If your ambitions for this week included baking great bread, this is for you.
Breadmaking has become wildly popular. All over Instagram our friends are posting glorious photos of all kinds of sourdough boules, baguettes, Irish brown bread, and the inevitable pizza dough. To say nothing of an astonishing amount of banana bread. So it was not exactly a surprise when Andrew arrived in Bridgehampton announcing that he too was jumping on the bread baking bandwagon. The recipe he chose was from one of our favorite bakers: Joanne Chang of Boston’s Flour Bakery. And surprise! She’s the author of our banana bread recipe too.
This is the perfect bread for Sandwiches, toasted or not, or to eat all by itself.
The bread Andrew chose to bake was Joanne’s recipe for Rosemary and Olive Oil Focaccia. At Flour, Joanne notes, this is the bread that is used for their wildly popular sandwiches. The finished Focaccia is perfect for toasting too. The resulting 10 by 15-inch focaccia is a little over an inch high. It can be cut into 8 pieces for sandwiches 3-3/4 by 5 inches long. Or, as Andrew did, into 12 squares. Fresh from the oven, the loaf perfumes the air with Rosemary, olive oil glistening on its golden crust with flakes of Maldon salt that crunch when you bite into it. But the most amazing thing about the bread is that Andrew, never a big bread baker before, says the recipe is incredibly easy to make. If something is this good and that easy, we encourage you to give it a go.
Focaccia dates from Ancient Rome but its heart is on the glorious coast of Liguria.
A version of Focaccia was baked in Ancient Rome. Panis focacius was a flatbread baked on a hearth. In fact, the Latin word focus means ‘hearth, the place for baking. The recipe may have originated with the Etruscans but credit is now given Ligurian bakers for popularizing this cake-like bread. Liguria follows the Northern Mediterranean coast all the way to France. It boasts Genoa as its capital but it’s best known for its beautiful hillside towns that tumble down to the sea. Each of these many villages’ bakers created countless variations in Focaccia recipes. Leaving Liguria, you will find recipes for focaccia dolce sprinkled lightly with sugar or including raisins and honey. Venetian Focaccia is another sweet version, one that is part of Venice’s Easter traditions. It uses eggs, sugar, and butter in lieu of olive oil and salt and looks and tastes similar to Pannetone. Without question, today’s Focaccia al rosmarino is the classic focaccia most people think of when they think focaccia. Here is the recipe followed by some other Joanne Chang recipes to enjoy.
Joanne Chang's Rosemary and Olive Oil Focaccia
A perfect bread for beginners with not a lot of hands-on time and a result this is true perfection.
- 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
- Step 1 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.)
- Step 2 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.
- Step 3 On a lightly floured work surface 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.
- Step 4 Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Step 5 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.
- Step 6 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.
- Step 7 Cool the bread on a wire rack for 30 minutes before cutting and serving.
- Step 8 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.
We took Joanne Chang, John Barricelli and Alice Medrich to the Hampton Classic. And Andrew’s take on their Fig Newtons, Pecan Squares, Brownie Bites and Salted Chocolate Chunk cookies were the hit of the party.