Monday, August 29, 2016

Rosemary Focaccia

I’ve seen and collected enough recipes for rosemary-flavored flatbread, thought long enough about how I would make it, and imagined vividly enough how it would taste, that I could probably have convinced someone that I make it regularly. I even kind of surprised myself when I realized that I had never made it at all. How something so lively and interesting slipped through my culinary clutches, I will never know.

The good news is that I finally made some. I kept this pretty simple, mostly adapting my pizza dough recipe. I swapped in bread flour for the all-purpose flour to make it soft and puffy and significantly increased the olive oil to make it richer. I also infused the oil with fresh rosemary, added rosemary leaves to the dough, and sprinkled even more rosemary leaves on top of the bread.

While I tried to get rosemary into and onto this bread in as many ways as I could, I also tried not to really overpower it with rosemary. The end result in this recipe attempt was a warm, subtle rosemary essence through each bite of bread. 

This bread is fairly thick and puffy. It works well as a soup accompaniment (especially for this soup!). I think it’s even thick enough to split in half horizontally and stuff with sandwich fixings. You could adapt that thickness to meet your own preferences by stretching the dough more or less before baking.

You could also add other things to this bread, either mixed into the dough (other herbs, olives) or on top, like a pizza (a sprinkling of cheese, caramelized onions). Like any basic flour and water and yeast mixture, there are lots of opportunities improvise your way to customized deliciousness. Let your imagination run wild! You might even become an expert on a few things you’ve never actually done!


Rosemary Focaccia
You could use more rosemary in this recipe if you really want the flavor to burst through.

2 tablespoons rosemary leaves, divided
¼ cup olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
1 cup warm (about 100 F) water
2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (1 envelope)
1 tablespoon sugar
3 ½ cups bread flour (or more if needed)
1 ½ teaspoon fine salt

1. Finely chop about 2 teaspoons rosemary leaves. Set aside. Set aside about 1 teaspoon of the remaining whole rosemary leaves.

2. Warm the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-low heat. Add the remaining rosemary leaves and cook about 3-5 minutes, or until they have sizzled for a while and the leaves turn a dull green, almost brown color (do not burn them). Remove from the heat and set aside to cool. This can be done a few hours ahead of time.

3. Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer (or in a large bowl if mixing the dough by hand.) Let stand about 5 minutes or until the yeast is foamy.

4. Strain the rosemary leaves out of the oil. Discard the spent leaves. Add 3 tablespoons of the infused oil to the yeast mixture. Set the remaining oil aside.

5. Add the chopped rosemary leaves. Using the paddle attachment, stir in 2 cups of the bread flour on low speed until the mixture resembles a coarse batter (or stir together with a spoon). Cover the bowl with a clean towel and let stand 15-30 minutes. The batter should have expanded to a puffy mass.

6. Sprinkle the salt over the dough. Add about ½ cup bread flour and knead in with the dough hook (or stir in with a spoon). Continue kneading at medium-low speed, adding enough of the remaining flour to make a soft, slightly sticky dough, about 10 minutes. (Or turn out the dough and knead in the remaining flour by hand.)

7. Form the sticky dough into a ball and place it in a large bowl coated with cooking spray. Spray the top of the dough ball and place a sheet of plastic wrap on top. Cover the bowl with a towel and let stand at least 1 hour. The dough should have doubled in size. (You can also refrigerate the dough overnight. Bring to room temperature before continuing.)

8. Gently deflate the risen dough and shape into a new ball. Cover and let rest about 5 minutes. Stretch and shape the dough into a flat disk, square or oval as desired. I made mine about 10-inches square and 1-1 ½ inches thick. You can stretch it as thinly as you like. Place on a baking sheet that has either been greased or sprayed with cooking spray or lined with parchment or a silicone baking mat (my favorite).

9. Preheat oven to 350 F. Let the dough rise about 30 minutes. Gently poke the dough all over to create dimples. Brush the remaining infused oil over the top of the dough. Sprinkle with the last of the rosemary leaves. Bake 30-40 minutes or until lightly golden on the outside. If your dough is thinner, you may want to bake a shorter time.

10. Cool the bread in the pan on a wire rack. Enjoy slightly warm.

Makes about 6 servings.

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