If I were a real chef, there is no doubt in my mind that I would specialize in Italian cuisine. Northern Italian, probably. I love Italy, Italians, Vespas, gelato, good olives, roasted chicken with rosemary, Italian wine…you get the picture.
When I wake up feeling like I need a little Italy, I often make some focaccia. Although it can be tarted up quite a bit, focaccia is basically like pizza dough with some good olive oil and herbs, and maybe some hard cheese. Today I just used what I had in the house: Parmesan and dried Italian herbs, heavy on the Rosemary. With relatively few adornments it is great alongside salad or soup, and if you put lots of things on it (cheese, vegetables, meat) it can be a light meal on its own. Many people use it, in its simplest form, as sandwich bread.
I would credit this recipe if I remembered where it came from, honest I would.
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon olive oil plus additional to brush on top
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3+ cups bread flour (you can use all-purpose flour, but bread flour will give you a more authentic texture)
- 1 packet quick rise dry yeast
- toppings of your choice: dried or fresh herbs, onions (I like mine sauteed first), peppers, grated hard cheese such as Parmesan, Romano, cooked sausage…
I make this in my KitchenAid stand mixer. Combine yeast, sugar, salt and one cup of the flour in mixer bowl. In a small saucepan, combine water and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Heat oil and water until its warm enough to stick your finger in but just barely. Pour warm liquid into mixer bowl and mix with dough hook for about 4 minutes on a medium setting. Add remaining flour until mixture clings to hook and cleans sides of bowl – about 6 or 7 minutes. You can add more flour if it seems to remain very sticky, but add only a little at a time and watch for dough to reach the stage of clinging to the hook.
Place dough in an oiled bowl, flipping so that both sides of dough ball are greased. Cover bowl and let rise until dough is about double in size, about an hour. Punch dough down, place on floured surface and shape into a ball. Flatten ball into a circle or an oval. (I do the flattening on a silicone baking sheet placed on top of a baking sheet). Turn the oven on to 375, cover the dough and let it rise again for 15-20 minutes.
After the second rise, pierce dough lightly all over with a fork, and brush with as much olive oil as it takes to cover the surface liberally. Add the toppings you selected, and bake for 25-30 minutes. Viva Foccacia!