You make the dough in a standing mixer. You combine all-purpose flour, bread flour, yeast, and salt, and mix in olive oil and warm water. When the dough comes together, you switch to a dough hook and you're supposed to mix until the dough starts to release from the sides of the bowl. My dough was very wet and wasn't releasing, so I followed the directions to add more all-purpose flour, two tablespoons at a time. It took another ten tablespoons of flour before the dough was stiff enough to release from the bowl, and even then, it was still quite soft and sticky.
I managed to stretch it out on a floured surface, fold it into thirds, and shape it into a ball that I put into an oiled bowl and covered with plastic wrap. After 25 minutes, I re-stretched the dough, repeated the process of folding it, forming it into a ball and putting it back into the bowl, and after another 25 minutes, I did the whole process a third time. Each time, the dough rose quite a bit in the bowl, and it was puffy and easy to stretch.
After the final rise in the bowl, I stretched out the dough in a pan lined with parchment and dusted with cornmeal. While I let the dough rest, I caramelized a red onion, and cooked a bag of baby spinach and squeezed it dry. Then I stretched the dough into the corners of the pan, brushed it with rosemary olive oil, and sprinkled on salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. I baked it for about 12 minutes in a hot oven with a pan of steaming water on the bottom rack. I took out the dough, topped it with grated cheese (Provolone and Pecorino Romano), the onions and spinach, and some red pepper flakes. I put the focaccia back in the oven for another 12 minutes, until the cheese was melted and browned.
I had timed my focaccia baking so that it would come out of the oven just as my six-year old friend Alexander was finishing up baseball practice nearby. He ate his entire piece, although he did pick off a few pieces of spinach. I consider anything Alexander likes to eat a success.
I rarely make yeasted breads, and this is my first time making focaccia. But it's definitely not going to be my last! As the Baked boys point out, this focaccia is a basically a blank canvas that you can top with just about anything, and I'm looking forward to making other variations.
Recipe: "Cheesy Focaccia with Carmelized Onion and Sautéed Spinach" from Baked Elements: Our 10 Favorite Ingredients, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, recipe available here at Baked Sunday Mornings.
Previous Post: "We're Crackers for Cheesy Bread!: Pane con Formaggio," January 12, 2010.