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Joy of Baking

Cheesy focaccia

(Karoline Boehm Goodnick for The Globe)
May 25, 2011

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Makes 1 large rectangle

With a short rising time and not much kneading, focaccia is a great project for novice bakers and wonderful to set out with big platters of grilled food. The dough begins very wet, almost soupy. Wet dough turns light and tender in the oven, so resist adding more flour. Be generous when oiling the pan; extra oil heightens the crunch. Sprinkle the top with herbs and oil after the first rising, and use your fingertips to gently dimple the bread.

BREAD

Olive oil (for the pan)
2 1/3 cups lukewarm water
4 1/2 teaspoons yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup finely chopped melting cheese, such as fontina, Monterey Jack, or asiago

1. Brush a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with oil.

2. In an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine water, yeast, and sugar. Mix well. Rest for 10 minutes, or until frothy.

3. Add olive oil, flour, and salt. Mix on low speed for 2 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Beat at medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes, or until smooth. The dough will be very wet. Add cheese, and beat for 30 seconds, or just until incorporated.

4. Transfer the dough to the pan (no need to shape it now). Cover, and leave to rise for 20 minutes.

TOPPING

2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, or parsley)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Sea salt (for sprinkling)

1. Set the oven at 375 degrees.

2. In a bowl, combine herbs and olive oil.

3. Gently dimple the loaf, spreading it into the corners of the pan. Sprinkle with cheese and the herb mixture. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes.

4. Lightly salt the dough. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is firm and golden.

5. Carefully invert the loaf onto a baking sheet. Place a wire rack on top, and re-invert. Cool right side up on the rack. Cut into triangles.

Karoline Boehm Goodnick