While there were a lot of steps to making this bread, none of the steps were difficult by any means. The hardest part of this recipe was the waiting...and more waiting. I used my electric mixer, but the recipe can be adapted for doing this by hand. One thing I didn't do correctly was adding the cheese at the beginning of the baking process- you want to wait until after it has baked the first 5 to 10 minutes or it will get too brown and burn.
Overall, this bread had a great texture and taste and I will definitely make this one again!
5 cups bread flour
2 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
6 tbsp olive oil
2 cups water, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup Herb Oil (recipe below)
1. Stir together flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the oil and water and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick to the bottom of the bowl. You may need to add additional flour to firm up the dough, but it should still be quite soft and sticky.
2. Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to make a space about 6 inches square. Using a scraper or spatula dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the counter and dust with flour. Shape the dough into a rectangle. Wait 5 minutes for the dough to relax.
3. Coat your hands with flour and stretch the dough from each end to twice its size. Fold it letter style over itself to return it to a rectangular shape. Mist the top of the dough with oil, dust with flour and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
4. Let dough rest for 30 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough again; mist with oil, dust with flour and cover. After 30 minutes, repeat this again.
5. Allow the covered dough to rest on the counter for 1 hour. It should swell, but not necessarily double in size.
6. Line a 17 x 12 inch sheet pan with parchment and follow the shaping and panning instructions below.
7. Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 3 days).
8. Remove the pan from the refrigerator 3 hours before baking. Drizzle additional herb oil over the surface and dimple the dough with your fingers. The dough should fill the pan and be about 1/2 inch tall Add any other pre-proof toppings desired. Again, cover the pan with plastic and proof the dough at room temperature for 3 hours, or until the dough doubles in size, rising to a thickness of nearly 1 inch.
9. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees with the oven rack in the middle of the oven. Gently place any pre-bake toppings on the dough.
10. Place the pan in the oven. Lower the oven setting to 450 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking the focaccia for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it begins to turn a light golden brown. If you are using baking toppings, sprinkle them on at this point and continue baking an additional 5 minutes. The internal temperature of the dough should be above 200 degrees. The cheese should melt, but not burn.
11. Remove the pan from the oven and immediately transfer the focaccia out of the pan to a cooling rack.
12. Allow the focaccia to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
A. Drizzle 1/4 cup of olive oil over the paper and spread with your hands to cover the surface. Lightly oil your hands and using a scraper, lift the dough off of the counter and transfer to the pan, maintaining it's shape.
B. Spoon half of the herb oil over the dough.
C. Use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it to fill the pan. Only use your fingertips so you do not rip the dough. Try to keep the thickness of the dough as uniform as possible. If the dough becomes too springy, let it rest for about 15 minutes and continue dimpling. Don't worry if you aren't able to completely fill the pan 100%- as the dough relaxes and proofs it will spread naturally. Use more herb oil as needed to ensure that the entire surface is coated with oil.
-The generous application of herb oil to focaccia will enhance the flavor of the dough more than any toppings. There are many ways to make this oil, and you can make it in any quantity. You can either use dry or fresh herbs, or a combination. Do not heat the oil, just warm it, and then let the herbs steep in the warm oil, infusing it with their wonderful flavors.
-Here is one way to make it, but feel free to substitute your favorite herbs and spices. The olive oil you use does not have to be extra virgin because it will be cooked later, and the subtle flavor of extra virgin will be lost.
Warm 2 cups of oil to about 100 degrees. Add 1 cup chopped fresh herbs. The herbs may include basil, parsley, oregano, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, savory and sage, in any combination. (Substitute 1/3 cup dried herbs or a combination of dry and fresh). Add 1 tbsp kosher salt, 1 tsp black pepper and 1 tbsp granulated garlic or 5 to 6 cloves fresh garlic chopped or pressed. You may also add 1 tsp paprika, 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper, 1 tbsp fennel seeds, 1 tsp onion powder, or 1 tbsp dried minced onions. Store any leftover herb oil in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.