The Covid-19 pandemic found many of us discovering the joys of bread baking, stuck as we were with lots of time on our hands. One of the quickest and easiest breads you can make is the Italian flat bread known as focaccia. Focaccia bread is pretty much the same dough you’d use to make pizza, but without all the toppings. The classic addition to focaccia bread is fresh sage, which lends an intriguing herbaceous note that keeps leading you back to just one more bite, as you try to figure out just what it is that makes it so addictive.
Focaccia is best eaten fresh. But if you don’t manage to finish it the first day, wrap individual squares in plastic wrap and freeze for later snacking. Great to toss them into a lunch bag with a container of salad and you’re good to go, once we’re all out of lockdown and back at work and school! Here’s to the end of coronavirus, once and for all.
Basic Focaccia Bread with Sage
Yield: 1 Focaccia (approximately 16 squares)
- ½ cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon dry yeast
- ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon dry yeast
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 ¼ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
For the Sponge:
- Place ½ cup water in large bowl. Stir in yeast with wooden spoon. Let stand around 10 minutes or until the yeast is dissolved and mixture looks cloudy. Stir in the flour. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand until bubbly, around 45 minutes.
For the Focaccia:
- Measure out 1 cup water, stir in 1 teaspoon yeast. Let stand around 10 minutes or until the yeast is dissolved and mixture looks cloudy.
- Add the yeast mixture, along with ¼ cup of olive oil, into sponge in large bowl. Stir in 1 cup of flour, and then the 2 tablespoons of the chopped sage and 2 teaspoons of salt. Add remaining 2 ¼ cups of flour in two parts, mixing well after each addition.
- Turn out dough onto lightly floured surface. Knead until soft and velvety, around 10 minutes.
- Grease 11×17-inch baking sheet with olive oil. Punch down dough. Transfer to baking sheet. With oiled hands, press dough to cover pan. Cover dough with kitchen towel. Let stand for 10 minutes. Dough will shrink.
- Press and stretch the dough to cover the pan. Cover the dough with kitchen towel. Let rise until doubled in volume, around 1 hour.
- Place baking stone on oven rack in center of oven.* Preheat oven to 425°
- With fingertips, press dimples to make indentations all over the surface of the dough. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle on the remaining tablespoon of chopped sage and 1 teaspoon salt.
- Place the pan of dough on the baking stone or empty, preheated baking sheet and spray oven with water from spray bottle, taking care not to spray directly onto the heating element. Bake focaccia around 25 minutes, or until crisp and golden, spraying oven twice more during the first 10 minutes of baking.
- Transfer pan of focaccia bread to a rack, and allow to cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature.
*If you don’t have a baking stone, you can heat an empty baking sheet in the preheated oven for ten minutes.