My buddy Lora at the Cake Duchess is the hostess this month for a group event put on by her and a couple of other friends. Breaking Bread Society was launched by Lora, Shulie and Marnely and this could not be a more perfect month for Lora to host; she’s an Italian through and through who makes the most amazing Italian breads and desserts! I’ve been meaning to join in but good intentions get waylaid sometimes don’t they? I’ve got a lot of work on my plate right now but putting me over the top a bit has been the care and feeding of my yard after two summers of hiring someone else to take care of it (?). I don’t usually have anyone work with me but I needed assistance while recuperating from an injury. I could probably still use a bit this year but my yard would not survive any more ‘help.’ In March I almost thought all was lost but some intense TLC coupled with voracious weed pulling, fertilizer and a mountain of Revive and I’m encouraged that my ‘baby’ is bouncing back.
I hope you’ll indulge me just a bit; this is my idea of a ‘baby picture.’ It is a lot of work but it is much more joy. I love this space and look forward to coffee every morning on my patio. Losing a large tree has meant more sun and it shows. I’ve had to make some changes for sure…this area under porch eaves used to be shade loving impatiens but without the dappled shade we used to get in the afternoon I’m trying geraniums and verbena and so far so good! I live at a mile high altitude so our planting season just started mid May and annuals were only planted last weekend; I’m anxious to see how they look in another couple of weeks; I just love this time of year!
Busy or not, when I saw focaccia I knew it was a ‘have to’ moment. My first experience with Focaccia was over a decade ago at one of my favorite local restaurants called Ya Ya’s. When I first started to frequent there, they brought every table a basket of Focaccia bread and a dipping oil I love to this day. That bread was SO good and without a doubt we would all too often fill up on it before our dinner arrived. Several years ago they changed the type of bread to a loaf shape for slices and changed the dipping oil to a hummus spread. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good but it will never satisfy the way that Focaccia did. I had no choice…I had to start making some myself! Thankfully it didn’t take a lot of begging to get the manager at Ya Ya’s to provide me with the name of the mystery ingredient they mixed with the oil. I was surprised it was called sumac; my only experience with sumac was poisonous sumac; any engagement with that bush and you had symptoms similar to poison ivy. I learned something new and was able to hunt it down at our local Savory Spice Shop. It has been a favorite in our home ever since!
Do you remember the first time you tried olive oil? I do and I was not a fan. But much like my transition from a childhood of margarine to butter as an adult; I was over time able to not just transition but fall in love with olive oil and for me; this bread is meant to be a vessel to carry that flavor to your palate; the rosemary and sea salt are necessities but it’s the flavor of the olive oil that is most important to me. Those little holes you poke in it…well, I think they have but one purpose and that is to have little baby pools of olive oil scattered all over the surface of this bread. The better to eat you with my dear!
I only have one issue with making Focaccia and it can be a big one. It’s like crack. My daughter Lauren is just as bad; we just can’t stop at one…or even one-half tray. I seriously have to expect company to make a tray of it else I would have no problem, NONE, finishing it off all by myself. Which I did AP (After Photo). No, I am not kidding though I did just make half a tray. So this is my effort the very next day and I think I doubled it knowing people were coming over…or was it so I could eat one half and not get caught? Well, in any event…you get my drift, right…just too good!
This recipe came in a book that was included with my bread machine; I do like to use the bread machine’s dough cycle to get the dough prepared for baking. I know, I know…some people find great joy in the process of kneading; all I find are issues with carpal tunnel so use it I will! I’m providing the bread machine recipe but you can use a mixer dough hook or knead it by hand in accordance with any standard recipe prior to the last rise in the pan.
Not to be forgotten is the dipping oil. Make them both which leads me to say, ‘Bet YOU can’t eat just one.’
Italian Focaccia Bread with Olive Oil, Rosemary and Garlic
2 hrs 25 mins
For the Bread
- 7 and 1/2 ounces of water (1 cup + 3 Tbsp) at 80 degrees
- 3 Tbsp butter
- 3 cups bread flour
- 2 Tbsp dry milk
- 3 1/2 Tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp Active Dry Yeast or 1 1/2 Tsp Bread Machine/Fast Rise Yeast
- 2 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 4 Tbsp Grated Parmesan Cheese
- 2 tsp rosemary leaves (leave whole or just one rough chop)
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- Olive Oil to drizzle
For the Dipping Oil
- Olive Oil
- Sesame Seeds, toasted
- To Make the Bread:
- Select Dough cycle if using a bread machine and follow instructions for your machine.
- When cycle is complete; remove the dough from the bread maker and place onto a floured surface. Let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Knead dough about one minute then roll it into a rectangle to fit a jelly roll pan or large cookie sheet with sides.
- Using vegetable oil, lightly grease the bottom and sides of pan, put dough into pan and press the dough evenly into pan forming an edge.
- Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place for 20-30 minutes until slightly risen.
- Using handle of wooden spoon, gently make indentations in dough at every inch.
- Brush dough with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, rosemary leaves and Parmesan cheese.
- Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 15 minutes or until nicely browned. Remove from oven and drizzle additional olive oil over top of bread.
- Cool slightly and cut into squares for serving. Best served warm.
For the Dipping Oil
- Pour some olive oil into dipping bowls; sprinkle with the sumac and mix together. Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds on top.