in the kitchen: herbed focaccia bread


On Friday afternoon, I decided to make some homemade bread. In the past I've made whole wheat baguettes, but this time I wanted something a little more special, so I did a quick Pinterest search and found this recipe. Unfortunately our recent single digit temperatures have all but killed our rosemary plant, so I altered the recipe a bit. The resulting bread was so delicious that I had to share it here. It uses way too much olive oil and white flour to be healthy, but if you're going to eat bread, my thought is that it should be really good bread. This was really good bread. Who needs fancy restaurants, Whole Foods or Fresh Market when you have this?!? Yum.

Herbed focaccia bread adapted by Gerald & Joan:

-5 cups of white flour
-Approximately 2 cups of warm water
-2 1/4 tsp of yeast or one yeast packet
-1/4 cup of good olive oil, plus more for topping
-2 1/2 tsp of sea salt
-Fresh or dried rosemary, basil and oregano. I used fresh (okay, slightly freeze-dried!) rosemary and dried basil and oregano
-Dried garlic powder and red pepper flakes
-Pepper and sea salt

The key to this recipe is a stand mixer. They are ridiculously expensive, but they make baking so easy. I was lucky enough to inherit mine, and it has been a lifesaver for baking, especially bread making. I highly recommend them. 

I placed the yeast and the warm water in the bowl of the stand mixer, stirred them together and then waited until the mixture was creamy. I gathered my other ingredients together while I waited, so I let about 10 minutes pass before I returned to the mixer. I attached the bread paddle, and then I added the flour, olive oil and salt to the yeast. I set the mixer on medium speed until the mixture began to look like sticky dough. At first, I set the speed too high and flour flew everywhere. Lesson learned!

Once the dough had started to form, I turned the mixer off, switched out the paddle for the dough hook, and then turned the mixer on medium-high speed. Once the dough had formed a real dough ball (so cool!), I turned the mixer off and placed the dough ball on a slightly floured surface. I kneaded the dough a few times until it was covered in the flour, and then placed it in a bowl that had been drizzled with olive oil. I rolled the dough around the bowl until it was coated in the oil, and then I covered the bowl with a towel and let the dough rise in a warm room for two hours. When the timer went off, I oiled a 13 x 9 Pyrex baking dish and pressed the dough into the dish with my clean fingers. I covered the dish with the towel again and let it rise for another hour. In the meantime, I washed the fresh rosemary and created my herb mixture. I didn't measure out my herbs, but I knew I wanted a generous topping for my bread. I mixed together basil, oregano, rosemary, red pepper flakes, sea salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then I added olive oil until the herbs were covered and stirred the mixture. Once my timer went off, I set the oven to 425 and then used my clean fingers to punch the dough down again. Next I drizzled the oil and herb mixture over the top of the bread until it was completely covered. If it looks like you have too much oil on your bread, don't worry -- it cooks into the dough and makes it very moist! I cooked my bread for 22 minutes, and it didn't need a minute more. The herbs were a little crispy but still very fragrant. Next time I'll set my timer for 17 minutes and then watch the bread more closely so the herbs don't over cook. The goal is a slightly golden bread. Second lesson learned!

This bread is not healthy. It is rich and indulgent, but it would make a really good valentine treat because it pairs really well with romantic foods like pasta, marinara sauce, cheese or a salad. We enjoyed it all weekend long with gnocchi, and as a snack and even as panini bread! It is definitely a special treat, but we all need special treats in our lives from time to time. Enjoy!