I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like bread, and I certainly have never met an Italian who doesn’t like bread. This focaccia has been my all time favorite for many years now and I make it at least once a month if not once a week. I always make it with rosemary but any fresh or dried herb or combination of herbs can be used. It can even be made plain with nothing but salt and pepper and it will still be delicious.
In my house when I was growing up this was never called focaccia, instead we always called it white pizza. I don’t know where that came from. I am assuming it was from my fraternal grandmother as i remember eating this more often on visits to her house than with my maternal grandmother. At any rate, it is totally delicious and very easy to make. A few ingredients, a bit of mixing in the stand mixer, a couple of quick kneads by hand and then a bit of unattended rising and it’s in and out of the oven in 25 minutes and ready to be enjoyed. There are countless recipes for it. I list her my recipe for it.
MAKES ONE 11 X 17-INCH FOCACCIA, 4 TO 6 SERVINGS
1 cup warm tap water (about 110 degrees)
2 1/2 teaspoons (1 envelope) active dry yeast
6 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary, or
1 tablespoon dried, plus rosemary sprigs (optional)
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
One 11 x 17-inch jelly-roll pan
Measure the water into a bowl and whisk in the yeast, then 3 tablespoons of the oil. Measure the flour, 2 teaspoons salt, and chopped or dried rosemary into a mixing bowl and stir well to combine. With a spatula or wooden spoon, stir the yeast mixture and the milk into the flour mixture until all the flour is evenly moistened, then beat vigorously for a minute. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
You can also do this in a stand mixer with a dough hook. Mix in the order listed above with the dough hook and the mixer on low speed until all the dry ingredients are moistened. Then mix on medium speed for 5 – 8 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Knead by hand about 10 times and proceed with the rise as directed above.
Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons of the oil on the baking pan. Turn the dough out of the bowl onto the pan and pat and press it to fill the pan completely. If the dough resists, let it rest for a few minutes before continuing. Dimple the surface of the focaccia by using a fingertip to poke cavities in the dough at 2-inch intervals. Drizzle with the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil and sprinkle with the kosher or coarse salt and the rosemary sprigs. Allow the dough to rise again until doubled in bulk, about an hour.
About 20 minutes before baking, set a rack at the lower third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
Bake the focaccia for about 25 minutes, until deep golden. Lift the side of the focaccia with a spatula or pancake turner to check the bottom about halfway through the baking time. If it is coloring too quickly, slide the pan onto another pan to insulate the bottom.
If you are serving immediately, slide the focaccia from the pan onto a cutting board. If you will be serving later, slide the focaccia off the pan to a rack to cool.
SERVING: Cut narrow slices, or squares to split horizontally for sandwiches.
STORAGE: Keep the focaccia loosely covered at room temperature if it will be served on the day it is made. For longer storage, wrap in plastic and freeze. Unwrap and reheat the focaccia on the pan used to bake it for about 7 minutes at 375 degrees.