In Italy, rosemary focaccia was an early-morning bakery snack, warm and ready to eat.
Rosemary focaccia hardly needs an introduction. It’s well known. A flat bread baked in olive oil, it’s moist and keeps very well. When we rented houses in Italy, school kids would line up early in the morning at the local bakery to buy squares of onion, tomato or salted rosemary focaccia to eat on the way to school. It also was used for sandwiches. My favorite fillings include ham and pecorino drizzled with white truffle oil, or filled with mozzarella and tomato. But my favorite guilty pleasure is to make a focaccia sandwich filled with paper thin slices of the Italian peppered bologna called mortadella. And rosemary is surprisingly good with tuna salad. I love to split and toast it, too.
Rosemary focaccia is a great basic party bread. Cut into small squares, it will serve 24. Cut into larger squares and split, it yields 12 sandwiches. This recipe is very easy and a lot of fun at the end — you’ll see why. The dough rises slowly but that leaves time to do other things.
My starter gets mixed in a 1 quart container. I note the level of the starter just after it’s mixed.
And it’s easy to tell when it’s doubled in volume, bubbly and active.
Any kneading method can be used for this dough. I almost always use my food processor which kneads the dough to a silky, smooth consistency in about 1 minute to 1 minute and 30 seconds. When fully kneaded the dough has a silky surface texture. Then kneaded dough rises in a warm, wet mixing bowl which I slip into a clear plastic grocery store bag and clip closed. That’s easier than using plastic wrap, I think.
Here’s the fun part. But first, wash and dry your hands!The bottom of the pan is covered by 1/2 cup olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Then the risen dough goes into the pan without kneading and is flipped over so it’s completely drenched in oil. Then get under the oily dough on one side and stretch it with the back of your hands, working from the center.
Depending on how the dough stretches it may be necessary to stretch it from the middle with both hands — that will keep the thickness even as well.
It also may be necessary to stretch from one side at the end. Just get the dough to fill the pan as much as possible but don’t worry if it doesn’t completely reach the corners as it will when it rises.
Strip off the rosemary leaves by grabbing the top end and pulling backwards — this is a natural “herb stripper.” If dry rosemary leaves are used, crush them well in your hands to release the essential oils and fragrance.
For the final rise (about 2 hours) I tent it with 2 grocery bags pulling them up so they don’t touch the top of the dough.
Once baked, focaccia can be cut and eaten warm, or at room temperature. It reheats well and keeps for several days.
(Photos: Lisa Deyo)
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