If you are a regular scroller on Instagram or Pinterest, I’m sure you have seen the beautiful masterpieces of garden art that people are doing with focaccia. I’ve been obsessed with it ever since the first time I saw it. I’ve made several of them by cutting the vegetables and herbs, and arranging them on top of the dough in a way that creates an artful masterpiece.
I use Samin Nosrat’s recipe from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat. The first time I made it, it was quite salty, so I use less salt than called for, which I have noted in parentheses in the recipe. Focaccia is one of the easiest bread recipes you can make. We eat it as a side to pasta or a big salad. We also use it to make sandwiches. See my Instagram page @Livewell_Livewhole for my favorite sandwich with pan-fried eggplant and buffalo mozzarella.
For the dough:
2½ cups lukewarm water
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
2½ teaspoons honey
5⅓ cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons Diamond Crystal Kosher salt or 1 tablespoon fine sea salt (I use 1½ tablespoons)
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan and finishing
For the brine:
1½ teaspoons Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt (I use ¾ teaspoon)
⅓ cup lukewarm water
In a medium bowl, stir together water, yeast and honey to dissolve. In a very large bowl, whisk flour and salt together to combine and then add yeast mixture and olive oil. Stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated, then scrape the sides of the bowl clean and cover with plastic wrap. Leave out at room temperature to ferment for 12-14 hours until at least doubled in volume.
Spread 2-3 tablespoons of oil evenly onto a 18-by-13-inch rimmed baking sheet. When dough is ready, use a spatula or your hand to release it from the sides of the bowl and fold it onto itself gently, then pour out onto pan. Pour an additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil over dough and gently spread across. Gently stretch the dough to the edge of the sheet by placing your hands underneath and pulling outward. The dough will shrink a bit, so repeat stretching once or twice over the course of 30 minutes to ensure dough remains stretched.
Dimple the dough by pressing the pads of your first three fingers in at an angle. Make the brine by stirring together salt and water until salt is dissolved. Pour the brine over the dough to fill dimples. Proof focaccia for 45 minutes until the dough is light and bubbly.
Thirty minutes into this final proof, adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 450 degrees. If you have a baking stone, place it on rack. Otherwise, invert another sturdy baking sheet and place on rack. Allow to preheat with the oven until very hot, before proceeding with baking.
Sprinkle focaccia with flaky salt. Bake for 25-30 minutes directly on top of the stone or inverted pan until bottom crust is crisp and golden brown when checked with a metal spatula. To finish browning top crust, place focaccia on upper rack and bake for 5-7 minutes more.
Remove from oven and brush or douse with 2-3 tablespoons oil over the whole surface (don’t worry if the olive pools in pockets, it will absorb as it sits). Let cool for 5 minutes, then release focaccia from pan with metal spatula and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
To do the veggie art, cut up your vegetables and arrange on the dough right before you put it in the oven. I brush the top with a bit more olive oil to keep the vegetables from drying out in the oven. Use whatever you like. I use parsley, basil, cherry tomatoes, yellow and orange bell peppers and black olives.