I have a customer who is in deep lust with my Garlic Rosemary Focaccia Bread. It happened quite by accident. Hey, isn't that how all the good ideas start? Anyway, Nick's office has a monthly luncheon at the end of the month for employees. I was hired to make the bread for the lunch a few months ago and made several trays of the focaccia. One of Nick's fellow employees loved it so much, she ordered her own tray. And then ordered it again. And then again. And then again! She even ordered it for her family Christmas party. You're probably wondering why they don't hire me to do the whole lunch each month. That sure would be nice, but they can't afford it. Usually the employees make a bunch of stuff and they buy a few things.
Focaccia is a process. It's not something you can just whip up in an hour. It is SO worth the effort though. A Kitchen Aid mixer is your friend for this recipe. You start by making a sponge, which is just another way of saying a dough starter. It consists of yeast, warm water and flour, mixed together with the dough hook on your mixer. The sponge needs to rise for one hour (place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic and then a towel). When it's risen it pretty much looks like a sponge, thus the name. But before it's done rising, that is when you begin to make the dough. Again, yeast, warm water, flour, but to the dough you also add some olive oil and salt. Get the dough well mixed and then add the sponge to the mixer and mix together. It's also at this point that I add about 3 Tablespoons or so of chopped fresh rosemary.
Put the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and then a towel and let rise until it doubles in size. That usually takes about an hour. If you have good yeast, it could go faster, but don't rush this process! Let it rise, and in the meantime you can roast your garlic. A lot of recipes I have seen for Rosemary Garlic Focaccia Bread use raw chopped garlic. But I didn't like that. The garlic can burn and get bitter. Instead I roast a whole head of garlic (instructions below). After it's cooled enough to handle, take the roasted garlic and squeeze the cloves out of their skin and into a bowl. Mash them with a fork and add about a quarter cup of extra virgin olive oil, a teaspoon or so of salt (I use kosher) and about 3-4 Tablespoons of chopped fresh rosemary. I'm sorry I'm not exact with this (I'll try to be more exact in the recipe below), but I do it mostly by sight. I like my mixture to not be too thick but not too runny either. There should be enough to spread on top of the whole bread, which at this point is ready to be put onto a cookie sheet (one with sides). Spread it out with your hands, into the corners of the pan and then let rise for a third time in the pan. Again, most recipes I've come across don't call for a third rising, but I find this really makes a lovely bread. Once it's risen for about 45 minutes or so, take your finger tips and make little indents in the top of the bread. You do not want to poke through the bread, just make little cups that will catch your lovely topping. Take a brush and brush the topping onto the dough.
It may look oily to you at this point, but don't worry. All that olive oil will seep into the bread as it's baking, and the garlic will keep it's lovely roasted flavor. Bake it at 400 for about 20 minutes. But keep an eye on it. If the bottom starts to brown too much, take it out. Try to resist eating it immediately when you take it out because it will be hot! But a few minutes should be sufficient. Enjoy!
Rosemary Garlic Focaccia Bread
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. salt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 head of garlic, roasted
1 tsp. salt
3-4 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
4-5 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Put sponge ingredients in the bowl of electric mixer fitted with a dough hook and mix until well mixed. Remove from bowl and knead for 3-4 minutes, adding more flour if dough is too sticky. Place sponge in lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise for about 1 hour.
For the dough, follow the same instructions as for the sponge, but add the sponge to the mixture before kneading. Knead for 4-5 minutes, adding more flour if dough is too sticky. Place sponge in lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise until dough doubles in size.
Once risen, put dough on a cookie sheet with sides and push dough into the corners with your fingers, until if fits inside the whole pan. Cover with plastic wrap, then a towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.
In the meantime, take a head of garlic and cut off the top so that the cloves are exposed. Don't cut off too much, just enough so that the tips are cut off - discard them or use them in something else you're making. Using aluminum foil, double it up and then put the garlic, stem side down - cut side up-on the foil and drizzle with olive oil. Cover with the foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or until garlic is softened and roasted through. When garlic is cool, squeeze out the cloves into a bowl and mash with a fork. Add the oil, salt and oil.
When the dough has risen it's third time, make small indents all over the dough, being careful not to poke through the dough and then brush the garlic/rosemary mixture all over the dough. Bake at 400 for about 20 minutes.