Rosemary Focaccia

Tomorrow night I will be attending my first Oscar Party, hosted by my dear friend and former film crew colleague, Christina. It is low-key, potluck style affair and i am planning on bringing rosemary focaccia with a marinara dip (see tomorrow's post). I have a very strong feeling that most of the actual awards show will be missed as we opt instead to gab, cackle and nosh. We'll probably catch a bit of the red carpet fashions and then cheer on our Richmond-filmed top choices (ahem, Lincoln for best picture, Spielberg for Best Director, Daniel Day Lewis for Best Actor and Sally Field for Best Supporting...), but i know that i will be hanging around the food table taste-testing all the homemade hors d'oeuvres.

Focaccia is a popular Italian flat-bread and my second favorite style bread (after a crusty sourdough boule) and one of the reasons i adore it is the pizza like toppings that are often baked into the top: thin slices of farm-fresh tomatoes, chopped kalamata olives, slivers of caramelized onions. And always topped off with plenty of olive oil and salt. In my more busy days, a slice of focaccia and a chunk of cheese was a common meal-on-the-go.

Today we'll be going the more traditional route and finishing the focaccia with fresh rosemary. The accompanying marinara will be spiced with a blend of Mediterranean herbs (basil, rosemary, parsley) to complement the herbaceous flat bread. Mouth-watering, Mediterranean mayhem!

Focaccia Ingredients (yield 1 loaf)
  • 1 cup white flour
  • 1 cup white wheat flour
  • 1 cup whey (we had some leftover from making mozzarella, but you can substitute water)
  • 1 packet (2 1/4 teaspoons) of active dry yeast
  • a couple pinches of sugar (to help activate the yeast)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt 
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
Toppings (to taste)
  • coarse sea alt 
  • fresh rosemary
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • splash or spritz of water

You'll want to "proof "the yeast in warm whey (or water) first. (For more details on proofing and kneading, follow my step-by-step directions on basic bread-baking on my Walnut Bread post here.) Once the yeast has bloomed, add the flour and salt. Mix until well-incorporated and the dough starts pulling off the side of the bowl. (This is where the method shifts a bit from the Walnut Bread recipe...) Pour the dough onto a cutting board doused with extra virgin olive oil (not flour). Wash the bowl and set aside, then knead the dough in the olive oil for several minutes (5-8) to work the gluten. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil to the cleaned bowl. Roll the dough in the oil until well coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a cotton towel and set in a warm spot or a pre-heated 100˚F oven for about an hour until the dough has roughly doubled in size. Meanwhile, thoroughly and evenly oil a baking pan using your fingers or a pastry brush.

Just look at those gluten strands!

The dough, after the first rise, will be very sticky and gluten-y. (This is what you want!) Transfer the dough to the prepared pan and spread out the dough evenly using a quick back and forth and up and down finger-pressing method. (Kinda like making pizza dough.)

The dough will "fight back" a bit, but keep working it and quickly pressing the dough outwards and it will retain it's new pan-shape. When spread out, the dough should be between 1/4 and 1/3 inch think.

For the second rise, we place the pan on top of the stove since the first-rising oven temperatures have heated the area nicely. Cover the dough and let rise for another 25-30 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to ~425˚F.

Once the dough is finished rising the second time, dimple the dough with your finger tips. These tiny crevasses with catch the olive oil and give focaccia it's signature pot-holed texture.

Generously coat with rosemary and coarse sea salt. Splash or spritz with a little bit of water (which will help make a hard crust) and pop in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Once out of the oven, drizzle with more olive oil. Simply break chunks off with your hands (that's how we do it!) or slice with a bread knife. Best enjoyed while it's still warm from the oven.

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