Thursday, May 26, 2011

Focaccia bread

This Italian style flat bread can be topped many different ways or left plain. Either way, it is a soft, delightful bread that makes a wonderful addition to a meal. Serve with soups or other main dishes, as a perfect side for a salad, or alone topped with cheese. Bon appetit!

1  3/4 cups warm water
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
1 Tablespoon yeast
1/2 cup olive oil
4 1/2 to 5 cups unbleached flour, plus extra as needed for kneeading

1/4 cup additional olive oil for the sheet pan while spreading the dough

Proof the yeast by mixing it with the warm water and sugar in a large bowl. Wait for it to foam up and form bubbles on the surface of the water, about eight to ten minutes.

Add the salt and olive oil, then mix the flour in while whisking thoroughly. Switch to a spoon as the dough thickens.

Knead thoroughly on a lightly floured counter top or bread board until the dough is smooth and springy. Be careful to add only enough flour to be able to knead without sticking, as you want the dough to remain very soft.

Roll the dough in an oiled bowl to coat, and cover with plastic wrap to rise until,doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. You could also rise the dough in a large container with a lid. The idea is that you want to hold in moisture during rising.

Pour the other 1/4 cup of oil onto a baking sheet. Begin spreading the dough with your hands, turning to cover with the oil. It may seem like a LOT of oil, but don't be afraid of it...all that oil is responsible for the luscious chewy moistness of the finished bread!

Cover the dough with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about an hour.

Drizzle about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil onto the top of the dough, then sprinkle a dash of coarse salt over the top.

Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees. Bake the focaccia for 20 minutes.

Remove immediately from the baking sheet to cool on a towel, covered.

**Variations for toppings could include Parmesan or Romano cheese, mozzarella cheese, thin sliced roma tomatoes and fresh basil leaves, rosemary, chopped olives, finely chopped onions, or simply a dash of salt...the possibilities are as endless as your imagination!

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