Andrew recently moved to a new apartment, and this was the first thing I baked in his kitchen, which seemed fitting, as the smell of yeast, rosemary, and lemons perfumed the air in a welcoming homey way.
There is something very primal about baking bread. Watching something as simple as flour, water, salt, a pinch of a yeast + time and heat transform into bronzed chewy bread seems nothing short of a miracle.
This came together with astounding ease, considering that the kitchen was mostly devoid of cooking implements those first few days. I will sheepishly admit there was one large exception to the mostly bare kitchen – my hulking stand mixer had already made the cross-town journey… While that may seem a non-necessity to others, I use it with such frequency that it was a no-brainer. What can I say, I’m not the most practical person I know.
Shortly after emerging from the oven, with a deep golden tan, we dug in, ripping chunks of bread off and dipping them into salt and olive oil drizzled directly onto the baking pan. Impromptu and shockingly delicious “sandwiches” were constructed with the addition of a hunk of cheddar from the nearly bare fridge.
This was actually my first time baking bread, aside from pizza dough and quick breads, both of which I’ve made dozens of times. Overall, I’d say it was a great success, and I will be returning to this basic focaccia dough recipe soon with some tweaks to the toppings (explained below in the recipe header).
Lemon Rosemary Focaccia
While this bread was consumed quickly and with great vigor, one minor tweak with the lemons would have made it perfect; I adjusted the recipe accordingly. Next time I will omit the lemon slices and instead heavily dust it with lemon zest; as the lemon pith included in the whole lemon slices added a bit too much bitterness, and the moisture from the lemon pulp impeded browning underneath the lemon slices and left the dough a bit soggy. Click on over to Made by Frances for instructions if you wish to try your hand at the thinly sliced lemon topping (I will admit that it’s quite stunning visually). Also worth noting, I made this in my trusty stand mixer, but like any bread dough, it can easily be kneaded by hand, instructions for both methods follow (hand kneading instructions in [brackets]).
Adapted, just barely, from Made by Frances
Yield: 1 loaf of bread
17 ½ oz (3 ½ cups) bread flour
½ tbsp Kosher salt
1 packet (2 ¼ tsp) Active Dry yeast
1 ½ cups water slightly warmer than body temp or 110°F
2 tbsp olive oil (save your best for drizzling after baking – regular olive oil is fine here)
the zest of 2 lemons
3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
½ – 1 tsp flaky salt*
In your mixer’s bowl using the paddle attachment mix together the flour, salt, yeast, and water** on low until thoroughly combined.
Swap out the paddle attachment for the dough hook. Increase the mixer speed to medium or 3, and mix for 5 minutes. In the meantime, sprinkle flour on a work surface (a clean countertop or table top – a cutting board is likely too small for the job). Dump the dough out onto the floured surface, and knead for an additional 3 minutes, or until the dough is smooth, elastic and somewhat shiny.
[I prefer to make bread dough using a mixer, as I'm a bit lazy, but there is something to be said about the stress relieving properties of hand-kneading. If you wish to do this all by hand, mix the flour, salt, yeast and water together in a large bowl using a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined. Flour your hands, dump the dough out onto the floured work surface, and knead for 8-10 minutes or until the dough is smooth, elastic and somewhat shiny]
Lightly oil a large bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, and loosely cover with a clean dishcloth. Allow the dough to rise for about 3o minutes, or until it has doubled in size.
Brush oil onto a baking sheet, and lightly sprinkle with flour. Move the dough to the baking sheet, and stretch it out to make a roughly rectangular shape mimicking the shape of the baking sheet (focaccia is a rustic bread, so don’t take too many pains with this step). Loosely cover the dough with the dishcloth, and allow to rise for about 30 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°. After the dough is done rising, use a fork to pierce the dough all over to pop large bubbles and ensure an even rise during baking. Brush with olive oil; sprinkle flaky salt, lemon zest and rosemary evenly over the surface.
Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, or until golden brown.
Allow to cool for a few minutes on a cooling rack, and dig in!
*I used fleur de sel, but Maldon, or even Kosher salt would be great here.
** The water should be slightly warmer than body temperature, but not by much, as yeast dies at 140°F.