Monday, January 4, 2010

Herb & Olive Oil Focaccia . . . One Bowl, No Mixer, No Kneading, No Kidding!

Do you, by chance, happen to have a kid in high school who's on a sports team? Like maybe a swimmer? Well, I do. My older son, Charlie, is on his high school swim team, and any evening prior to a day with a scheduled swim meet, he always requests that we have pasta of some sort for dinner. Yep, he's carbo loading, in a big way. In swim-team lingo, he's a "sprinter" and, to a sprinter, being able to produce an explosive burst of energy on demand is the holy grail. Here's the formula, just in case I didn't make that perfectly clear:

Pasta = Energy = Kid Swims like a Shark

A life-long discriminating eater, Charlie regularly emits a deep, loud, profoundly grateful "YES!!" when he walks in the door after swim practice and realizes that I am, once again, standing at the stove whipping up yet another noodle-laden meal. His affirmation is particularly joyous if I'm in the midst of making something akin to fettucine alfredo with chicken, one of his favorites. Now, if there's one thing a mom likes to see now and then, it's an overt display of just such sincere gratitude. Really warms the apron strings.

There are no less than three swim meets this week so no doubt the pasta will be flyin'. Today's herb and olive oil focaccia is going to accompany tonight's supper. It's an incredibly uncomplicated and tasty yeast bread that's fairly easy to customize. It smelled fabulous while it was baking. Anyone can make this dough. No mixer, along with no significant skill, is required. Trust me--I oughta know.

This recipe is from Nick Malgieri's 2005 book, A Baker's Tour. He calls it Ligurian Focaccia from Nove Ligure (or, Focaccia alla Novese). Sounds fancy, but it's not. Fancy no, delicious yes. I decided to augment it with a little fresh thyme, rosemary, and parsley; that was my only real deviation from the original recipe. I reworded the instructions slightly here and there, and I used less salt than the recipe calls for on the top of the dough before baking. This focaccia is definitely best the first day you make it; it starts to dry out quickly by the next day.

Herb & Olive Oil Focaccia

(For a printable version of this recipe, click here!)

Prepare a 10" x 15" jelly roll pan by coating it liberally with olive oil.

For the dough:
2 tsp. salt
4 cups All Purpose flour (I used unbleached)
5 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 and 2/3 cups warm water (about 110 degrees)
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 pinch finely chopped fresh thyme
1 small sprig finely chopped fresh rosemary

For finishing:
3 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. kosher salt (I only used 1 tsp. and I think that was plenty)
1 tsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 very small pinch finely chopped fresh thyme
1 very small sprig finely chopped fresh rosemary

To prepare the dough, in a large bowl, stir the salt into the flour and rub in the oil with your hands, making sure it is evenly absorbed by the flour. Throw the chopped herbs in and toss them around with a fork. (Note from Jane: It seems weird to think of rubbing oil into flour with your hands, but the flour absorbs it incredibly quickly and the flour still feels quite dry. Interesting!)

In a separate small container, whisk the yeast into the water, then use a large rubber spatula to stir the yeast mixture into the flour mixture. Stir vigorously to make an evenly moistened dough that does not need to be very smooth.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rise at room temperature until it has doubled in bulk. (Note from Jane: I placed the dough bowl in a rather enclosed spot on my counter that's somewhat warmer than typical room temperature; I don't have much luck with yeast dough if I just leave it anywhere to rise!)

Once the dough has risen, scrape it onto the prepared pan and spread it evenly with the palms of your hands. (If the dough resists and springs back, set the pan aside for 5 minutes so the dough can relax a bit, then try again.)

Cover the dough on the pan with oiled plastic wrap and let it rise in the pan until it is puffy, for approximately 30 minutes.

About 15 minutes before you are ready to bake the focaccia, set a rack in the lowest level of your oven, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Use your index finger to dimple the dough at 1 and 1/2" intervals.

Drizzle the dough all over with the olive oil (it will puddle in the little indentations) and sprinkle on the herbs and salt (Note from Jane: Be as judicious with the amount of salt as you please; Malgieri indicates to use 2 tsp. on top but I used only 1 tsp. kosher salt and even that seemed a little excessive once the bread was done).

Bake the focaccia until it is deep golden in color, about 30 minutes. Check the bottom by lifting a corner up carefully with a spatula before removing it from the oven, to make sure the bottom is well-colored as well.

Slide the focaccia off of the pan and onto a rack to cool. Or, cut it immediately and serve warm. Cut into 2" to 3" squares.

(If you'd like to comment on this post, or to read any existing comments, just click on the purple COMMENTS below!)


