Did you know that “ciao” means both hello and goodbye in Italian? This month’s recipe is focaccia, an ancient flatbread popular among the Italians and thought to have originated from the Etruscans or Greeks. Focaccia can be eaten multiple ways; it can be served simply with olive oil for dipping or spread simply with butter or even an artichoke dip. Focaccia is also a welcomed companion to soups and salads. This delicious flatbread is also hearty enough to stand alone as the base for sandwiches.
2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons yeast
2.5 cups unbleached bread flour
2.5 cups whole grain flour (einkorn, spelt, kamut, and buckwheat also work well)
2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons rosemary
3/4 cups olive oil
1 tablespoons sea salt
First, place the water in a bowl. Stir in the sugar and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let the yeast sit for five minutes. It should bubble and foam slightly. Add the flour, salt, half of the rosemary, and a quarter cup of oil. Mix until a dough forms, and continue to mix energetically in lieu of kneading. The dough should remain sticky. Cover the bowl with a clean towel, and let it rest for about an hour at room temperature. During this time, the dough should double in volume.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. The parchment paper isn’t necessary, but it helps for a quick clean up. Transfer the dough to the sheet and drizzle it with two tablespoons of olive oil. Use the tips of your fingers to dimple the dough, starting in the center and pressing down and out as you go. Spread the dough to the edges of the pan. Then cover the dough with a light clean towel and let it rest for twenty minutes.
Heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle the remaining rosemary and sea salt on the dough. I use sea salt for the topping because the crystals are large and thus make a bright, tasty splash on your tongue. Using ordinary table salt would simply make the bread taste saltier. Bake in the middle of the oven, rotating the pan front to back after ten minutes. Begin checking the bread after another seven to eight minutes. It’s done when it turns golden brown. Remove the bread from the pan, and let it cool on a wire rack for ten minutes before slicing.
My two favorite ways to eat focaccia are one, when it is with garlic aioli and topped with grilled eggplant and caramelized onions, and two, when it is topped with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. Also, if you don’t care for rosemary, it can easily be exchanged for another herb like oregano or basil. Be creative, and let your imagination be the guide. Buon appetito!