Of all the bread products I love to bake myself and eat in equal measure, my favourite would be focaccia. I’d say croissants, but those are far less fun and take far more time and effort to make than to eat, and I’m just not *that* masochistic.
Never mind that I justified purchasing my pricy butcher-block kitchen island in our new kitchen a few years ago by rhapsodizing poetically about how much easier it would be to laminate dough across its entire surface, oh yes indeedy! One more lie I’ve told myself, right next to “What’s the harm in one more doughnut” (my ever-widening butt would like to have a word with me), and “I’ll totally get to those dishes in the sink…later…” (as my long-suffering spouse with dishpan hands will attest).
The recipe below is for a simpler and smaller batch of focaccia than we were pumping out in culinary school (I’d ask who needs 4 full-sized pans of focaccia, but that answer will always and forevermore be me). This recipe also takes advantage of using regular granulated yeast, which should be available (in normal times) pretty much everywhere, whereas the original industrial recipe used fresh yeast, which is harder to find and definitively fussier than dried yeast.
Sea Salt and Thyme Focaccia
Yield: 8-12 servings | Prep: 30 mins plus resting time | Bake: 30 mins
- 1⅓ cup warm water
- 2 teaspoons liquid honey
- 1 tbsp active-dry yeast
- 3½ cups all purpose flour
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 tsp flaky sea salt, plus extra for scattering on top
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- Combine warm water and honey in a large, warmed bowl (metal, glass, or pottery work well for this). Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water, and let it sit for about 10 minutes until the yeast is foamy. Stir the mixture briefly to combine.
- Using a sturdy wooden spoon, gradually stir in the flour, olive oil and salt until a shaggy dough begins to form and it becomes difficult to continue stirring. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead by hand for 5 minutes until smooth, sprinkling extra flour over dough if it feels too sticky.
- When you are satisfied with the look and feel of your dough, tighten the dough surface by shaping it into a ball. Grease a very large clean bowl with olive oil, place the dough ball in the bowl, roll it lightly to cover it with a thin sheen of oil, and cover it loosely with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a warm location and let the dough rise for 45-60 minutes, or until it has nearly doubled in size. If you want a more flavourful dough and have the time, you can place the covered bowl in a cool location safe from critters like a cool pantry or basement area, and let it slowly rise over the next 12 hours. Check on it periodically to ensure the yeast is not too active and over-proofs in your basement! If it’s getting too large, you can gently deflate the dough and allow it to rise again.
- When it’s time to perform the final shaping of your focaccia, prep one large baking tray/cookie sheet with a rim by lightly oiling the surface with vegetable oil. Press into the greased pan a sheet of parchment paper; ensure it is covering the entire surface of the pan and is laying flat with no wrinkles. Trim paper as necessary.
- Turn the dough out from the bowl onto your well-floured work surface and roll or push it out with the palms of your hands into a large rectangle until the dough is about ½’ thick. Transfer the dough into the parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the dough one last time with a clean, damp kitchen towel, and let rise once more for another 20-30 minutes. Preheat your oven to 400°F at this time.
- Use your fingers to poke several deep dents all over the dough’s surface. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of olive oil all over the top of the dough, then sprinkle evenly with coarse sea salt and fresh thyme leaves split off from the sprigs.
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until the dough is slightly golden and cooked through.
- Remove from the oven, and let cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove, parchment and all, to a cooling rack. Take this time to drizzle with a little extra olive oil if desired. Can be served warm or cooled completely and sliced horizontally to make sandwiches. Or do as I do; say to hell with waiting and tear chunks off the bread to gobble them up like a savage while it’s still a bit too hot to touch. You do you, boo.