December 30, 2008

Rosemary Focaccia

I have vague, but very fond, memories of my mom baking focaccia when I was really little. The aroma of fresh bread and herbs would invade the whole house. I don't know what happened exactly, but she stopped--maybe when someone decided margarine was healthier than olive oil. I'm so glad those days are gone!

I made this recipe recently; Sarah asked to bring bread to Christmas dinner, but being snowed in, I couldn't just grab a baguette from the store. Focaccia does take awhile--no instant gratification here--but it is worth it. It's not labor intensive, you just need a few hours for all of the rising. Before I made this, I'd never used yeast before. (It's not so bad after all.) This bread, from my Sunday's At Moosewood Restuarant cookbook, was everything I'd hoped it would be--and just like I remembered.

SIDE NOTE: If you don't currently own a rosemary plant, stop reading this and go buy one. Now. No, I'm serious. Go. There's no reason not to have your own rosemary plant. You don't need much space, they don't care if you neglect them for a little while and they will grow almost anywhere, even through droughts. (They can also live up to 30 years--definitely worth the $5 investment.)

I used fresh cut rosemary for this recipe (and I use in it many other things--especially when roasting vegetables), but you can use dried rosemary if you have to. Moosewood also suggests trying a variety of other herbs and topppings, like thinly sliced onion, black olives, sage, basil, oregano, chives, etc. Any way you go, it'll be amazing.

  • 2 tablespoons dried or fresh rosemary leaves (I added some dried thyme and dried basil to my fresh rosemary)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1 package dry yeast (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups unbleached white bread flour*
  • 1 teaspoon course salt (This was too much for my taste, a light sprinkling would be enough.)
  1. Finely chop your fresh rosemary and transfer to a large mixing bowl with the other herbs. Pour the boiling water over the herbs and let cool to a temperature comfortable on the inside of the wrist. (This took about 5 minutes. The water should be around 105-115 degrees for the yeast to activate properly.)
  2. Add the yeast and sugar.
  3. After about 5 minutes, when the yeast is bubbling, add the salt and one tablespoon of olive oil.
  4. Stir in the whole wheat flour. Add only as much white flour as you need to make the dough pull away from the sides of the bowl.
  5. Knead the dough for 5 to 10 minutes, until it is smooth and springy. As you knead the dough, add just enough flour to prevent sticking. The dough should remain rather soft.
  6. Oil a large bowl. (I just sprayed one lightly with TJ's Pam-type stuff.) Place the dough in the bowl, then flip it once to oil both sides. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth (I used a layer of plastic wrap and then a kitchen towel), and set aside in a warm place for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it's doubled in size.
  7. Punch down the dough and knead it for a minute or two. Oil a large baking sheet with olive oil. Stretch and pat the dough until it is roughly 12"x12". Cover the pan and let the dough rise again for about 45 minutes.
  8. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make indentations with your fingertips about every 2 inches all over the dough. Sprinkle with coarse salt and drizzle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  9. Bake 25 minutes or until golden. Serve warm!
*A more traditional recipe would probably use all white flour, but this tasted the same and is more healthful.

For more information on bread baking, I highly recommend The Tassajara Bread Book, which I discovered when watching the interesting documentary, How to Cook Your Life. Check them out.

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