Rosemary Focaccia

Things are moving along in our household at the pace of a bullet train as we count down the days (24-holy moly!!!) until the arrival of baby number two this month!  I’d love to say our environment is a calming one for these final 3 weeks of pregnancy, but with my three year old becoming more and more rambunctious and (ahem!) assertive by the day, my husband readying his paper for publication submission BEFORE the baby comes, and I no longer being capable of simple tasks (like putting on socks and shoes), I’d say at best we are in survival mode.  Thankfully, baking still helps me to slow down, relax and be calm.

This is what a pregnancy photo shoot looks like with a 3 year old’s help.  FYI, P took this photo!

If the food theme of my first pregnancy was queso (man, I could NOT eat enough cheese), then the food theme for baby two, or “Baby O”, is definitely bread.  At first it was homemade soft pretzels, but at this point, any bread will do.  My lovely mother-in-law and sister-in-law gifted me a plethora of cookbooks for Christmas and this savory rosemary focaccia is my first calming recipe attempt from Jim Lahey’s book, “My Bread”.

check out those nooks!

It’s perfect for my (and Baby O’s) cravings.  With a healthy dose of olive oil, it’s super crackly and salty on the outside and soft on the inside.  If you do not love rosemary, you can definitely leave it out.   I’m guessing you can poke just about whatever herb or meat or veg you’d like into focaccia, it’s pretty versatile and only a few added steps away from being pizza.  Just google focaccia images and you’ll see what I mean!  Me, however, I love rosemary.  I can’t walk by it in the store or garden without running my hand over it to catch a whiff of it’s perfumed, herby scent.

another rosemary lover!

chocolate cake with toasted marshmallow frosting!

P’s 3rd b-day was last month, and while I’m super grateful for my friend who sent the Thomas the train cake parts, there’s no way 8 1/2 month pregnant me could attempt such a feat as this cake.  After skimming instructions of multiple carved cake parts glued together with icing, then experiencing a mild panic attack, welp, maybe next year (sorry Sharon!).  I opted instead for a chocolate cake with toasted marshmallow meringue frosting.  P is super into marshmallows right now plus it’s always fun to use my kitchen torch!

Back to the rosemary focaccia; it’s pretty easy if you have patience and a potato.  A potato, you say?  Yep, a potato.  Super weird but it works, trust me.  Or rather, in Jim Lahey we trust.  Contrary to what one would think, the potato helps to lighten the dough.  So, we begin with the potato.  Peel and cut it into chunks.  Place the potato chunks into a small saucepan with specifically 2 1/2 cups of water, as this water will become part of the bread too.  Cover the saucepan with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook until the chunks are fork-tender, about 15-20 minutes.

I used an immersion blender because my blender broke last year and I’m still wrestling with “should I buy a Vitamix or should I put that money instead towards my children’s college fund?” because, let’s be honest, the Vitamix is the ultimate blender but the cost of one could pay for a college semester’s worth of books!  Whatever your blender of choice, purée the potatoes with potato cooking water together until smooth.  Set it aside to cool until it’s warm to the touch but not scalding (120°F to be exact).

In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir together the flour, yeast, sugar, and HALF the salt.  Pour in the potato purée and mix until a wet and sticky dough forms; about 30 seconds.  Cover the bowl with a towel and set it aside in a non-drafty part of your kitchen until it has doubled in size.  This should take about 2-3 hours.

doubled ✔️

Using a spatula, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled, rimmed cookie sheet (13×18″ works great).  The dough will still be pretty loose and very sticky.  Try your best to pull and stretch it into the four corners of the pan.  Oil your hands and press the dough out as evenly as possible to the edges.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with the reserved salt and chopped, fresh rosemary.  Using your fingertips, create dimples all over the surface of the focaccia.

dimples for the win!

Allow the dough to rise, uncovered, for another hour.  Preheat your oven to 400°F, and place one of the oven racks smack dab in the center.  Carefully put the rosemary focaccia into the oven, taking note not to bump the pan to deflate the dough (it’s quite sensitive at this point).  Bake at 400°F for 30-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Transfer the rosemary focaccia to a cookie rack and allow to cool for a few moments before slicing.  Rosemary focaccia is best served warm, YUM.

Rosemary Focaccia (recipe from Jim Lahey’s “My Bread”)

Makes: one 13×18″ pan of focaccia

Ingredients:

  • 1 large Yukon gold potato, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes (200 grams)
  • 2 1/2 cups cool (55-65°F) water (600 grams)
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour (600 grams)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant or active dry yeast (10 grams)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar (4 grams)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt (10 grams), divided
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (or grapeseed oil) (60 grams)

Method:

    1. Peel and cut the potato into 1″ chunks.  Place the potato chunks into a small saucepan with specifically 2 1/2 cups of water, cover with a lid and bring to a boil over high heat.  Cook until the chunks are fork-tender, about 15-20 minutes.
    2. Using an immersion blender or blender blender, purée the potatoes and potato cooking water together until smooth.  Set it aside to cool until it’s warm to the touch but not scalding (120°F to be exact).
    3. In a large bowl, using a wooden spoon, stir together the flour, yeast, sugar, and HALF the salt.  Pour in the potato purée and mix until a wet and sticky dough forms; about 30 seconds.  Cover the bowl with a towel and set it aside in a non-drafty part of your kitchen until it has doubled in size.  This should take about 2-3 hours.
    4. Using a spatula, turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled, rimmed cookie sheet (13×18″ works great).  The dough will still be pretty loose and very sticky.  Try to pull and stretch it into the four corners of the pan.  With well oiled hands, press the dough out as evenly as possible to the edges.
    5. Drizzle with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with the reserved salt and chopped, fresh rosemary.  Using your fingertips, create dimples all over the surface of the focaccia.
    6. Allow the dough to rise, uncovered, for another hour.  Preheat your oven to 400°F, and place one of the oven racks in the center.  Carefully put the focaccia into the oven, taking note not to bump the pan to deflate the dough.  Bake at 400°F for 30-45 minutes, until the top is golden brown.  Transfer the focaccia to a cookie rack and allow to cool for a few moments before slicing.  Rosemary Focaccia is best served warm.

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