There’s really nothing like a warm loaf of bread fresh out of the oven. Once the smell of this focaccia baking fills the kitchen, no one can resist taking a bite of the warm, tender bread with an olive-oil crisped bottom. While professional bakeries can make some truly amazing loaves using starters that have been kept going for years and steam injected ovens, there are some breads that are just made for home bakers. Focaccia is one of the first breads I baked by myself and continues to be a favorite of mine.
Newly popular methods like Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread will turn out surprisingly complexly flavored loaves, but you have to plan days ahead to let the magic work. This focaccia only takes about 2 hours to emerge from the oven from the moment the idea of fresh bread enters your mind, and the flavor variations are endless. Here I’ve simply incorporated chopped rosemary into the dough and sprinkled red pepper flakes and coarse sea salt on top, but is equally delicious with garlic, olives, caramelized onions, and parmesan. Feel free to use this recipe as a base for anything you want.
This focaccia is great as is, served in a bowl at the dinner table, but I also like to slice it horizontally for sandwiches or serve it on the side of a salad or bowl of soup. If it begins to stale, cube it or thinly slice it, drizzle with olive oil and seasonings and bake into croutons or crostini.
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 ¼ teaspoon yeast
- 1 cup water
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 ⅓ cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Red pepper flakes
- Coarse sea salt
- Heat water in a glass measuring cup or other microwave safe dish for 30 seconds. Sprinkle sugar and yeast on top and set aside for 5 minutes. A foamy layer should form on top, which lets you know the yeast is active.
- In a large bowl (or the base of a stand mixer if you have one) combine salt, flour, and rosemary, then mix water mixture in. If using a stand mixer, use the dough hook to knead for about 8 minutes, until the dough is taught and shiny. Otherwise, turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes. If the dough is sticking too much to the sides of the bowl or to the surface, add more flour one tablespoon at a time.
- Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray and put the dough ball in. Spray the top of the dough ball, or drizzle with olive oil, and cover the bowl with saran wrap. Let rise for about 45 minutes in a draft-free area (inside an unheated oven is fine).
- After the dough has finished its first rise, coat the sides of an 8×8 baking dish with nonstick spray and drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil over the bottom. Turn the dough into the dish, allowing to rise another 25 minutes. While the dough is rising, preheat oven to 425°. Before baking, use the end of a wooden spoon to make dimples in the top of the bread. Drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and sprinkle with red pepper flakes, sea salt, and any other toppings you may want. Bake for 14 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned. Let cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.