When I was in culinary school, bread baking was one of my favorite subjects. It was always so interesting to me to see how the environment and equipment could so easily impact the dough. Rainy day, and you need to add flour to your recipe. Super dry outside, and you need to add more water. Overwork your dough, and you end up with a tough mess. Underwork your dough, and you still end up with a tough mess.
The science of baking, in general, is the main reason I studied baking and pastry in culinary school, instead of culinary arts. To me, there was so much more to be learned this way! That, and the fact that I didn’t want to take the meat butchering class…
This focaccia is one of the easiest breads to make. It’s perfect for a party, to make sandwiches, or just to dip in olive oil and enjoy with your dinner. I’ve been practicing my decorative focaccia skills, and still need some work, but it’s been so much fun learning this new skill!
What goes into this delicious bread?
Extra virgin olive oil - It's really not focaccia without it!
Granulated sugar - a little pinch of sugar in the yeast before making the dough gives it just a little jump start and adds a lot of flavor!
Active dry yeast - this is of course a must for almost any bread!
Bread flour - Bread flour has a bit more protein than
Coarse Kosher salt
Fresh chopped rosemary
Fresh chopped thyme
For the topping. All of these toppings are optional, and can be customized to your taste!
Grape tomatoes, thinly sliced
Tomato, thinly sliced, and center removed
Shallot thinly sliced
Green onion, top only, thinly sliced
Fresh rosemary sprigs, stems removed
Fresh thyme sprigs
Extra virgin olive oil, divided
Sea salt flakes or coarse Kosher salt, divided
How do you make this focaccia?
Prepare the baking sheet. NOTE: Use a metal baking sheet! Drizzle about 2 TBSP olive oil into a small baking sheet and spread to coat.
Prepare the dough. Whisk together 1½ cups water, remaining olive oil, sugar, and yeast in a measuring cup. Place flour, salt, rosemary, thyme, and garlic in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add water to the dry ingredients, and turn the mixer on slow. Once the flour has soaked up the water, determine if the additional ½ cup water is needed. If so, slowly drizzle in, ¼ cup at a time until the dough is sticky but still workable.
Mix the dough on medium speed for 6-8 minutes, or until a small piece of dough can be stretched thin without breaking (the “window pane” test)
Let the dough rise. Remove the dough from the mixer and spread into the baking sheet. Cover with a damp towel in a room temperature spot for 1 hour. Flatten the dough and spread to the corners of the baking sheet, and cover again with the damp towel. Allow to rise for 1 hour.
Decorate your dough! Once the dough is ready to bake, drizzle remaining 2 TBSP olive oil evenly over the dough. Gently poke the dough all over, using your finger tips. Arrange the vegetables and herbs on top of the dough, as desired. Sprinkle with remaining salt and bake for 25-30 minutes or until it is golden brown. Let cool slightly before slicing. Enjoy!