Recipe: Classic Focaccia

Classic Focaccia (Olive Oil Bread and Pizza Dough)

Ingredients:

2 packages of yeast (5 oz.)

2 cups warm skim milk

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. sugar

6 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more

5 cups flour, plus more

1 egg white

1 tsp. sea salt

2 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Instructions:

Dissolve the yeast in the milk, then add the salt and the sugar.  Stir and let sit until the growing yeast gives the mixture a beige and frothy surface.  Then add the olive oil and stir again.  Put 5 cups of unbleached white flour in a large mixing bowl and pour in the yeast mixture while stirring.  Once this mixture forms into a dough, turn it out onto a flour-dusted countertop and knead if for several minutes until it has a smooth, elastic consistency. Add more flour if it is too moist.  Form it into a ball, slice the ball in half and place each half in its own bowl that has been oiled with olive oil, turn once and then cover. Allow to rest in a warm place until it doubles in size, about 45 minutes.

Then take each ball out, dust it with flour, and roll it out into a circle about ½ inch thick (thinner if you are making pizza).  With a sharp knife, make a few cuts in the top of the dough, so it can expand when baking without splitting. Make a wash of equal amounts egg white and warm water whisked together, and paint this on the surface of the round with a small brush.  Sprinkle sea salt and sesame seeds over the round. (If you are freezing one or both rounds for future use, stop here and put them in the freezer.) Allow the rounds to rest again, for 20 minutes.

Bake at 450 degrees in the top third of the oven on an oiled sheet for 25-30 minutes or until brown. Time this so the bread is warm when you sit down to dinner and offer liberal amounts of pesto for spreading, and you will be amazed by the goodwill that arises.  You can also use butter, of course, or just eat it plain. Or just roll it out thinner than for bread and use it for delicious pizza crusts.

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David Jensen writes the popular American blog “The Garden Interior,” which chronicles his garden in southern New Jersey. Please visit at www.TheGardenInterior.com. You can follow David Jensen on Twitter at @GardenInterior.