I planned to make this bread on Saturday, the 11th of January, well before the reveal date of 24th. With the temperatures expected to rise to the upper 50s and lower 60s on the 11th it would be a perfect day for baking. However, as luck would have it, I overslept on the 7th, the first day of school after winter break. My teenager woke me up 15 minutes before leaving for school to ask what she should pack for lunch. Oh! the guilt! I decided to go out in the freezing cold (25 F) and get the ingredients. I baked the bread and delivered it to school in time for lunch. It turned out great! And I thoroughly enjoyed baking it.
You will need
For the dough
2 tsp. Fleischmann rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
3 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cup warm water
For the Topping
4 large tomatoes (red or yellow), sliced thin
8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4" thick
8 leaves fresh basil, rolled up and sliced into thin strips
For the herb oil
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 pod garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
salt to taste
olive oil to brush the loaves
In a bowl whisk all the ingredients for the herb oil. Keep aside until needed.
In a mixing bowl add all the ingredients for the dough except the water. Mix well. Add the water a little at a time and knead into a soft and elastic dough. I prefer not to use the electric mixer because I have recently found kneading to be very calming. The rough and tumble dough is tamed under your fingers as you keep working it and is replaced by a glossy, soft dough. Roll this soft dough into a ball. Moisten your palm with olive oil and rub all over the dough. Leave it in the mixing bowl covered with plastic wrap for an hour.
While the dough rests, prepare the baking sheet. I used a regular baking sheet and this recipe yielded two good sized Focaccia. Sprinkle olive oil on the baking sheet and spread it around. After resting for an hour the dough should have grown to twice its size.
Divide it into two and shape the loaves. Working with your hands flatten one of the two loaves on one side of the baking sheet. Flatten it to your desired thickness. Repeat with the other loaf.
Preheat the oven to 400 F. Let the loaves rest for about 20 minutes in the baking sheet. They will rise a little. Moisten you fingertips with olive oil and punch holes all over the loaves. Using a pastry brush spread the prepared herb oil liberally over the top of the loaves.
Bake uncovered in the oven for 18 minutes or until just brown. While the loaves are baking prepare the toppings.
Roll the basil leaves and slice thin resulting in thin strips. Leave a few leaves to garnish. Slice the fresh mozzarella in 1/4" think slices. Slice the tomatoes thin.
Remove the loaves from the oven. At this point the bread smelled and looked so good I had to resist trying it.
Sprinkle more herb oil. Crank the oven up to 450 F. Arrange the mozzarella slices on the bottom followed by tomato slices and basil strips. Sprinkle more herb oil on the top and return to the oven for about 8 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the loaves rest for a few minutes. Serve hot.
Note: If you are unable to finish it all in one meal you can have leftovers. Leftover Focaccia can easily be freshened up. Preheat the oven to 375 F and place the Focaccia directly on the middle rack. Let it heat through for 5 minutes. Take out of the oven and serve hot. Even though it does not taste as good as the first time it is taken out of the oven, it comes close.