I love homemade bread, but I really am not patient enough to make it myself. Believe me, I’ve tried. No luck. However, I was recently gifted a copy of My Bread by Jim Lahey, a cookbook full of no-work, no-knead bread recipes. I knew I had to try the focaccia recipe. Boy, am I glad I did!
Focaccia has to be my favorite Italian bread because it is so versatile. You can top it with just about anything. I have tried to make focaccia before, but it turned out dense and bland. Nothing like the light and flavorful focaccia I had seaside in Liguria. Jim Lahey’s recipe was just what I was looking for. It produces an excellent focaccia time after time. Making this takes a bit of planning, but is virtually no-work and there is no-kneading involved. Try it for yourself and see!
Taken from My Bread by Jim Lahey
1 large Yukon Gold potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
2 1/2 cups cool water
4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1 tsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Place potato pieces and water in a small sauce pan, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Cook potato until chunks fall apart when pierced with a fork or knife tip.
Use an immersion blender or a blender to puree potatoes with the cooking water until smooth. Let the mixture cool to 120 degrees F; it will feel very warm to the touch but not scalding.
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, sugar and half the salt. Add the potato puree and, using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix until you have a wet sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the dough is tripled in size, 2 to 3 hours.
Lightly oil a 13-by-18 inch rimmed baking sheet (I line the baking sheet with parchment paper to make for an easier clean up). Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough onto the baking sheet; it will be quite loose and sticky. Gently pull the dough and stretch it across the surface of the pan, then oil your hands and press the dough evenly out to the edges. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the oil and sprinkle with the remaining salt. Use your fingertips to create dimples all over the surface of the dough. Let the dough rise in a warm draft-free spot until it has risen just over the edges of the pan, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, with a rack in the center.
Top the foccacia with your desired toppings, such as onions, tomatoes, fresh herbs, etc. (I used fresh rosemary and thyme). Gently place the focaccia in the oven on the center rack (the risen dough is delicate; a bump going into the oven could collapse it) and bake for 30 to 45 minutes, until the top is evenly golden brown. Transfer the pan to a rack to cool, and give it at least a few minutes before slicing and serving warm or at room temperature.