One of my best friends from college and his wonderful significant other visited me this past weekend, and we made a feast. A summer feast. All things meant to be eaten cold, which worked well in 90-degree heat. Orechiette with beef and arugula tossed in fresh balsamic vinaigrette (thanks Giada), salada chilena, and berries and fresh vanilla bean whipped cream.
And also, of course, something baked. Specifically, this ridiculously easy, totally delicious focaccia. We plucked fresh herbs from my apartment building’s urn garden, bright parsley and fragrant basil.
Sprinkled liberally with tangy, lasting grey sea salt and a hint of black pepper, we baked the softly puffy dough till it was golden and crisp and ready to serve (and snack on, while pasta was cooking).
I am generally fearful of things that require yeast (yes, even pretzel buns), but this focaccia doesn’t even make me break a sweat, and it only takes a short afternoon to fix up. Couldn’t be easier–or more impressive.
Adapted from Courtney’s recipe
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 (.25 ounce) package instant yeast
1 1/3 cups warm water, at 110 degrees
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
Toppings: As you wish to accompany your meal. I used a generous handful of freshly picked parsley and basil, roughly chopped, about 2 teaspoons of grey sea salt, and no more than 1/4 tsp of freshly ground black pepper. You could also use rosemary and parmigiano reggiano cheese or simply sea salt and black pepper. The bread lends itself well to most savory flavors.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flours and salt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Sprinkle the sugar and yeast into the well. Carefully pour the water into the well. Let stand for about 5 minutes, until the yeast begins to act.
Pour 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into the well. With a wooden spoon, stir the mixture in the center of the bowl, widening your stirring gradually to take in all of the flour at the sides of the well. Stir until just mixed.
Turn out on a floured surface, and knead just until smooth; keep the dough soft. Pour 1/2 teaspoon of the oil into a clean bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, turning once to oil the top. Cover and let rise until doubled, 30 to 45 minutes.
Punch the dough down. Brush about 1 teaspoon of olive oil onto a baking sheet to coat, then place the dough on the baking sheet. Gently press the dough out to about 1/2 inch thick. Brush the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil over the top of the dough. Use the handle end of a wooden spoon to dimple the dough at 1 1/2 inch intervals. Sprinkle with any toppings desired.
Place in a cold oven on the center shelf. Place a pan of hot water on the shelf below the dough. (Hint: Boil a kettle of water and pour the hot water into the empty sheet while it’s in the oven.) Close the oven and let rise until doubled, 20 to 25 minutes.
Turn on the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the focaccia for 25-30 minutes, or until golden-browned on top. Remove from the pan, and cool on a wire rack. Serve warm.