I find that people often have preconceived notions about baking bread. They think that all bread requires either a bread maker, an electric mixer with a dough hook, or a significant amount of kneading. While it is true that many types of bread require a dough hook and kneading, this rosemary focaccia recipe requires neither. This recipe is relatively easy, makes delicious bread and always makes my kitchen smell amazing.
Making this focaccia is a two step process. First, you must prepare the biga. So what exactly is a biga? A biga is a starter batch of bread. It helps to enrich the flavor, generate larger holes in the bread and keeps the bread light, crisp and airy. It is an incredible easy process to make the biga and will significantly enhance the aroma and flavor of the bread.
While the actual time spent making the dough really isn’t much time at all, the entire process takes over 24 hours. It is absolutely necessary to prepare the biga and let the dough rise for the recommended amount of time. Fortunately, no kneading is involved and all you need is a large bowl, spatula and wooden spoon to prepare the dough.
The focaccia already looks delicious before it even goes into the oven.
To make the biga, combine ½ cup flour, water, and yeast in a large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients form a wet and sticky ball and no dry flour remains. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 24 hours.
To make the dough, stir the flour, water and yeast into biga with a wooden spoon until ingredients form a wet and sticky ball and no dry flour remains. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle 2 tsp. salt over dough and stir into dough until thoroughly incorporated. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 30 minutes. Spray a rubber spatula with nonstick cooking spray and fold partially risen dough over itself by gently lifting and folding edge of dough toward middle. Turn bowl 90 degrees, fold again. Turn bowl and fold dough 6 more times (for a total of 8 turns). Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Repeat folding, turning and rising 2 more times, for a total of three 30-minute rises. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position, place a baking stone on rack, and preheat oven to 500 degrees for at least 30 minutes before baking.
Transfer dough to lightly floured work surface. Lightly dust top of dough with flour and divide in half. Shape each piece of dough into a 5-inch round by gently tucking under edges. Coat two 9-inch round cake pans with 2 tablespoons olive oil each. Sprinkle each pan with ½ tsp kosher salt. Place round of dough in pan and slide dough around pan to coat bottom and sides; flip over. Repeat with second piece of dough in second pan. Cover pans with plastic wrap and let rest for 5 minutes.
Using fingertips, press dough out toward edges of pan. Using dinner fork, poke surface of dough 25 to 30 times, popping any large bubbles. Sprinkle rosemary evenly over top of dough. Let dough rest until slightly bubbly, 5 to 10 minutes.
Place pans on baking stone and reduce oven temperature to 450 degrees. Bake until tops are golden brown, 22-25 minutes, switching placement of pans halfway through baking. Transfer pans to wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. Remove loaves from pan and return to wire rack. Let cool 30 minutes before serving.
Loaves can be wrapped and stored at room temperature for up to 2 days.
*If you do not have a baking stone, bake the bread on an overturned, preheated rimmed baking sheet set on the upper-middle oven rack.