all fo' FOCACCIA

Was talking to a friend in Italy, a passionate cook, the other day... and of course we were chatting food. He wondered if I had any secrets about making focaccia. Well, I had to admit I'd never yet attempted to make it.

So last weekend I set out to first find what seemed like the adequate recipe (as with many dishes Italian, there are more recipe variations than colored beach glass on an after-the-storm Mediterranean shore). I finally decided on one posted on giallozafferano.it, which I followed faithfully... I was in unknown territory. Surprisingly, Saturday's attempt came out satisfactory enough. Sunday's was even better (it's the one in the picture), but there I took a bit of liberty, decreasing the amount of olive oil just a bit and using my trusty Kitchen Aid to do the kneading.I must now say that I'm a fan. I'm sure I'll be making it often in the future. In fact, my friend in Italy and I will probably have a "focaccia-off" when I visit him next month. I can see it now... flour flying everywhere!

Making focaccia is actually quite easy but does demand patience: a first dough-rising period of 2 hours then another of 1 hour before baking in a very hot oven for some 15 minutes. I sprinkled the top of mine with fresh rosemary, one of my favorite herbs. That same day
I had lightly roasted some fresh walnuts (just off the tree and very moist - they have a very heightened earthy tang) and so threw one in my mouth while munching on a bite of focaccia. It was heavenly! Next time I'll scatter on a few.


350 ml water
500 gr unbleached flour (I used type-65 - a measure related to ash content: not quite white flour)
15 gr FRESH yeast
10 gr unrefined FINE sea salt (I use French Guérande grey salt)
10 gr blond turbinado sugar
Unrefined COARSE sea salt (...French Guérande grey salt)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed
Extra virgin olive oil

— Crumble the yeast into a bowl. Add the sugar and 100 ml (of the 350 ml) tepid water. Set aside until bubbles form on the surface, approx 5 min.

— Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the remaining 250 ml of water, the salt and yeast mixture. If kneading by hand pour out on a lightly floured surface and work it for 15 - 20 minutes. (The difficulty with this is that the dough is quite sticky (much more than pizza dough) it becomes a bit of a task.) As I mentioned above, I ended up using my Kitchen Aid the second time around, putting the dough hook to work. Take note that the equivalent time for kneading with the Kitchen Aid is approx 2 minutes on Speed 2 once  the ingredients are incorporated (kneading it longer breaks down the cell structure of the flour in your dough, which will not rise properly). The dough you end up with will be quite moist and supple.

— Using a spatula, transfer from the mixer to a large bowl. Cover with a towel and set in warm place (at least 24 ˚C / 75 ˚F) that is free of drafts. (It was cold here in Paris last weekend, and the building's central heating had not yet been turned on, so I ever so slightly warmed up the oven  then set the dough inside.) Let it rise for at least 2 hours.

— Generously grease a 60 x 40 cm (17 x 14 inch) cookie/baking pan (with sides) with olive oil. Transfer the dough, using the spatula again if needed, to the pan and stretch it out flat: the way to do this is to simply work the dough with your fingers, pushing it in all directions until it decides to stay put
- you might want to oil your fingers a bit so the dough doesn't stick to them.

— Make an emulsion of 20 ml olive oil and 20 ml of tepid water. Brush it generously on top of the dough then - very important - "massage" it into the dough by pressing down with your fingers. This will give the focaccia its characteristic pitted surface. Set it back in a warm place and let it rise for 1 hour.

— Preheat the oven to its highest temperature (mine goes to 250 ˚C (480 ˚F). Lightly sprinkle the dough with unrefined COARSE sea salt then the rosemary leaves (or whatever else strikes your fancy). Bake in the oven on the upper-middle rack for 10 - 15 minutes, or until the top begins to slightly brown in places. Remove from the oven and slide out of the baking pan.

— Eat while pipping hot! Yummmm!

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