What could be better on a rainy Sunday evening than a glass of wine and a cookie sheet of sticky olive and rosemary-laden focaccia dough? I ask you. Just sipping wine in a warm kitchen while tossing the bread dough and chopping salty olives and fresh sprigs of rosemary made me feel happy. There was warm soup scenting the air and throwing steam up from the pot. I felt like such a homebody!
I loved how easy this recipe is ... like making a pizza dough and adding stuff to it ... and really, the sky's the limit when you think about additions. I was having the focaccia with chicken, kale and white bean soup so I left the top of the dough unembellished other than a drizzle of olive oil and plenty of black pepper, but my cookbook, The Bread Bible suggested caramelized onions or Parmesan cheese flecks or olive pesto as toppers. I think adding sundried tomatoes with some Mediterranean herbs would be delightful. I also think diced figs or chopped grapes might be interesting if you served that type with warm Brie or chunks of Feta.
My imagination runs wild ...
This is an easy dough to work together. It rises for about one hour and then is spread onto a greased cookie sheet with your oiled knuckles. Dimple the surface of the dough with your knuckles so that it will hold the olive oil drizzles. The focaccia is then baked in a hot oven on the lowest rack to crisp up the bottom crust. After about 15 minutes, the oven temperature is lowered and the bread is baked for another 20 minutes or so. It rises beautifully to make a bread that is almost two inches high.
I used a pizza cutter to whiz through the finished bread while it was still hot from the oven ... I think you can keep the loft of the bread better, though, if you make the bread ahead of dinnertime, cut it with gentle sawing motions when it is completely cooled and then, re-warm it gently. Just saying, if you care about have perfectly risen focaccia. We treasure that 'right from the oven steaminess', though, so a bit of collapse doesn't phase us! We just piled wedges of focaccia on a platter and set out small bowls of basil pesto and hummus to have slathered atop. With big bowls of chicken, kale and white bean soup and glasses of dry red wine, we were in heaven!
Olive and Rosemary Focaccia
adapted from a recipe in The Bread Bible
2 ½ c. all purpose flour
½ tsp. sugar plus a pinch for the yeast mixture
½ tsp salt
½ c. warm water
½ c. warm milk
2 ½ tsp. active dry yeast granules
2 ½ tbsp. olive oil plus more for drizzling
A generous handful salt-cured olives, pitted and roughly chopped
1 tbsp. rosemary leaves, finely chopped
Black pepper for sprinkling
Making the Focaccia:
- Mix the water and milk together in a measuring cup and microwave until warm (109°F). Add the yeast and the pinch of sugar and stir to dissolve the yeast. Set aside for five minutes.
- Sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Make a well and pour in the yeast/milk/water mixture and olive oil.
- Stir together to make a soft, sticky dough.
- Fold in the chopped olives and rosemary until the additions are uniformly distributed throughout the dough.
- Cover the bowl with a towel and set the dough aside to rise for almost an hour.
- Turn the dough out onto a greased cookie sheet.
- Oil your knuckles and fingers with olive oil and begin to press the dough into a rectangle that measures about 9 x 14 inches.
- Dimple the surface of the focaccia and then sprinkle generously with black pepper. Drizzle on some olive oil and set the focaccia aside, uncovered for 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 450° F. Place the focaccia on the bottom rack and bake for 15 minutes. Then, lower the oven temperature to 350°F and continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the bread is golden and crisped around the edges. The bread should spring back a bit when gently pressed.
- Let the bread sit on the pan for a few minutes when it comes out of the oven and then slide it onto a pretty platter and let it cool a bit before cutting.