My Casa Bella said...

That looks like something I'd be eating at Macaroni Grill, MMMM I can smell it now and taste it dipped in the olive oil. Too bad I'm doing Gluten Free for at least this month....see how long that lasts, Already broke it tonight by having pizza but I didn't feel good enough to cook so DH picked up Pizza and it was so good. :)

Anne said...

Wow that looks great! I know about the carb loading guys... my husband is one all grown up and makes me crazy downing anything and everything without one piece sticking! Oh well! :) This recipe looks great and I bet it smelled delicious baking with all those great herbs!

faithy, the amateur baker said...

Wow..this look so good and so easy! I'm going to try this one of these days! :)

Julia @Mélanger said...

This looks so incredibly simple, but so impressive. Wonderful. I could eat that entire thing - but not have an excuse of 'training' to ease the guilt! ;)

Sara said...

Thanks for the focaccia recipe. That's one of my faves, but it's great to have a tried & true recipe.

Had to laugh about your son Charlie's reaction to your cooking. My brother, who coincidentally has the same name, is so enamored of our mother's cooking that at family events he frequently takes a photo of her bringing her latest creation from the kitchen. I mean, we are all grown up (past grown up, nearly old...) and he's still doing this. She loves it - it's great to feel appreciated for cooking for someone you love!

Mags said...

I just love homemade focaccia and yours looks wonderful.

Your Charlie is one lucky boy to have a Mom who cooks such delicious things for him!

Hanaâ said...

What a funny post. Charlie sounds like a hoot :o) I can't blame him. The bread looks amazing. I love foccacia. Give me some good olive oil with it, and maybe some finely chopped garlic in it, and I'd call it dinner :o)

If I hadn't said it before, I want to wish you a very happy new year. May 2010 be filled with joy and good health. I'm glad I found your blog!!

Becky Bakes said...

The focaccia looks divine!! And the recipe isn't ridiculously difficult or time consuming. I've bookmarked this! :)

Kate at Serendipity said...

Hrmph. Now, you know, I was just thinking that I'd like to make some foccacia. How did you know?

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A beautiful focaccia! It really looks appetizing and tasty!



May said...

I've recently taken to cooking and baking as a hobby in my itsy bitsy college apartment kitchen. This is definitely a keeper! The apartment smells wonderful :) (I only had fresh rosemary on hand-- a college student can only keep so many fresh herbs and ingredients in the apartment without them going bad :( I also halved the recipe and put it in a 9" pie pan.) It's baking right now! :)

Anonymous said...

This is a great recipe! My husband and I now look forward to fresh focaccia with our homemade soups. I recommend cutting waaaay back on the salt (as you said). Much tastier / healthier without it.

More please!

Anonymous said...

I'd like to make this and send it to my son in NY. Can this be frozen and mailed (overnight delivery)?

Jane said...

Hi Anonymous,
Regarding your question about freezing this focaccia, I guess my first instinct is to say yes, with the caveat that I remember that this focaccia became stale fairly quickly (so, ideally, it's best eaten within a few hours of baking). Because of that, I figure if you are going to freeze it, do so ASAP after it's cooled. Then immediately wrap it really, really well (Saran wrap snugly a couple of times, then foil over that, etc.), and freeze it solid until it's ready to be consumed. If your son warmed it up in a low oven (like maybe 300 degrees) for 10-15 minutes, I think it might be just fine and it might even taste like it came right out of the oven for the first time. Anyway, that's what I'd try if I needed to freeze and mail this bread. Hope that works for you. Thanks very much for asking my advice!
Jane :)

Kaity Mehleisen said...

I made this a few days ago and it didn't come out well. I followed the instructions exactly (they were very easy to follow, by the way), but it came out very hard and not soft at all, like focaccia should. The taste was good, but the consistency was not. It seemed stale, even though I had just baked it. It had more of a biscuit consistency, rather than bread. I am thinking I didn't let it rise long enough? Any ideas on what may have happened here and what I can do differently next time? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I'm cooking it and it smells awesome.
I incorporated chopped onions and sweet pepper into the mix.

Lylian de la Perrelle said...

Dear Jane, I have made this several times now since I spotted it on has become a family favourite as well as my extended family. I always enjoy baking this bread because I'm not restricted to the herbs in the recipe. I have used Oregano, Sage as well as parsley Rosemary and thyme and each time, it never fails. So easy to put together. Thank you.

Jane said...

Dear Lylian,

Thanks so very much for your nice comment! I am thrilled to know that you like this recipe so much, and have made it repeatedly. That's really gratifying to hear.

Jane of Jane's Sweets