I’ve tried a few focaccias now and this is the first one that worked as I thought it should. I like predictable, especially with bread! Borrowed from ‘The Epicurious Cookbook’, this makes 2, 9 x 13 pans of bread, you can dress them up any way you wish, and they freeze really well. Enjoy them straight away fresh from the oven, or warmed up and eaten in a timely fashion – and remember that good olive oil and balsamic vinegar would never be amiss…
Focaccia (Thyme and Parmesan)
1 t. sugar
2 c. warm (not hot!) water
1 T. salt
5 c. + flour
1/3 c. olive oil
2 t. fresh thyme leaves
2 T. cornmeal
1/2 c. grated Parmesan (fresh would be best)
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
In your electric mixer with the paddle attachment, carefully beat together the yeast, sugar and warm water and then allow the mixture to sit for a few minutes until it starts to foam. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the salt and 5 cups of flour. When the yeast mixture is ready, stir in the olive oil and then with the mixer on low, gradually add in the flour mix. When it gets too thick, switch to the dough hook attachment and knead the dough for a couple of minutes until it comes together and is soft, but still slightly sticky.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface (I found that I used about 1/2 cup more flour for this step), and knead in enough flour to form a soft, but not sticky dough – this will take a few minutes. Form the dough into a rough ball and place into a well-oiled large ball, rolling it around to coat it, and then cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and put in a warm place to rise until doubled – about 45 minutes.
Transfer the dough back to your lightly floured surface, cut it in half, and knead the fresh thyme into 1 half for about 1 minute, and then knead the plain half for about 1 minute. Form each half into a flattened oval, place a bowl over top each and allow them to rest on your counter for a few minutes – this will make them easier to roll out. Preheat the oven to 450, oil 2, 9 x 13 rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of cornmeal evenly over each oiled sheet.
Again on your lightly floured surface, roll out the dough halves into 9 x 13 rectangles (approximate is just fine, you can still press and shape them into your pans), then cover both pans with a kitchen towel and allow them to sit in a warm place to rise again for about 20 minutes.
Sprinkle the plain dough with the Parmesan and pepper, and sprinkle the thyme dough with coarse salt and pepper and then make 1/2-inch indentations with your finger all over each. Bake for about 12 minutes, or until golden and then after the bread comes out of the oven, carefully remove it to racks to cool. Enjoy!