It's wintertime at the market. Many of the available vegetables make good soups. It helps to clean the soup bowl if you have good bread. Soft, warm and fragrant focaccia fresh from your oven is great company for your vegetables. I find that it's one of the easiest breads to make. If you have never experienced the miracle of yeast, try this. You can make it plain or add a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs, some sautéed onions, chopped olives or all of the above.
Happy New Year!
- 1 package dry yeast (2-1/4 tsp)
- 1 cup very warm water, about 110 ° (Use a meat thermometer to check until you get used to what this temperature feels like on the inside of your wrist. Over about 125 °, the yeast dies.)
- 1-1/2 tsp sugar
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus extra for the bowls, baking dish and brushing
- 2-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp chopped rosemary (optional)
In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cup water, yeast and sugar. The bottom of your bowl will come alive and the yeast will foam. After about 5 minutes, add the rest of the water, 4 Tbsp olive oil and rosemary. Combine the flour and salt, then mix into the yeast mixture one cup at a time. Some of you may do this in the bowl, others with a KitchenAid® and a dough hook. (I have never used a bread machine.) If you are mixing it by hand, the last cup of flour will have to be kneaded into the dough. Knead it for 5-10 minutes. Ask for help if your arms get tired. It will go from sticky to silky soft.
Oil a medium bowl. Add dough, turning to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm place (85 °) for about 1-1/2 hour. It's rarely that warm in Berkeley so I heat the oven at 150 ° while I knead the dough — about 2 minutes only. That seems to make a good place for the dough to rise as long as you don’t forget to take it out when you preheat the oven to 450 ° (been there and done that.) The dough will have at least doubled in size. Even after 20 years of baking bread, I am always amazed and thankful to see this.
Lightly oil a 9" by 13" baking dish. Press the dough into the dish. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes. Lightly brush the dough with more olive oil. Sprinkle it with coarse sea salt. Make finger marks in the dough so it resembles what you see at Italian delis. Put it in the middle of the oven and turn the heat down to 375°.
Check it in about 20 minutes. It should be a light gold color and still soft. Take it out to cool a bit on a rack. Enjoy what you’ve created.
Nutrition Information (per serving)