Cooking with Graham Kerr: Ligurian Focaccia

| October/November 1995

  • Crusty and golden, Ligurian Focaccia is a fine accompaniment to a hearty helping of Simple Cassoulet.

Serves 8

For a crispy crust, spray the oven with water three times during the first 10 minutes of baking. (Thanks to Carol Field, The Italian Baker [New York: Harper and Row, 1985] for this tip.) I find that this gives the crust a wonderful texture. If fresh herbs are not available, substitute dried herbs at half the amount called for.

• 1 packet or 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
• 1 1/4 cups warm water
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil
• 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh fennel
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh mint
• 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
• 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 1/8 teaspoon coarse sea salt or kosher salt

1. Sprinkle the yeast into the warm water in a large bowl and let sit until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in 2 1/2 teaspoons of the oil, then add 2 cups of the flour, the chopped herbs, and salt. Stir with a wooden spoon until smooth. Add 1 more cup of flour, this time mixing it in with your hands. Turn the dough out onto a floured board. Knead it 8 to 10 minutes, or until it’s soft and springy, adding the rest of the flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking. Set the kneaded dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly. Allow it to rise 1 to 1 1/2 hours, or until doubled.

2. Pat the dough into a thick disk and roll it out evenly to a 12-inch diameter. Place it on a lightly oiled 12-inch round pan and let it rise, covered with a towel, for 30 minutes. Make deep dimples in the dough with your fingertips, cover with a damp towel, and let it rise again about 2 hours, or until doubled.

3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of oil over the dough, brushing it on very gently so that the entire surface is lightly touched with oil. Sprinkle on the coarse salt and bake it for about 20 minutes.

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