Earlier this summer, when we were in Boulder CO, when browsing in a funky used book store, I came upon this really cool classic book on bread baking. It’s The Tassajara Bread Book by Ed Brown. That night, as soon as baby Milo was put to bed, I devoured the book back to front. It was sooooo inspiring. It made me want to bake bread soooo badly. I wanted to knead the dough and then look at the bubbles form themselves and smell the bread baking. Yum. But we had no oven in the apartment so I was outta luck.
I truly believe that bread baking is a great representation of Yin & Yang. C’est-à-dire: the recipes are so mathematical that they’re actually called formulas. When baking bread, I more often than not scale out the ingredients. On the other hand, making bread also appeals so much to the senses. You smell the levain, you feel the dough as you knead it, you look at it rise… bref, it’s the perfect balance.
Now — this focaccia is a recipe that I’ve been doing for years. It’s one of my favourite breads. I even managed to raise $500 for cancer research by selling one, once! Over the years, I’ve improved my technique by adding a pre-fermentation step, which I find yields a deeper, more complex flavour to the loaf. If you’re short on time and you want to make the bread in one day, you can just skip this step, it’ll still be wonderful. Just mix the preferment ingredients directly into the dough.
Ok — now go get your hands dirty!
Olive + Rosemary Focaccia
- 2 C all-purpose flour;
- 1/4 tsp active dried yeast;
- 1 C room temperature water
- 2 C all-purpose flour;
- 1 tsp salt;
- 1 3/4 tsp active dried yeast;
- 1/2 C room temperature water;
- 4 + 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil;
- 2/3 C pitted olives
- 1 bulb of garlic (roasted in the oven at 350 for 40 minutes, then peeled into individual cloves)
- A few branches of rosemary roughly chopped
- 1 tsp coarse salt
- The night before, mix together the ingredients for the preferment, cover and set in the refrigerator overnight (up to three days);
- On baking day: take the preferment out of the refrigerator an hour before making the dough;
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and yeast with a wooden spoon. Add the water, 4 TBSP olive oil and preferment and mix until well combined;
- Turn the dough onto a floured countertop and knead for approximately ten minutes. You want the dough to be stretchy and warm. If it sticks too much, add a little flour. If it’s too dry, add a little water;
- Once the dough has attained the desired consistency, roll it into a ball and put it in an oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a wet cloth and let it rise for an hour or so (until it has doubled in size);
- Once the dough has doubled in size, flip it onto a floured countertop and punch down the air with your knuckles for a minute or so;
- Slit the dough with a blade in a few places and add the olives + roasted garlic cloves. Fold the dough on itself to help contain the olives and garlic;
- Separate the dough in two and shape into ovals;
- Place each oval on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drizzle with 1TBSP olive oil each, sprinkle the rosemary on top and cover loosely with a plastic wrap;
- Let the focaccias rise for approximately 1 hour or until doubled in size;
- While the focaccias rise, preheat the oven to 400F;
- Remove the plastic wrap and bake the focaccias in the preheated oven for 30 minutes;
- Remove from the oven and sprinkle some coarse salt on top;
- Let them cool before tearing into the loaves.