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Golden, fluffy, chewy, crispy, aromatic perfection. I was so happy when I sliced into this loaf, it was like a deep fried cloud! I’ve been wanting to make focaccia for a while and with a christmas party coming up, I thought it would be the perfect crowd pleaser. While this takes a pretty long time from start to finish, there is very little active time, and in the end it’s a pretty fool proof recipe! Baking scares me in general, but this was a pleasure to execute. Full disclosure, there are about ten billion calories in this loaf of bread, give or take. So enjoy it in moderation. It made the most amazing panini sandwich bread, all the oil really makes it get a great crispy crust in the panini press. For the Christmas party I went to, I sliced the bread into thin slices, toasted it so it was like focaccia crackers, and served with a black truffle pesto and bruschetta tomatoes. (I just subbed half of the olive oil in the pesto recipe for black truffle flavored olive oil.) I’m happy to report that our friend from Italy was at the party and gave this focaccia his official approval! This makes such a gigantic loaf, you could easily cut the recipe in half and just use an 8″ x 8″ pan. I think this recipe made a much fluffier, taller focaccia than I’ve seen before, but that’s what made it so awesome.

Rosemary Focaccia

makes (1) 18″ x 12″ loaf

1 3/4 cup warm water

1 pkg active dry yeast

1 heaping tb sugar

5 cups all purpose flour

1 tbs kosher salt, plus more coarse salt for sprinkling

1 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

3 tbs chopped fresh rosemary, divided

Combine the water, yeast, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, give it a little stir, then cover the bowl with saran wrap and put in a warm spot in your kitchen for 15 minutes. This part is hard to get right, it can’t be too hot or too cool, or the yeast won’t do its thing. I turned my toaster on, (because I like to eat a slice of bread while I’m baking bread,) then I put the bowl near the toaster. After 15 minutes, the mixture should look foamy and smell very ‘yeasty’ or ‘bready.’ If it didn’t get a little puffy with foam, throw it out and start over. The warm water should be approximately 110 to 115 degrees. (Using a thermometer would be ideal, but I did it by feel.)

After your yeast mixture looks ready, put the bowl on the stand mixer and add the flour, salt, 1/2 cup of olive oil, and 2 tbs of rosemary. Use the dough hook attachment and start it on a low speed. Once the dough as come together (about 30 seconds) switch to medium speed and let it run for 6 minutes. Give it a sprinkle of flour if it looks too sticky.

Next transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead it once or twice with your hands. At this point I washed out the mixer bowl and greased it with a little olive oil. Put the dough back into the greased bowl and cover with saran wrap. Put it back in a warm spot and let it rise for at least 1 hour.

Next pour the other 1/2 cup of olive oil into a jelly roll pan (18″ x 12″ x 4″) or similar. Plop your dough into the greasy pan and start using your finger tips to press it out toward the edges or the pan. Then flip the dough over so both sides get thoroughly oily, and continue to stretch it out toward the sides.

Use your finger tips to press into the top of the dough, this is key. Don’t try and smash it all down evenly, because then you will lose the fluffiness, but use the tips of your fingers to puncture through the surface, all the way through the bread. This creates that bumpy surface and little spots for oil to pool. Mmm oil pools….

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Cover the dough one final time with saran wrap, and put in a warm place for 1 more hour (like near your preheating oven.)

Finally, unwrap the bread and drizzle with a tiny bit more oil. Sprinkle with the course salt and the last tb of chopped fresh rosemary.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until it’s golden brown on top.

You can store this bread on the counter for up to three days, loosely wrapped in plastic wrap, or butcher paper would be best. It is definitely at it’s very best on the day it is baked. After the first day, cut off slices and toast them for best results. (I didn’t finish baking this loaf till about midnight, so this pictures are a little dark, oops!)

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