Focaccia, Simplified

For years I told myself I was not a baker. Then I got a KitchenAid stand mixer for a present and convinced myself to give it another go. I still don’t love the ultra technical types of baking, I’m more of a big picture gal and don’t delight in the finer details. I have found some baked goods that lend themselves to my particular brand of maverick cooking (AKA hard to fuck it up while improvising). This is one of them. Whenever I am making pasta, a big pot of soup or featuring a salad for dinner, I usually trot this one out. It is fast and pretty unfussy. Impresses the hell out of people too. Plus, fresh bread is a phenomenal olfactory and gustatory experience no one should deny themselves.

Chop up some fresh or dried herbs that sound good for focaccia. I often snip some rosemary from my yard and mix it with chopped garlic and dried thyme from my spice cabinet. Dried basil, fennel even oregano would be tasty. Put that in a glass measuring cup and add about ½ cup of olive oil. Microwave in 30 second increments on high for 3-4 cycles, stir in between. Let it sit for flavors to mingle and cool down. You could do this part in a pan too, if you are so inclined.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (if using, highly recommend) with paddle attachment dissolve 2 ¼ tsps. yeast in 1 cup warm water with a dash (like ½ tsp or so) of something sweet to feed the yeast (sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup). Stir it and let it do its thing while you prep the flour mix. In a big bowl, measure out 2.5 cups of flour and mix in 1 tsp sea salt. To the yeast mix add about ½ of the oil/herb mixture (put the rest aside) and half of the flour. Mix together and let it sit for a few minutes. Then add the rest of the flour and stir/knead it in the mixer or with your hands for a minute or two. Oil up the flour bowl and turn the dough into that for rising. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rise for an hour. I put mine in my oven with the light on. Sometimes I turn the oven on to broil for a few seconds before loading the dough, just to take the chill away, but not too hot or the yeast will croak.

Once risen, prep a ½ sheet size rimmed pan with a tablespoon or 2 of the oil/herb mixture, greasing up the whole bottom and sides. Be generous. Pour the dough out into the prepared pan and stretch it out and pat it down to fill the space. Its gonna be really soft. Use your fingers to dimple the whole surface of the dough. Like you are playing Beethoven on the dough. Then drizzle with the rest of the oil/herb mixture and sprinkle with a bit of coarse sea salt. Let it rise uncovered on the countertop for 20-30 minutes while the oven heats up to 450 degrees.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until it is nice and golden brown. Best eaten the same day, but we rarely have any leftover to worry about anyway!

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