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Focaccia

Focaccia

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Makes one flat bread.
By Dennis W. Viau; adapted from other recipes.

Focaccia is flat. You can't say much else about it, except that it's delicious and people have been making flat bread since they learned to cook with wheat. At the request of a friend, I came up with this recipe. The original request was for a whole wheat pizza dough and focaccia makes a great pizza dough. In fact, focaccia pizza is considered “high end” pizza. Experiment with this. I think you'll be pleased.

Focaccia is really simple to make and there are many alternatives for toppings. You can even make it plain with all-purpose flour or bread flour. As the name implies, it is Italian in origin, and was probably the source from which pizza came as more and more toppings were placed on the flat bread. Some people cut a thick piece into two thin slices and use it for a sandwich. It is almost as versatile as sliced bread.

Ingredients:

½ tablespoon active dry or instant yeast granules
1¼ cups (296ml) warm water; about 115°F (46°C)
3 cups + 1 ounce (1 pound/450g) bread flour or all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 sprig (7 in./18 cm)) fresh rosemary (about ½ tablespoon chopped) plus extra for garnish
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil, extra virgin is best
2 to 3 Roma tomatoes, depending on size (about 5 to 6 ounces (140-170 g) total weight)
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste (coarse sea salt is best for garnish and it is traditional in Italy)

Directions:

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water in a large bowl and let rest a minute. Add the oil, chopped rosemary, flour, and salt. Combine until dry enough to knead.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, 3 to 4 minutes. The dough should be moist and it should almost stick to your hands. If too sticky, add a little more flour. Clean the mixing bowl and coat it well with olive oil or butter. Press the dough into the bowl, coating the top with additional oil or butter, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for about an hour.

Transfer the dough to the counter and shape in a large rectangle, square, or circle, according to the baking sheet you are going to use. The dough can be shaped thick (nearly ½ inch) or very thin. Place the dough on your baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm place about 1 hour.

Dimple the surface with your fingers and drizzle extra virgin olive (1 or 2 tablespoons—more if you prefer) over the surface, allowing it to gather in the dimples. Slice the tomatoes very thin and arrange on the surface. Garnish with the grated cheese. Arrange the remaining fresh rosemary on the surface and sprinkle with fresh ground pepper and coarse sea salt.

Bake 25 to 35 minutes in a 400°F (200°C) oven until browned, longer if the dough is thick. Cool on a rack.