrap. Let it rest for 30 minutes.
After the 30 minutes are up, stretch the dough out into a rectangle again, fold once more, and mist with oil once again. Cover with plastic wrap, and wait another 30 minutes.
Repeat once more (I think I actually skipped this one). Once you’ve folded it this last time, let it rest on the counter for an hour. It’ll rise a bit, but not much. While you’re waiting, line a large sheet pan with parchment paper.
Stretch the rectangle out from all sides, until it’s large enough to fill the pan. You can patch thin spots if need be. Place the dough on the baking sheet. If you want to add toppings to your focaccia, this is the time to do it. I just dimpled the surface of the dough with my fingers and drizzled on a bit of olive oil. Cover with plastic wrap, and let proof for 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 500°F, but first, make sure you have an oven rack somewhere in the middle of your oven. Place the focaccia on this rack, and, if you’re not sick of waiting already, turn the oven down to 450°F (this I did not do). Bake for 20-25 minutes, rotating once to ensure an even bake if you so desire. It’ll puff up and turn a beautiful golden brown, and will have made your house smell so amazing that you’ll want to have just a bit even if it is way too late at night to have a snack.
Let it cool for 20 minutes before you slice into it. (Hah. Sure.)