Quick Rosemary Focaccia
Traditional focaccia is not a quick or easy process. I have recipes that take three risings, a lot of kneading and 6 hours of clock time. While I think the chewy, almost rubbery structure of traditional focaccia is worth the work, I make this no-knead, two-rising focaccia a lot more frequently, and get rave reviews for it too. The structure is cakier but the crust has a satisfying chewiness that almost makes up for that, and the flavor is very good.
I developed this as an adaptation from my pizza dough. It's a welcome addition to almost any meal, and it's so easy that there's really no excuse not to have fresh bread at the table. Also, the variations for toppings and flavorings are nearly as endless as they are for pizza!
5 C all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur unbleached)
4 tsp SAF instant yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
4 T fresh rosemary, chopped (optional)
1/2 C olive oil + more for baking
1-3/4 C warm water (about 105 - 110º)
1 egg yolk beaten with 2 tsp water
Place the flour, yeast, sugar, 2 teaspoons salt and half the rosemary (if using) in the food processor bowl. Process in a few bursts to mix. With the processor running, slowly add 1 cup of the water, then the 1/2 cup olive oil and finally the remaining 3/4 cup water. Process until the dough coalesces into a ball and starts riding around on the blade. Turn out on a floured board and knead a few strokes. Dough should be relatively stiff but still pliable. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place 'til doubled, about 1-1/2 hour.
Place the baking stone in the oven and preheat to 450º. Punch the dough down, divide into 2 balls and flatten each ball to a disk about 8 - 10 " in diameter. Place on a corn-meal covered board or peel, cover with a clean towel and allow to rise in a warm place for about 1/2 hour.
When the dough has finished the second rising, use your forefinger to poke deep dimples all over the loaf, about 1-1/2" apart. Drizzle olive oil over the loaves, scatter on the remaining rosemary (if using) and slide them onto the stone. Bake 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 375º and bake 20 - 25 minutes more, until the bread is a nice dark golden brown. Two minutes before the bread is done, brush with the egg wash and sprinkle generously with the coarse salt.
Allow to cool on a rack for 5 - 10 minutes before serving.
Yeast. If you are using regular yeast in the foil packets, dissolve one packet yeast in 1/2 cup of the warm water and mix in the sugar and a tablespoon or two of the flour. Allow to stand for about 20 minutes, 'til a good head of foam has developed. Then proceed with the recipe, omitting sugar from the flour mixture, adding the yeast mixture to the flour in place of the first half-cup of water, and reducing the amount of flour by 1 tablespoon.
As mentioned, variations on this basic loaf are limited only by your imagination. Here are some of my favorites:
Tomato-Onion Topping, with oregano or basil. Slice a medium onion in thin slices and sauté in olive oil until just starting to soften, about 5 minutes on medium heat. Stir in plum tomato slices (or a tablespoon of tomato paste) and some chopped herbs. Season with salt and hot sauce and if desired a teaspoon or so of balsamic vinegar. Spread the mixture on the loaves just before baking. If you want you can include chopped herbs in the dough, too. Also, you can scatter a tablespoon of shredded Parmeggiano Reggiano over the mixture before baking. Chopped mince black oil-cured olives can also be added to the mix.
Onion-rosemary. Prepare the onion as described above for the Tomato-Onion Topping, omitting the tomatoes and using chopped rosemary for the herbs. Spread the onion-rosemary mix over the loaves just before baking.
Olive. Add 1/2 cup pitted chopped olives (black oil-cured or Spanish green) to the dough, and place a whole pitted olive in each dimple just before baking.
Garlic. Add 6 large cloves of garlic, minced, to the dough. This is good with rosemary scattered on the top just before baking, as in the main recipe, or with a few shreds of Parmeggiano Reggiano.
Sun-dried tomatoes. Add 3/4 cup chopped softened sun-dried tomatoes to the dough (it will come out a rosy color). This can be combined with any of the above variations as you wish.
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