OLD WORLD

The bringing of the bread basket at a fine restaurant is always, for me, a moment of profound intimacy. Don’t judge, dammit, because I’m that guy who’ll methodically survey the pointy baguettes, the olive ciabattas, flatbreads covered with fragrant seeds, the rustic rosemary batard, and plump brioche, searching for my one true love: focaccia. A good focaccia will have feathery soft innards, a golden crisp exterior that’s nearly translucent when help up to the sun, and a heady aroma from olive oil and fresh herbs. When you bite into it, you should experience — in this order — sea salt, the richness of a crust saturated in hot olive oil, the loose crumb’s plush mouthfeel, and the lingering flavors of a savory garden at its peak. This particular focaccia recipe couldn’t be easier to execute. Be generous with olive oil. Take liberties with toppings. Most of all, share it with a sense of urgency.

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GARLIC ROSEMARY FOCACCIA 

adapted from a recipe by Tyler Florence:
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
2 tablespoons sugar
3 1/2 to 4 cups of all purpose flour
1 tablespoon coarse salt
1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
cornmeal for dusting
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, hand torn
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly minced
handful of small cherry tomatoes, sliced
freshly cracked black pepper
coarse sea salt

Place the yeast, warm water and sugar in a large bowl, stirring gently to dissolve. Let this mixture stand for 3-5 minutes until foam appears. Slowly whisk the flour and salt into the mixture. Pour in 1/4 cup olive oil and continue to whisk until the dough is smooth and elastic (add flour as needed), about 10 minutes. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and fold over itself a few times. Form the dough into a round and place in an oiled bowl (turn to coat the entire ball with oil so it doesn’t form a skin). Cover with plastic wrap or damp towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Coat a sheet pan with a little olive oil and corn meal. Once the dough is doubled and domed, turn it out onto the counter. Roll and stretch the dough out to an oblong shape about 1/2-inch thick. Lay the flattened dough on the pan (you can use a sheet pan or a baking dish, eg. Staub) and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400. Uncover the dough and dimple with your fingertips. Brush the surface with more olive oil and scatter the rosemary, garlic, and tomatoes over the dough. Season with salt and pepper. Bake on the bottom rack for 15 to 20 minutes until the focaccia is golden brown. (In the last 5 minutes, I like to drizzle with olive oil again to achieve a very crisp exterior)

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