Parmesan Italian Herb Focaccia

Mmm, focaccia.  It sounds kind of fancy and might even seem a little daunting to attempt at home.  But rest assured it's pretty simple if you have a little patience, because like all breads this takes a few hours from start to finish. Most of that time is spent waiting for it to rise though so go finish those projects around the house you have been putting off while it does it's thing.  It does require a little more fore thought than a regular loaf of bread since it begins with a starter you prepare the night before.  Definitely not a step you want to skip though since this will be when most of the flavor develops.  Focaccia is like a blank canvas.  Try it as written or go dream up your own toppings and add ins.  It's deliciously crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  We had this with chicken gnocchi soup (recipe coming soon!) and it was the perfect accompaniment.

Parmesan Italian Herb Focaccia

1/2 cup cool water
1/16 teaspoon instant or active dry yeast (I did 2 large pinches)
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour

2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup luke warm water
2 cup bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon italian herb blend
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese


To make the starter 
Mix the water and 1/16 teaspoon yeast, then add the flour, stirring till the flour is incorporated.
The starter will be paste-like; it won’t form a ball.  Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 14 hours.

To make the dough
Mix the dough ingredients together in the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment.  Switch to dough hook and knead to make a soft, smooth dough, about 7 minutes.  

Transfer the dough to a well-oiled medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour.

Gently deflate the dough, recover, and let rise for another hour. At the end of this time, the dough should have risen to double its original volume.

Lightly grease an 18″ x 13″ baking sheet with a rim (or two 9″ x 13″ pans) with non-stick vegetable oil spray. Drizzle olive oil atop the spray; the spray keeps the bread from sticking, while the olive oil gives the bottom crust great crunch and flavor.

If you’re using the baking sheet, gently pull and shape the dough into a rough rectangle, and pat it into the pan. As soon as it begins to fight you and shrink back, stop patting. If you’re using two 9″ x 13″ pans, divide the dough in half, shape each half into a rough rectangle, and pat one piece into each pan. When the pieces start to shrink back, stop patting. Wait 15 minutes; pat the dough farther towards the edges of the pan(s). Repeat once more, if necessary, till the dough is close to covering the bottom of the pan(s).  Cover the pan, and allow the dough to rise till it’s very puffy, almost billowy. This will take about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

Gently dimple the dough at irregular intervals with your fingers, pressing down firmly, but not abruptly; you don’t want to deflate it too much.

Spritz heavily with warm water, and drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil, then sprinkle with herbs, black pepper, and the kosher salt.

Bake the focaccia for about 10 minutes. Reverse the pan(s) in the oven, sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the focaccia, and bake until light golden brown, about another 10 minutes. Remove it from the oven, and immediately slide it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.

Slightly adapted from King Arthur Flour

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