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Focaccia

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Focaccia: This is a simple savory bread warm from the oven, to be enjoyed with a crisp cool white wine, or a rosé from the regione di Ponente (western Liguria, where the sun sets over the mountains). It's also a wonderful base for a sandwich, and is one of the finest nibble-foods there is.
To serve 6 you'll need:

Prep Time: 3 hours

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 6 1/4 cups (750 g) unbleached all purpose flour
  • A cake or package of active yeast of the kind sold in the supermarket.
  • About 1 1/2 cups (350 ml) warm water
  • 1/3 cup extravirgin olive oil
  • Salt, both finely and coarsely ground (kosher will work well for the latter)

Preparation:

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Make a mound of flour on your work surface, scoop a well into the middle of it, and pour in the yeast mixture together with 5 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 healthy pinches of fine salt. Knead the mixture, adding further warm water is necessary, until you obtain a fairly firm, homogeneous dough -- figure 10-15 minutes of kneading. Put the dough in a bowl, cover it with a damp cloth, and let it rise for 2 hours.

Preheat your oven to 400 F (200 C).

Grease a baking sheet and dust it well with finely ground salt. Take the risen dough and spread it enough to completely cover the baking sheet, dimpling the surface by pressing down on it with a spoon or using your finger tips.

Let the dough rise about 10 minutes in the pan. While it is doing so, take the remaining oil and beat it lightly with a little water to make an emulsion; brush this emulsion over the focaccia and sprinkle it with coarse sea salt.

Bake the focaccia in a low rack until it is a lively golden brown, turning it 180 dgrees when it is half-cooked, then remove it and let it cool. Don't let it overbrown.

A couple of tips:
Put a bowl of water in the oven with the focaccia, to keep it from drying out overmuch as it bakes.
To help the dough rise, you can add a teaspoon of honey, malt extract, or sugar to it.

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