Fococcia with Herbs

Review:
We devoured a whole loaf in one sitting with just two people. It is really good. I didn’t add too much olive oil after backing as I still wanted it to be a bit crisp. If you want yours softer just add more oil while you are resting the bread before serving. The exterior of ours was light and crisp with a very soft airy interior. Thogg gives this two thumbs up. We also discovered it makes great sandwich bread if you slice off a piece and then split it.

Ingredients:
-2 1/2 tsp (1 package) active dry yeast
-1 c lukewarm water
-2 Tbs olive oil
-2 c all purpose flour plus extra for kneading
-1 tsp salt
-2 Tbs chopped fresh chives
-1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme (or about 1 1/2 tsp dried)
– 1 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary plus another 1 1/2 tsp for garnish
-Extra virgin olive oil for brushing
-Coarse salt for garnish

Directions:
1) In a large mixing bowl, stir the yeast into 1/4 c of the lukewarm water. Let stand for about 10 minutes until it looks creamy and starts to bubble a bit. Stir the remaining 3/4 c of the water along with the olive oil, 1 c of the flour and the salt and whisk until smooth. Add the herbs and mix well, then stir in the remaining 1 c of flour 1/2 a cup at a time. Stir until it comes together in a rough mass. It might be gloppy and wet depending on how you measured your flour, but this is ok.

2) Set the doughy mass aside for 10 minutes before you start kneading,then grab a stand mixer with a bread hook attachment. If you don’t have a sturdy one, get ready for some elbow grease. After 10 minutes, dump your dough into the mixer bowl and start kneading away at a medium-high setting. If you need to do this by hand on a board, you might want to mix in enough extra flour, if needed, to make it hold together and not run off the board. Add just enough flour so that it starts to come together, but don’t add too much too soon. It will start out rather sticky but once the gluten bonds start to form it will stick to itself more and to your hands and everything else less. I slowly added enough flour to my kitchen aid bowl until it was not quite coming away from the bottom of the bowl while the dough hook was working at it. After about 5-6 minutes it had worked itself into a very soft dough but had come off the bottom of the bowl. If doing this by hand, you will need to knead it for about 10 minutes. At the end, you will have a very soft dough with a very velvety and smooth consistency. It should have a good stretch to it if you pull at a small piece between your fingertips. If you can get it to be almost translucent when pulled, you’ve done a good job.

3)Preheat your oven to 450-475 degrees. Put the dough into a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Leave in a warm location and let double in size (about 1 1/2 hours). Then, punch down the dough a bit and then divide it in two balls. Each ball of dough will need 1 8 to 9 inch round cake pan that has been brushed with olive oil. If you wish, you can refrigerate for up to a few days or freeze for up to a few months any dough you do not wish you bake immediately. Stretch the ball into a disk that is about the same size as your cake pan. You will get the best results by working from the center to keep the thickness even. Push and stretch the dough into the corners of the oiled pan. If it resists stretching, cover with a towel and let sit for 10 minutes and try again.

4)Using your finger tips or knuckles, lightly push straight down to make evenly spaced little indents all across the top of the dough. For a crispy crust, drizzle or brush olive oil over the top of the dough. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped rosemary and a good pinch of kosher salt. Cover the pan(s) with a kitchen towel and set aside for the second rise (45 minutes).

5) Bake for 13-18 minutes depending on the temperature of your oven and the thickness of your dough. The top should be light to medium brown. Pull the bread out of the pans and cool/rest the bread on a wire rack for 10 minutes before serving. If you prefer a softer fococcia, sprinkle liberally with more olive oil while you rest the finished bread.

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