Hello Friends. You’re all going to be drawn to this recipe like a moth to a flame because it’s just that good. For those of you blessed enough to see me on a regular basis, you probably have already tried this and are beating your heads against the wall as your body goes into withdrawal. Before you get out the crack pipe in an attempt to find a substitute for this food high, take a moment to calm your nerves and read the recipe. This comfort food will soon be nestled in between your chompers:
Focaccia spiked with garlic, rosemary, and chili flakes and topped with sliced shallots. As Britney would say: Ooh Ooh Baby!
Don’t shy away from this recipe because it has yeast in it; it is NOT like normal bread, which takes hours to rise and is as temperamental as a menopausal rhinoceros. I’ve made this a bunch of times and I’m pretty sure my instructions are idiot-proof, but let’s see!
During my Italian adventure I was lucky enough to be a part of a bi-monthly Pizza Night on the farm where I was working. That place has all the stereotypical Italian facets that make that country so fantastic: the gigantic brick pizza oven, the wizened old man singing to himself as he stokes the fire, large older women who dote on their 30-year old sons who still live at home, and a really awesome pizza dough recipe. I could name a thousand other things, but you can wait for my novel release for the rest of the juicy details. It’s going to be called “I’m a winner and you’re fat” (Glee reference? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?).
Focaccia is essentially pizza dough without the sauce and toppings. I love the original recipe from Spannocchia, the Farm I worked on, but something got lost in translation over to focaccia. I felt that the crust hardened too much and was too much of a separate entity, rather then melding with the rest of the bread. I perused several other recipes and found that the addition of mashed potato made all the difference! Color me confused because who thought of that one?
Potato makes the finished product moist and spongy with a chewier crust. My addition of the herbs and garlic are easily omitted if they’re not up your alley, but they add a ton of extra flavor. You would basically be foolish to exclude them from the party.
Here’s what you’ll need:
3-4 cups flour
2 t salt
1 cup water
2.5 t dry active yeast, or one package
2 T olive oil
6-10 cloves garlic
sprinkle of chili flakes
1 sprig rosemary
1 medium russet potato
Peel and smash the garlic and place it in a small bowl with the oil. Chop the rosemary and add it to the bowl with the chili flakes. Set aside and let marinate for anywhere from 5min-1hour, depending on how much time you have.
Peel the potato and cut into quarters. Place in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with a moist paper towel. Microwave for ~5 minutes or until cooked through (easily fluffed with fork). Mash it up and let cool. You should have about 1/2-3/4 cup.
Place the water in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for about 1 minute. The temperature needs to be between 115-130 in order for the yeast to activate. Too low and it will not grow (poor parenting), too high and you will kill it (murder). My method may seem a little weird, but it works:
Take the bowl out of the microwave and stir the water around. Place your pinkie into the bowl (unless it’s unbearably hot) and, if you can hold it submerged in the water for 20 seconds, then it is the proper temperature. It should get unbearable right around the 20th second. I know, I know: we’re not living in caves anymore, so why would I bother with this archaic practice? Because not everyone has a food thermometer lying around and it’s good to know! I tested my pinkie-method against my thermometer and it hit the nail on the head.
When your water is at the proper temp, evenly sprinkle the yeast over the surface and don’t touch it. Do not stir. Do not swirl. Just don’t! You want the yeast to have a good amount of surface area to cover, but not so wide that the water will cool down quickly. Just aim for perfection and you’ll be fine. It will take about 5 minutes for the yeast to dissolve.
Meanwhile, mix the flour (I use about 3.5 cups) and salt together in a large bowl. Mix the mashed potato, which should be cool enough to touch at this point, into the flour with your hands. It won’t look much different with the potato than it did without:
Make a well in the center and pour in the oil
then the yeast/water mixture.
Mix with a fork until the dough is cohesive and comes together. If the dough is sticky add a bitmore flour, but not too much since it can make the dough tough. If the dough is too dry add a tablespoon of warm water. Go with your instincts, if you have any!
Remove the dough from the bowl and give it a quick knead to make sure it sticks together. Rinse out the bowl and spray it with olive oil. Place the dough back inside and cover with saran wrap or a dish towel. Put the bowl in a warm, dry location that is far away from any drafts or windows. It should take about an hour or two to rise to double it’s original size.
Once it is good and large, take it out of the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Preheat your oven to 500 and finely slice your shallot.
Knead the dough for a few minutes, adding more flour if it gets too sticky. Roll it out to about 10in x 15in and place on an oiled baking sheet. Stab the surface all over with your finger so that it looks like it’s been riddled with Small Pox and drizzle with olive oil.
Scatter the shallot slices over the top, sprinkle with salt, and put the tray in the oven.
Bake until the focaccia is golden brown and the top is sizzling, 20ish minutes. Feel free to sprinkle it with some grated Parmesan during the last few minutes of baking, if you so desire.
I was a little impatient and didn’t let it rise to quite twice it’s original size, so mine was a tad thinner with a bit of a crunch to it. To ensure a fluffy end result, let it rise completely!
The garlic roasts in the oven, making it squishy and mild when you bite into it. This treat is perfect on it’s own or dipped in some balsamic vinegar. I bet it would make a great sandwich with some arugula and mozzarella…mmm yum!