5 cups (22.5 oz) unbleached high-gluten or bread flour
2 teaspoons (.5 oz) salt
2 teaspoons (.22 oz) instant yeast
6 tablespoons (3 oz) olive oil
2 cups (16 oz) water, at room temperature
1/4 to 1/2 cup Herb oil
Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in a large mixing bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer).
Add the oil and water and mix with a large metal spoon until all the ingredients form a wet, sticky ball (or mix on low speed with the paddle attachment).
If you are mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the metal spoon into cold water and use it, much like a dough hook, to work the dough vigorously into a smooth mass while rotating the bowl in a circular motion with the other hand.
Reverse the circular motion a few times to develop the gluten further.
Do this for 3 to 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are evenly distributed.
If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5 to 7 minutes, or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough.
The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl.
You may need to add additional flour to firm up the dough enough to clear the sides of the bowl, but the dough should still be quite soft and sticky.
Sprinkle enough flour on the counter to make a bed about 6 inches square.
Using a scraper or spatula dipped in water, transfer the sticky dough to the bed of flour and dust liberally with flour, patting the dough into a rectangle.
Wait 5 minutes for the dough to relax.
Coat your hands with flour and stretch the dough from each end to twice its size.
Fold it, letter style, over itself to return it to a rectangular shape.
Mist the top of the dough with spray oil, again dust with flour, and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
Let rest for 30 minutes.
Stretch and fold the dough again; mist with spray oil, dust with flour, and cover.
After 30 minutes, repeat this one more time.
Allow the covered dough to ferment on the counter for 1 hour it should swell but necessarily double in size.
Line a 17 by 12-inch sheet pan with baking parchment and proceed with the shaping and panning instructions below.
Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap (or place the pan inside a food-grade plastic bag). Refrigerate the dough overnight (or for up to 3 days.)
Remove the pan from the refrigerator 3 hours before baking.
Drizzle additional herb oil over the surface and dimple it in. (You can use all of it if you want; the dough will absorb it even though it looks like a lot.)
This should allow you to fill the pan completely with the dough a thickness of about 1/2 inch. Add any other pre-proof toppings desired. Again, cover the pan with plastic and proof the dough at room temperature for 3 hours, or until the dough doubles in size, rising to a thickness of nearly 1 inch.
Preheat the oven to 500*F with the oven rack on the middle shelf.
Gently place any pre-bake toppings on the dough.
Place the pan in the oven.
Lower the oven setting to 450*F and bake for 10 minutes.
Rotate the pan 180 degrees and continue baking the focaccia for 5 to 10 minutes, or until it begins to turn a light golden brown.
If you are using and during baking toppings, sprinkle them on at this point and continue baking an additional 5 minutes or so.
The internal temperature of the dough should register above 200*F (measured in the center), and the cheese, if using, should melt but not burn.
Remove the pan from the oven and immediately transfer the focaccia out of the pan onto a cooling rack.
If the parchment is stuck on the botoom, carefully remove it by lifting the corner of the focaccia and peeling it off the bottom with a gentle tug.
Allow the fococcia to cool for at least 20 minutes before slicing and serving.
Drizzle 1/4 cup of olive oil over the paper, and spread it with your hands or brush to cover the surface.
Lightly oil your hands and, using a plastic or metal pastry scraper, lift the dough off of the counter and transfer it to the sheet pan, maintaining the rectangular shape as much as possible.
Spoon half of the herb oil over the dough.
Use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it to fill the pan simultaneously.
Do not use the flat of your hands - only the fingertips- to avoid tearing or ripping the dough.
Try to keep the thickness as uniform as possible across the surface.
Dimpling allows you to degas only part of the dough while preserving gas in the nondimpled sections.
If the dough becomes to springey, let it rest for about 15 minutes and then continue dimpling. Don't worry if you are unable to fill the pan 100 percent, especially the corners.
As the dough relaxes and proofs, it will spread out naturally.
Use more herb oil as needed to ensure that the entire surface is coated with oil.
The generous application of herb oil to focaccia will enhance the flavor of the dough more than any toppings.
There are many ways to make this oil, and you can make it in any quantity. You can either use dry or fresh herbs, or a combination. Do not heat the oil, just warm it, and then let the herbs steep in the warm oil, infusing it with their wonderful flavors.
Here is one way to make it, but feel free to substitute your favorite herbs and spices. The olive oil you use does not have to be extra virgin because it will be cooked later, and the subtle flavor of extra virgin, for which you pay so much, will be lost.
Warm 2 cups of oil to about 100*F. Add 1 cup chopped fresh herbs. The herbs may include basil, parsley, oregano, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, savory, and sage, in any combination. (Substitue 1/3 cup dried herbs or a blend such as herbs de Provence, or use a combination of fresh and dried herbs.) Add 1 tablespoon coarse or kosher salt, 1 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper, and 1 tablespoon granulated garlic or 5 - 6 cloves fresh garlic chopped or pressed. You may also add 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, 1 teaspoon onion powder, or 1 tablespoon dried minced onions. Store any leftover herb oil in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks
Pairs Well With
Source: The Bread Baker's Apprentice, By Peter Reinhart
Makes one 17 by 12-inch focaccia
Days to make: 2