Boy do I have a lot of catch up posts to do, and this is one of them. When I was off on medical leave, I was feeling very pitiful and sorry for myself. And there's only one cure for my self-pity:
Not ice cream or cake or a bottle of wine. (Okay, maybe a bottle of wine.)
Yes, bread: soft and hot right from the oven. And since I don't have any bakeries within walking distance, that meant I did a lot of baking when I was on medical leave. And for the first time, I baked focaccia. Specifically, Rosemary Focaccia, with fresh rosemary straight from my garden.
Now, focaccia has always been one of those things that scared me to death. Why? I'm not sure. It just seemed like it had to be very complicated and tricky.
Well, of course, it's not that complicated and tricky at all. It's pretty easy, in fact, particularly since you bake it on a baking sheet. But I'm still scared of it. Know why?
Holy cow. I'm going to be totally honest with you guys, 'cause we're all friends here, right?
I ate the whole thing.
YES. The WHOLE PAN. Okay, it took me a couple of days, but oh, my. Not a good thing. I actually haven't made it since; not because it's too hard or anything, but because I'm afraid I'll eat it all again.
But I think of it. A lot.
Just a note: This is best the day you bake it, but it will work the next day if you toast the pieces. (Which is delicious, especially with a little butter and a pot of tea.)
(adapted from America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book, which I cannot recommend highly enough)
1 medium russet potato, peeled and sliced into large chunks
3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups (17 1/2 to 18 3/4 ounce) all purpose flour
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 envelope instant or rapid-rise yeast
1 1/4 teaspoons table salt
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary (not dried)
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt for sprinkling
Boil the potato in water until easily pierced by a fork, about 10 minutes, then remove potato with a slotted spoon. Reserve one cup of the water; set aside to cool until just warm (110 degrees). When the potato is cool enough to handle, grate it on the large holes of a box grater. (You should have about 1 cup of lightly packed potato.)
Mix the cooked potato, 3 1/2 cups of the flour, 2 tablespoons of the oil, yeast, and table salt in a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. With the mixer on low speed, add the reserved potato cooking water and mix until the dough comes together, about 2 minutes.
Increase the mixer speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. If after four minutes more flour is needed, adding the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough clears the sides of the bowl but sticks to the bottom.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead by hand to form a smooth, round ball. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and cover tightly with greased plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Coat an 18 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with 1/4 cup more oil. Press the dough into the prepared baking sheet with wet hands. Brush the dough with 1 tablespoon more oil, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 45 to 75 minutes.
Adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Dimple the dough with wet fingertips, then drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle with the rosemary and coarse salt.
Bake until the focaccia bottom is golden and crisp, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer the focaccia to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.