If I want something impromptu that I can whip up from start to finish in one hour and still call it homemade bread, something I can offer for lunch to dress up a homemade soup, for example, expecting each and every time I make it to hear oooooh, I make focaccia. I make it with my pizza dough, paint it with olive oil, sprinkle it with minced garlic, rosemary and coarse salt and voila, in six minutes at 500F I have a crusty masterpiece.
Generally we think of focaccia as it is offered in many restaurants – somewhat thick and spongy and full of olive oil, yes? Well, there is another kind, it is thin and crusty. That is what I make. Most of my inspiration comes from a little book I bought in the 80ties called The Pizza Book by Evelyne Slomon. The dough for pizza and focaccia is the same. Sometimes it is baked in a pan but I bake mine like pizza on tiles. After the olive oil I put simple things on top like garlic and rosemary with or without black olives. I might make one with fig spread and goat cheese. Once you can make this focaccia, it is simple to make pizza, you just need the sauce, cheese and topping. You will have already mastered the dough!
Focaccia Makes 2 14″ pies
1 cup warm tap water (110 – 115F)
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 – 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl for painting pies
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, coarsely chopped
Coarse salt for sprinkling on the dough, 1/2 – 1 teaspoon per focaccia
1 pizza paddle or cookie sheet (back), sprinkled with cornmeal
1 pastry brush
1 long-handled spatula (if you don’t have a paddle)
Pizza cutter or sharp knife
Note on tiles and stones: To get the best from your dough you need to bake it in a hot oven on a pizza stone or quarry tiles. The tiles can be purchased from Home Depot; I buy a full box that does just 2 racks. Just fit them on one of the racks of your oven. Since the dough rises quickly, let heating the oven be your first step, even before you form your dough.
Set up for the bake. Place the stone or tiles in the oven. Preheat the oven to 500F. It’ll take about 45 minutes to completely come to temperature.
Make the dough. Pour the water into a medium sized glass or ceramic bowl. Add the yeast. Stir to combine. Add the olive oil. Add whole wheat flour and 1 cup of all purpose. Add salt. Stir to combine. Now you have a dense mixture. Measure out 1 cup more of all purpose. Put some on your counter. Add the dough from the bowl. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, gradually adding more flour until the dough is smooth and elastic but not sticky, not even tacky. You may need another 1/2 cup flour for a total of approximately 2 1/2 cups of flour.
Let the dough rise. Oil a glass bowl and roll the dough around in the bowl until it has a thin coating of olive oil. Place a clean kitchen towel on top of the bowl and let rise until double, approximately 1/2 hour, maybe less.
Shape the dough. Put the dough back on a lightly floured counter. Divide in 2 pieces. Leave one piece in the bowl. Roll the first piece out to a 14” circle.
Tip: If the dough becomes too elastic as you roll, if it fights and goes back to its original size, let it rest for 3 – 5 minutes and roll again. It just means you have to let the gluten relax a little.
Dress the focaccia. When you reach your desired diameter, fold the dough in quarters and transfer to your paddle or sheet. Fold out to its full circle and readjust the shape if necessary. Using the pastry brush paint with olive oil, sprinkle with garlic, rosemary and finally salt.
Bake the Focaccia. Transfer to the heated, tiled/stoned oven, shimmying the dough off of your paddle or sheet. Bake for 3 minutes. Use the pizza paddle or a long-handled spatula to turn the pizza 1/4 turn. Bake 3 more minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and cut into rough squares and enjoy.