Making Vs. Buying: Why This Focaccia Is Worth Your Oven

May 6 2009, 10:27 AM

To every dinner party that I'm invited, I volunteer to bring the bread. I do this mainly because I love me some carbs, and I also enjoy snacking before dinner. My idea of a cocktail hour is wandering a party with a glass of wine and a mouthful of bread.

But the last few times I've picked up artisan breads, I've been disappointed. Typically they cost around five dollars, and they've either been a bit stale or didn't have the flavors I'd hoped for. (If you promise garlic, you better deliver.)

After a few quick searches online, I found two notable focaccia recipes that I've made multiple times. Both are cheaper than buying bread at the store. One is a bit more time consuming, but leaves your house smelling like a leavened dream. The other is a much simpler recipe that takes just under half an hour. (Put some flour on your nose and no one will ever know.)

The Easiest Focaccia Ever

1 container refrigerated pizza dough (I like to get mine from Sunflower Market, where they make it fresh.)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Lots of minced garlic

2 Tbsp. of rosemary (Fresh, or the dried kind if your herb garden isn't growing yet.)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Spread pizza dough on baking sheet or pizza pan. Dimple with fingers to make indentations.

3. Drizzle olive oil and rosemary and as much garlic as you can handle.

4. Bake for 10-15 minutes

5. Pretend you made it from scratch.

Below is a recipe that will take you an afternoon, but the benefits are worth it. It looks, tastes, and feels like perfect focaccia, and has never failed to impress. This is my modified recipe, with a few simplified steps.

Susan (and Jennie's) Simple Rosemary Focaccia

(Makes 2 loaves)

4 to 6 cups flour (She recommends fancy flour; it works fine with Safeway's brand.)

1 tsp instant yeast (Note: this is less than a packet.)

1 ½ cups water

1/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup dry white wine (or water, which I have always substituted)

4 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (I used the dried herb kind; works great.)

2 tsp salt

1. Combine four cups of flour and the yeast in a large bowl. Stir in water, and mix until a soft, sticky dough forms, adding a little more flour if necessary. (I always need to add more flour, so I set it out in a bowl ahead of time.)

2. Cover with a damp tea towel and let it rest for 20 minutes. (I  simply use a damp paper towel.)

3. Mix in olive oil, white wine (again, I substitute water), two tablespoons of the rosemary, and salt. Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and begin to knead, sprinkling with more flour as needed to keep dough from sticking to your work surface and hands. Knead for seven to eight minutes. (Note: This step gets way slimy. Way. Slimy. Make sure there is a lot of extra flour set out ahead of time. And have a few paper towels at the ready in the case your phone rings and you look down at your monster-slime fingers in horror.)

4. Place the (slimy) dough in a plastic container with a snap-on lid and let rise until doubled--about an hour to an hour and a half. (Perfect time to watch Oprah!)

5. In the meantime, heat the oven to 450 degrees. Susan recommends using a baking stone. I use a simple pizza pan.

6. After the dough has risen, take it out of the container and divide it into two balls. It is recommended to put the balls on pieces of unbleached parchment paper. I use a floured counter space.

7. Drizzle olive oil on the dough, then dimple it all over with the pads of your fingers (again, beware of monster-slime fingers), scattering more rosemary. (Here, I divert and add several minced garlic cloves. Check with your significant other and proceed.)

8. Cover the two loaves with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap, and let rise 30 minutes.

9. Bake the focaccia for 10 minutes, then lower the temperature to 375 degrees and bake for another 15 minutes. Susan recommends cooling the bread on a wire rack for 5-10 minutes before serving. I tend to try breaking the bread as soon as possible.