I’ve learned more than a few things watching Steven brew beer, but one of the most valuable things I’ve learned is “Don’t fear the yeast.” He recognizes that yeast can be tricky and doesn’t always cooperate, but the results are surely worth the effort. Baking with yeast always seemed daunting. Monitoring temperatures and making sure the bread would rise would send me into a mini-panic attack, which is certainly not something I am used to in the kitchen. My approach to cooking has always been that recipes are rough guidelines and if I have to be completely sober while cooking it probably won’t work out.
But this focaccia is worth forgoing the wine* and busting out the measuring cups. It’s perfectly fluffy with a nice herbed and salted crust. Best enjoyed fresh out of the oven and served with a high quality olive oil. I find that it starts to get stale within 2 days, but it rarely lasts that long in our house anyway.
Fresh Herbed Focaccia
makes 1 large loaf
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 1/4 cup warm water
1/2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. seat salt
3 – 3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
3 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, basil, and dill work great here)
cornmeal for the baking sheet
flaked sea salt
In a large metal bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar and set aside for about 10 minutes, until it starts to foam. If your yeast does not react, you may need a fresher pack. After the yeast has started to foam, stir in the salt, 1 cup of flour, and 2 tbs. of olive oil. Then mix in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time until the dough is too stiff to stir with a spoon.
Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead for about 8 minutes, adding small handfuls of flour at a time as needed to keep the dough from getting sticky. When the dough is smooth and elastic, form it into a ball and put it in a large, oiled bowl, turning once to coat the dough in oil. Cover the bowl in a kitchen towel and leave it in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes to an hour, until it has approximately doubled in volume. You can try the microwave proofing method described here.
Sprinkle a baking sheet with cornmeal. Punch the dough down and form it into a long sheet, approximately 12 to 16 inches in length and transfer to the baking sheet. Cover the pan with a dish towel, and let the dough rise again in a warm place for approximately 20 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
Once the dough looks puffed and soft again, use your finger to create dimples. Brush the dough with remaining olive oil, sprinkle chopped herbs and flaked sea salt over the top.
Bake the focaccia for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and sounds hollow when the bottom is topped. Serve warm with your best olive oil.
*At least during the most important steps. When that b*tch is in the oven – pour yourself a nice sized victory glass!