Unless you’re a seasoned bread baker, it takes a lot of courage to make focaccia. I still remember my first time. I had already been baking bread for a few months then, but while making the dough for the focaccia, I wondered many times if it would end up in the trash. The process is just so different from making the usual buns and loaves.
You don’t knead focaccia dough the usual way. You just mix the ingredients until blended and let it rise. And then, you dump the dough on your work area, stretch it into a square by pulling with your fingers and then you fold before letting it rise again. The process is repeated a second time before the dough is ready for baking.
The amount of oil poured in to coat the bottom and sides of the baking pan can be pretty shocking. And once the dough had been dumped into the pan, you pour more oil over it. SO MUCH OIL. But it’s olive oil and it’s supposed to be healthy anyway, so…
But once you get over the fear and shock, you will want to go through the experience again. When the focaccia comes out of the oven, you will feel like singing and dancing for joy. The crust is at once crisp and chewy, the inside is soft, and the aroma… Oh, the aroma of bread that baked with all that olive oil is just beyond words.
Basil Garlic Focaccia
- In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and yeast.
- Make a well in the center and pour in the water.
- Mix the dry ingredients with the water, slowly, using your fingers, until the mixture looks uniform.
- Cover the bowl with cling film and let the dough rise until triple in volume, about two to two and a half hours.
- Sprinkle flour on the work surface.
- Dump in the dough. Yes, it will be very sticky but don’t add more flour. Just keep the surface and your hands well-oiled at all times.
- Using your fingers, gently pull the dough outward to flatten it into a square.
- Now imagine that the dough is of three portions. Lift ⅓ from the side nearest you and fold inward. Do the same with the ⅓ portion farthest from you.
- Now, fold in the the sides on your left and right. You have a square once again.
- Transfer the dough to the bowl once again, cover and let rise for 30 minutes.
- Repeat the folding and rising process.
- Pour about ¾ of the olive oil into a 13" x 9" baking pan. Make sure that the bottom and sides are oiled.
- Dump the dough into the pan. Pour the rest of the oil over the dough.
- Poke and push the dough outward to flatten it and fill the entire bottom of the pan.
- Sprinkle the basil and garlic on the dough. Sprinkle in more salt as well.
- Cover the pan with cling film and allow the dough to rise for another half an hour.
- Fifteen minutes before the rising time of the dough is up, preheat the oven to 450F and position the rack on the lower third.
- Bake the focaccia for 25 minutes.
- Scoop out the focaccia with a large spatula, move to a rack and pour the oil from the pan over the bread.
- Cool before slicing your basil garlic focaccia.