Italian-herbed focaccia

April 14, 2014

Italian Herbed Foccaccia

This focaccia is the perfect complement for yesterday’s veal meatballs. If you use happen to have a bread maker to do the heavy lifting on the mixing and kneading, you’ll spend no time at all (okay, well, mere minutes) getting this bread on the table. The bread will be soft, just the right amount of chewy, just the right amount of crispy, with a little bit of spice from the red pepper flakes. If you manage to have any leftover, it makes a great match with my eggs baked in prosciutto the next morning.

Tip for serving warm bread at the table: Pretend you’re at a nice restaurant! Grab a basket, throw a clean towel in it, and wrap the warm bread up. Your bread stays warm as you linger over your meal, and it looks nice too!

Italian-herbed focaccia
Makes a 8×12 inch focaccia

For the dough
1 1/8 cup water
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/2 dried basil
1/2 dried oregano
1/2 dried thyme
1/4 salt
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 3/8 cups unbleached white flour
1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast

For the topping
Cornmeal and olive oil for baking pan
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmagiano-Reggiano
1/4 cup fresh chopped herbs (parsley, basil, oregano, thyme)

Bread maker instructions:
Place the ingredients in the bread maker in the order listed. The water should be at room temperature. Use the dough program on your bread maker, letting it do the work to mix, knead, and rise. When the cycle is complete, remove the dough and transfer to a lightly floured surface. From here, follow the post-rise instructions.

Non-bread maker instructions:
The water should be around 110 degrees. Place the yeast in the water and let sit for 15 minutes, until the yeast is activated and bubbly.

Mix together the flour, salt, and herbs in the mixing bowl of a standing mixer. Add the olive oil and begin to mix together. Add the yeast and water mixture and continue mixing. When the dough comes together, switch to a dough hook and let the dough knead until it has come together in a smooth ball. Place the ball in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a towel, sitting in a warm place to rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until the dough has doubled in size. When the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured surface. From here, follow the post-rise instructions.

Post-rise instructions:
Punch down the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, brush a rimmed cookie sheet with olive oil and sprinkle with cornmeal. After the dough has rested, roll or stretch the dough out into a rectangle about 3/4- to 1-inch thick and place on the prepared cookie sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 40 to 50 minutes. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

With oiled fingertips, press indentations into the dough about 1 inch apart and 1/2 inch deep. Drizzle the dough with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, cheese, and fresh herbs. Cook for 20 to 25 minutes, until the bread is a deep gold and crispy.

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