I have a fear of recipes that use yeast so even though I’ve never had a bad experience with yeast, I am always surprised when my ball of dough doubles in size.
Foccacia is one of my favorite breads partially for its sentimental value. Almost every morning prior going to church, my dad would take my brother and I to Brook’s Breads for fresh breakfast pastries and bread. I would always go for the corner piece of their foccacia and would often bicker with my brother who got the last corner piece. Then there was always the oil that drenched the paper bag…and now it makes sense why focaccia tastes so good! Thick and chewy bread with a crisp outer shell…yum.
While I loved the topping of the bread, I thought the bread itself was a bit bland. Next time I’ll mix some fresh herbs into the dough.
1 medium baking potato (about 9 ounces), peeled and quartered
1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup water (warm, 105 to 115 degrees)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil , plus more for oiling bowl and pan
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
24 large black olives , pitted
1 teaspoon sea salt
1. For the dough: Boil 1 quart water in small saucepan; add potato and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain potato well; cool until it can be handled comfortably and put through fine disk on ricer or grate through large holes on box grater. You will need 1 1/3 cups lightly packed potato for this recipe.
2. Meanwhile, in large bowl of electric mixer or workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, mix or pulse yeast, 1/2 cup flour, and 1/2 cup warm water until combined. Cover tightly with plastic wrap (or put workbowl lid on) and set aside until bubbly, about 20 minutes. Add remaining dough ingredients, including reserved potato. If using mixer, fit with paddle attachment and mix on low speed (number 2 on KitchenAid) until dough comes together. Switch to dough hook attachment and increase speed to medium (number 4 on KitchenAid); continue kneading until dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. For food processor, process until dough is smooth and elastic, about 40 seconds.
3. Transfer dough to lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat with oil, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm, draft-free area until dough is puffy and doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
4. With wet hands (to prevent sticking), press dough flat into generously oiled 15 1/2-by-10 1/2-inch jelly roll pan or, halve and flatten each piece of dough into 8-inch round on large (at least 18 inches long), generously oiled baking sheet. Cover dough with lightly greased or oil-sprayed plastic wrap; let rise in warm, draft-free area until dough is puffy and doubled in volume, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
5. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425 degrees. With two wet fingers, dimple risen dough at regular intervals.
6. For the topping: Drizzle dough with oil and add one olive to each oil-filled dimple. Sprinkle evenly with thyme and coarse salt.
7. Bake until focaccia bottom(s) are golden brown and crisp, 23 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool slightly. Cut rectangular focaccia into squares or round focaccia into wedges; serve warm. (Focaccia can be kept on counter for several hours and reheated just before serving. Or, wrap cooled focaccia in plastic and then foil and freeze for up to 1 month; unwrap and defrost in 325-degree oven until soft, about 15 minutes.)