It’s been a long while since I’ve posted a new recipe! I’ve been vacationing in Hawaii celebrating one last big hurrah before baby comes!
One of my favorite local restaurants is Lettuce because I can order a HUGE salad heaped with fruits, veggies, cheese, and nuts and still leave feeling healthy with money in the bank. I love a great salad, but when it comes to chopping ingredients, I am super lazy. I tend to serve “greens with dressing” more often than not because the idea of pulling out a cutting board and chop, chop, chopping for the next 15 or 20 minutes just to make something that will be a side dish is incomprehensible.
The last time I went to Lettuce a girlfriend suggested that I try the half salad, half sandwich combo. She assured me I’d still get plenty of salad along with a hearty sandwich. I just had to be willing to take a leap of faith and try it. And so I did! I was served my usual salad with a side sandwich comprised of layers of prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, roasted peppers and fresh basil all on a thick, fluffy cloud of focaccia bread. Oh. My. Gosh. It was heaven. The sandwich/salad combo is now a new favorite and I decided to replicate the sandwich at home. This of course meant that I needed a decent focaccia recipe. I have a few favorite blogs that I use to find fail-proof recipes and one of those is Annie’s Eats. Her promise that this focaccia would bowl me over was not in vain. It really is amazing, even if you should get a doctor’s note before you can eat it.
I don’t often make fancy sandwiches for lunch but this was a special occasion. My dear friend Michelle spent 7 hours with me one Saturday painting the nursery and helping me register at Buy Buy Baby. I value time more than almost any other resource, so I wanted to make Michelle a lunch she wouldn’t soon forget. I re-created the salad/sandwich combo from Lettuce (yes! all that chopping!) and we feasted like kings… or, in my case, like a pregnant lady.
This focaccia is out of this world. It is absolutely worth the effort to make it. It is moist, delicious, and stunning both as a sandwich bread and as a bread for serving alongside a hearty soup. You won’t be disappointed.
Source: Annie's Eats
- Stir together the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the 6 tablespoons of oil and water and mix on low speed with the paddle attachment until the ingredients form a wet, sticky ball. Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. (You may need to add additional flour to firm up the dough enough to clear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should still be quite soft and sticky.)
- Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to cover an area about 6 inches square. Using a scraper or spatula dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and dust liberally with flour, patting the dough into a rectangle. Wait 5 minutes for the dough to relax.
- Coat your hands with flour and stretch the dough from each end to twice its size. Fold it, letter style, over itself to return it to a rectangular shape. Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, again dust with flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap.
- Let rest for 30 minutes. Stretch and fold the dough again; mist with spray oil, dust with flour and cover. After 30 minutes, repeat the stretching and folding one more time. Allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 hour. It should swell but not necessarily double in size.
- Line a 17×12” sheet pan with baking parchment and proceed with the shaping and panning. Drizzle 2-4 tablespoons of olive oil over the paper and spread it with your hands or a brush to cover the entire surface. Lightly oil your hands and using a plastic or metal pastry scraper, lift the dough off the counter and transfer it to the sheet pan, maintaining the rectangular shape as much as possible.
- Spoon half of the herb oil over the dough. Use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it simultaneously. Do not use the flat of your hands – only the fingertips – to avoid tearing or ripping the dough. Try to keep the thickness as uniform as possible across the surface. Dimpling allows you to de-gas only part of the dough while preserving gas in the non-dimpled sections. If the dough becomes too springy, let it rest for about 15 minutes and then continue dimpling. Don’t worry if you are unable to fill the pan 100 percent, especially the corners. As the dough relaxes and proofs, it will spread out naturally. Use more herb oil as needed to ensure that the entire surface is coated in oil.
- Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough overnight (or for up to 3 days).
- Remove the pan from the refrigerator 3 hours before baking. Drizzle additional herb oil over the surface and dimple it in. (You can use all of it if you want; the dough will absorb it even though it looks like a lot.) This should allow you to fill the pan completely with the dough a thickness of about ½-inch. Again, cover the pan with plastic and proof the dough at room temperature for 3 hours, or until the dough doubles in size, rising to a thickness of nearly 1-inch.
- Preheat the oven to 500° with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
- Place the pan in the oven. Lower the oven setting to 450° and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking the focaccia for 5-10 minutes, or until it begins to turn a light golden brown. The internal temperature of the dough should register 200° (measured in the center), and the cheese, if using, should melt, not burn.
- Remove the pan from the oven and immediately transfer the focaccia out of the pan onto a cooling rack. If the parchment is stuck on the bottom, carefully remove it by lifting the corner of the focaccia and peeling it off the bottom with a gentle tug.
- Allow the focaccia to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
Herb Oil: Warm ½ cup olive oil over low heat in a small saucepan. Add about 4 tsp. of dried herbs, such as basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, rosemary, or sage. Add about ¾ tsp. of kosher salt, ¼ tsp. black pepper, and 1-2 finely minced cloves garlic. You may also add paprika, ground cayenne pepper, fennel seeds or onion powder to taste. Allow to remain on low heat for about 1-1 ½ hours to allow the oil to become infused with the flavors.
Store any leftover herb oil in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.