Fresh Herb Focaccia

Mar 28th

No food processor, no standing mixer, no kneading – no lie! All you need is a bowl, a whisk, a spoon, and a baking sheet. Now some recipes I post here barely need the “how-to” pics as the directions are pretty standard; this recipe (and all that use yeast), benefits from the photos. I will show you EXACTLY how it should look so that you know things are working properly. This will make a simple recipe even easier, if that’s possible – and there is nothing tastier than fresh, garlicky, olive-oily bread.

One of my favorite happy hour spots is Limoncello in West Chester. You can’t beat the price for the DELICIOUS food. In the bread basket they bring you there is basic Italian bread slices but also chunks of focaccia. It’s oily, salty, perfection and I dig through the basket to get my hands on them before my husband does. I always figured making this at home would be time consuming and difficult, but man-oh-man was I wrong. A yeast recipe that didn’t require any kneading? I’ll take it.

Let’s talk about yeast for a second. It’s actually a living organism (a fungus to be exact) that, when given food (flour or sugar), warmth and liquid (warm water or milk) will grow and produce new yeast plants. The plants give off carbon dioxide as they grow which makes the dough rise. The organisms die off in the high heat of the oven, so don’t worry that yeast plants are cross-breeding inside you. All science aside, yeast is behind some of mine (and most peoples’) favorite foods – pizza, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls, english muffins, etc., so it’s worth figuring out.

This focaccia, when cut into small chunks, would be a fun appetizer (maybe served with warmed marinara?). Focaccia is GREAT for panini and sandwiches, and if you are a tomato pie fan, this is the crust it’s made on. It’d also be a great bread to serve with soup!

Fresh Herb Focaccia

Serves 8-10 as Appetizer

2 c. lukewarm water

1 tbsp. Rapid Rise yeast

5 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

5 c. all purpose flour

olive oil for pan

Topping

2-3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary (or 2 tsp. dried)

2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 3/4 tsp. dried)

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1. Start process about 2 hours before serving.  Whisk yeast and water in a large bowl.

2. Add olive oil, salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

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3. Add 1 c. flour and whisk to combine.

4. Add the rest of the flour, 1 cup at a time, and stir with wooden spoon to combine.

5. Oil a large bowl (using about 1 tbsp. olive oil or a generous amount of cooking spray) and add dough to it. Cover with a sheet of plastic wrap (spray the side of the wrap that is facing the dough).

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6. Let rise 1 hour at room temperature. If you want to get this done ahead, let dough rise in the fridge (up to 24 hours). Let sit at room temp for about 1 hour before moving onto step 7. 

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7. Spread about 1 tbsp. of olive oil onto a rimmed baking sheet (technically a jelly roll pan).

8. DO NOT PUNCH DOWN DOUGH. Transfer dough to oiled baking sheet and stretch and pull gently with your fingers until dough mostly covers the pan.

9. Using finger tips (dip them in water first), make dimples across the top of the dough.

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10. Mix topping ingredients together in a small bowl and spread across the surface of the dough.

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11. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

12. Bake in 450 degree oven (on center rack) for 22-23 minutes or until golden brown.

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13. Let cool about ten minutes, slice and serve. Can be made up to 24 hours ahead. Keep at room temperature, covered, and toast in 300 degree oven for 5-10 minutes to heat before hand (can also be served room temp). 

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