One of my favorite things about playing around in the kitchen is learning something new. I had been toying with the idea of trying focaccia for a couple weeks, but didn’t think I had the time to tackle something new. When I was making pizza dough using the recipe from the Joy of Cooking, I glanced at the next column on the page and saw a recipe for focaccia. As it turns out, focaccia is just pizza dough baked differently. I usually make half of the pizza dough recipe because I only need one pizza, but I decided to make the full version so I could use half for pizza and half for focaccia.
The first round I made had a tougher exterior than I expected. Then I realized I made the mistake of kneading it with the other half I used for the pizza dough. The bread was still good, but I wanted to see if I could achieve the softer texture. The next day, I made the dough again and stirred the ingredients just until they were combined, without kneading. This time around, I decided to try different toppings on each round. I topped one with Italian cheeses, slices of fresh tomato and sea salt; and the other with a couple cheeses, table salt and a bit of white truffle oil. They baked quite nicely and were softer than my first go-around, but still had a stiffer top crust than I expected. Next time I might try topping it with caramelized onions and bleu cheese and adding more olive oil on top to see if that helps soften the top of the bread a little more.
Now that I know how simple it is, I’ll definitely be baking this bread again. Why buy it from the store when you can have it fresh out of the oven?
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 package active dry yeast
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon salt
Up to 1/2 cup of olive oil
2 tablespoons grated cheese, such as Parmesan or Asiago
1 teaspoon herbs, such as chives, sage and basil
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
Combine warm water and yeast in a bowl and let sit until the yeast is dissolved, or about 5 minutes.
Add flour, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and salt. Mix by hand or on low speed for about 1 minute. Divide dough in half and roll each piece out to a 1/2-inch thick round. Transfer to well-oiled 8- or 9-inch round cake pans or square baking pans. Let rise, covered with oiled plastic wrap, for 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Ten minutes before baking, press the dough with your fingertips to make indentations all over the dough. Drizzle with up to 1/2 cup olive oil. Top with cheese, herbs and sea salt.
Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the pans to a rack. Serve warm or at room temperature, as is, or sliced open horizontally to use as a sandwich bread.