Life in a Northern Town

Olive & Tomato Focaccia

The smell of a freshly baked loaf of bread makes me happy. In fact, the entire process of bread making gives me joy— the smell of yeast, the sound of the mixer kneading the bread and watching the texture change as it begins to rise. It's magical— a pile of wet, sticky flour morphs into a loaf of focaccia, boule or baguette. Who couldn't use a little magic in their lives?

I used the olive oil dough recipe from Jeff Hertzberg's and Zoe Francois' cookbook Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day for my focaccia. It's a solid recipe and never, ever fails me. If I want to have a couple of loaves of focaccia for dinner, I start the dough at noon and it's ready to hit the oven at 6 pm. I know you are probably thinking, dinner at 6 at Mary's, yeah right. It's true (most of the time), I make a very earnest effort to eat before 8 pm during the school week— figure it will help with my mother of the year application. I settled on Nancy Silverton's baking method for the focaccia, it produces an amazing crust— crispy and golden brown.

Olive & Sun-dried Tomato Olive Oil Dough (Adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day)

2 3/4 cups lukewarm water 1 1/2 tbsp granulated yeast (I use SAF red instant yeast) 1 1/2 tbsp kosher salt 1 tbsp raw sugar 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (1/4 cup for the dough & 1/2 cup for the pans) 1/2 cup kalamata or oil cured olives, chopped 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped 6 3/4 cup bread flour (I use Honeyville Alta Artisan Unbleached Flour) Coarse sea salt and chopped fresh herbs (I used rosemary, thyme and oregano)

Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, olive oil with the water in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the flour and mix until it comes together(about 3 minutes) using the dough hook (if using a stand mixer) or a spoon. Cover (not airtight) and allow to rest at room temperature until the dough doubles in volume (about 2 hours).

Dust the work surface lightly with flour and turn the dough out onto the floured surface. Add the chopped olives and sun-dried tomatoes to the dough— knead them in the dough as best you can.  Acting as if the round has four sides, fold the edges of the dough toward the center. Turn the dough over and return it, folded side down, to the bowl. Cover the bowl again and set it aside at room temperature until it has doubled in volume, 50 minutes to 1 hour. (The dough will be puffy and will feel alive, springy and resistant. It will not collapse under the touch of your fingertips.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Pour ¼ cup olive oil into each of the cake pans, and tilt the pans so the oil coats the bottom evenly. Dust the work surface again lightly with flour and carefully turn the dough out onto the floured surface, taking care not to deflate the dough in the process. Divide the dough into two equal segments. Place the dough segments in the prepared cake pans and very gently pull the edges just to obtain a roughly round shape. Cover the pans with a clean dishcloth and set aside at room temperature until relaxed and spread to cover about half of the surface of the pans, about 30 minutes.

Brush the top of the focaccia with olive oil, sprinkle with the sea salt, chopped fresh herbs and bake it on the center rake of the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until it is crisp and golden brown.

Move the pan to the bottom rack of the oven and bake 5 more minutes to make sure the bottom crust of the focaccia is nice and crispy. Remove the focaccia from the pan being careful not to burn yourself from oil remaining at the bottom of the pan. Set them on a cookie rack.