This focaccia recipe started with a leftover baked potato and a recipe from epicurious. That was five years and at least fifty versions ago. Since then it has evolved into one of my favorite bread recipes, right up there with Stupid Easy Fantastically Good Crusty Peasant Bread, and I don't say that casually. Somewhere I got smart and swapped the baked potato for dried potato flakes (I'M NOT ASHAMED OF IT EITHER, I'm just busy). Then I changed the amount of each ingredient, the mixing method and the baking temperature. I dropped the fresh rosemary and briny olives, added a little bit of sugar (helps with browning) and started baking it in EZ foil pans.
I wanted to name it Fantastically Good Focaccia but my family thought that might be a little redundant, or even lacking in imagination, so I'm being especially creative and calling it Focaccia. But really, it is so much more than just that. It's on my list of top 10 recipes ever. EVER.
2/3 cup dried potato flakes (like Betty Crocker potato buds)
3/4 cup warm water (6 ounces)
4 cups bread flour (18 ounces if you use a food scale)
2 teaspoons table salt
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing the pan and drizzling on the top
1 cup plus 3 tablespoons (9.5 ounces) warm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon yeast
dried rosemary (or other dried herbs like thyme and basil)
In the bowl of a food processor combine dried potato flakes and 3/4 cup warm water. Process briefly to combine. Add the bread flour, salt and olive oil. Process again briefly to combine.
In a glass measuring cup add 1 cup and 3 tablespoons warm water, sugar and yeast. Whisk until combined and the yeast has dissolved.
With food processor running, slowly add water/yeast mixture through the feed tube. Once all the water has been absorbed continue to process for about 30 more seconds. The dough will be very sticky. Just go with it.
Scrape dough into a large oiled bowl; turn to coat the entire surface of the dough with oil. Cover bowl with plastic; let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. With a greased hand, gently punch dough down and allow to rise one more time, unless you are in a hurry, in which case just skip the second rise.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Liberally coat the bottom and sides of two EZ Foil oblong cake pans (12-1/8" x 8-1/4" x 1-3/16") with olive oil. Gently divide the dough into 2 equal portions and place one in each foil pan. Using greased hands stretch the dough to fit the pan. Most likely the dough will be stubborn like a 2 year old with an attitude. Don't fret - just give it a 5 minute time out in the corner and try again. Eventually the dough will be submissive. Lightly brush the top of the dough with olive oil and let rise for about 20 minutes until it's nice and puffy. If desired, gently make little indentations with your finger all across the dough. Drizzle more olive oil over the top, allowing some to spill into the little indentations. Sprinkle some dried rosemary (or other herbs) and a bit of kosher salt over the olive oil. Carefully place both pans in the preheated oven, allowing space between the two, and bake for about 20 minutes, or until nicely browned. Let bread rest for only a minute or two, then remove each loaf from its foil pan and place on a cooling rack until cool enough to eat.
Notes on the recipe:
-I developed this recipe using a food processor, however a standing mixer will work just fine. Place all the ingredients into the bowl of a standing mixer and mix on low until everything is combined. Continue kneading for about 3 more minutes. Follow remaining directions for rising and baking.
-You don't have to use the EZ foil baking pans, but they give this bread a really good crust. I've used cookie sheets, cake pans, 9x13 pans, and a pizza stone, but I keep coming back to the EZ foil, which I use repeatedly until they wear out.
-If your bread seems to shrink back a bit in the pans while it is baking it means you didn't let it rise enough during the final rise in the pan. It will still be good, but next time let it get nice and puffy before baking. The dough should reach almost to the top of the rim of the pan when it goes into the oven.
*Cut each loaf into six equal pieces, then cut each piece horizontally and use for sandwiches or meatball subs.
*Serve with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.
*Serve with chopped fresh garden tomatoes and goat cheese.
*Serve with soup or chili.
*Gather the family around the counter, pull out a hot loaf and have a free-for-all as everyone rips off a piece. Actually, that's why this recipe makes 2 pans: one for now, and one for dinner. Saves a lot of yelling on my part, plus they all think I'm a kitchen goddess when I share hot bread.