When I want to serve really good bread to guests, I usually make it myself. And I know, that sounds rather conceited on my part, but it really isn’t my conceit showing. It’s my thrifty side coming to the fore. Because as much as I adore the people who come to our home for JazzVox concerts (anywhere from 25-40 any given concert), I’m simply not ready to spend $10 just for bread! Especially when I can build the bread myself for a fraction of the cost! Plus, if truth be known, I really like to bake bread.
So for our last concert, I fixed this new focaccia recipe adapted from the Inspired Taste website. Now in all honesty, I never got to taste the bread. Neither did Mr. C. But from what I was told, it was wonderful! (It sure looked good and smelled like Italian heaven.) People were still asking for the bread long after it was gone. (That’s always a sure sign the bread is good!) And the best part, it had been darned easy to build. And for someone who had 7 people to fix breakfast for and 41 people to feed a full meal to at 2:00 in the afternoon, I didn’t have any extra time the morning of the concert to fuss with an involved bread recipe. (And yes I am well aware of the fact that I am crazy. You need not feel obligated to remind me of this rather obvious character flaw!) But in my defense, I really did have everything under control. And having a really easy bread recipe picked out, was absolutely necessary to the success of my master plan. And yes, for these events I have a strategy mapped out that would make a NASA project planner envious! Complete with spreadsheets, timetables, and check-off lists. (Got to at my age! Just sayin’!)
So, next time you want a simple and tasty bread, remember this recipe. It makes a lot of focaccia, but it freezes beautifully. I hope you get a chance to try this wonderful focaccia. I know I’m going to be making it in the near future. But this time, I’m not going to share it with anyone. Well – maybe Mr. C. Oh, alright. If you happen to be around, I’ll let you try it too. But only one piece and for sure, you aren’t going to be taking any home with you! Well, maybe just one piece…..
- 1 c. extra virgin olive oil, plus a small amount for greasing the dough
- 2 T. chopped fresh thyme or 2 tsp. dried thyme
- 2 T. chopped fresh rosemary or 2 tsp. dried rosemary
- pinch kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- tiny pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 c. warm water
- scant 2 T. active dry yeast or 2 envelopes
- ½ tsp. sugar
- 5 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp. kosher salt
- coarse ground sea salt or kosher salt
Combine the olive oil, thyme, rosemary, salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Place over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes or until aromatic. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Stir a few times then let sit for 5 minutes. Add 2 cups of the flour and a ½ cup of the cooled olive oil mixture. Stir until all the flour has moistened. Let sit for another 5 minutes.
Add the remaining 3 cups of flour and the kosher salt. Once the dough comes together, knead the dough until smooth adding additional flour if necessary. Pour a small amount of olive oil over the dough, and turn until the whole ball of dough is lightly greased. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean tea-towel and let rise for 1 hour in a warm place.
Use 4 tablespoons of the remaining olive oil mixture to oil 2 – 9 x 13-inch rimmed baking sheets or 1 – 18 x 13-inch rimmed baking sheet.
Transfer dough to the baking sheet(s) then press it down into the pan(s). Use your fingers to dimple the dough, then drizzle the top with the remaining olive oil mixture. Add a very light sprinkling of coarse ground sea or kosher salt. Let the dough rise for 20 minutes until it puffs slightly. Bake in a pre-heated 450 degree oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. When cool, cut into desired size pieces. No butter or olive oil dipping sauce required. (In my estimation.)