When faced with a restaurant menu, I often find it hard to commit to something. Usually one specific element is the deciding factor. When I was out to lunch the other week I debated between a salmon salad and a Mediterranean chicken sandwich. It wasn’t the sundried tomato olive relish or the burrata that put the sandwich over the edge. It was the promise of focaccia instead of a standard bun that convinced me the sandwich was the best choice.
As a firm believer that bread can make or break a sandwich, I was disappointed when the server put the plate in front of me, and I saw the factory-round shape and evenly spaced dimples dotting what claimed to be focaccia. Wanting to forget that faux focaccia, I baked a real loaf with olive oil glistening on its golden crust. Still warm from the oven, I tore off pieces of the addictive rosemary focaccia. Before I finished it off, I stashed a few slices in the freezer for future sandwiches.
Adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang
Makes 1 10-inch by 15-inch focaccia
1-3/4 cups warm water
1 teaspoon dry active yeast
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour plus more for dusting
1-1/4 cups bread flour
3 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 cup olive oil plus more for oiling boil
Medium-coarse yellow cornmeal for dusting sheet pan
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, roughly chopped
Combine the water and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and let it sit for a few minutes until foamy. Add both flours and 1 teaspoon salt. Turn the mixer on low until a shaggy dough forms. With the mixer still running, drizzle in 1/2 cup olive oil pouring against the inside of the bowl to prevent splashing. Turn the mixer up to medium speed and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, but slightly sticky. (This also can be done by hand. Using a wood spoon, stir the dry ingredients into the water-yeast mixture to create a shaggy dough. Turn out on a lightly floured work surface and knead for 8 minutes.)
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl. Cover and allow to rise for 2-3 hours or until it has doubled in size.
On a lightly floured worksurface stretch the dough into a 10-inch by 15-inch rectangle. Sprinkle the sheet pan with cornmeal and transfer the dough to the sheet pan. Cover and allow to rise for another hour until it gets a bit puffy.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Using your fingers, press deep dimples into the dough about 2 inches apart. Sprinkle with rosemary and the remaining salt and drizzle with the remaining olive oil.
Bake for 35 – 45 minutes until golden brown. Before removing the focaccia from the oven, check to make sure the bottom is also golden brown or you will end up with soggy focaccia.
Cool the bread on a wire rack for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.
Note: Store the focaccia wrapped at room temperature for up to 3 days. To freeze, wrap individual pieces and then seal in a freezer bag. Thaw at room temperature and refresh in a 300-degree oven for 5 minutes.