This time of year I'm always looking for excuses to use fresh herbs from the garden. This focaccia is so delicious and aromatic, that the first time I tried the recipe, we loved it so much that I had to make some more the next night. We just couldn't get enough. If you have garden tomatoes, you could roast some and make a meal of it with this bread. It is perfect for sopping up those delicious tomato juices. Audrey likes to create dipping oils with olive oil, herbs, balsamic vinegar and parmesan. You can also split this for sandwiches and paninis.
Fresh Rosemary Focaccia Bread
(makes one 15x10x1 inch flatbread)
1 2/3 cups warm water (no hotter than 115 degrees, or it will kill the yeast)
1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
5 cups flour, plus additional for kneading
1/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (or kosher salt if you don't have that)
2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Stir together warm water, yeast, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes, to proof the yeast. If it doesn't foam, throw out and use a fresher packet of yeast, or make sure your water wasn't too hot.
Add flour, 1/4 cup oil, and regular salt and beat with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to pull away from sides of bowl.
Put 1/4 cup of flour on your kneading surface (a cutting board or granite counter). Make a circle of flour and dump the dough on it. Sprinkle some more flour on dough. Knead for a few minutes. Here's how, in case you never made bread before: Just take the heel of your hand, push it into the dough, remove your hand and fold the dough in half. Give the dough a quarter turn away from you and repeat.
Generously oil your baking sheet and press dough evenly into the pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until double in bulk, about an hour.
Place oven rack in the middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Stir together rosemary and remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a small bowl. Make shallow indentations all over the dough with the handle of the wooden spoon, or your finger. Brush the dough with the olive oil and rosemary mixture, using all of it (will pool in indentations). Sprinkle sea salt and parmesan evenly over the dough.
Bake until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note. If there are only 2 or 3 of us, I bake it in a 6x10x1 pan using only half the dough. The other half of dough gets patted into another 6x10x1 pan, covered with oiled plastic wrap and placed into the fridge. The next night I take it out, follow the same steps and bake up another fresh focaccia!
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