Weather: 28 degrees
What I’m listening to: A Beautiful Place to Be, Tyrone Wells
We strolled through downtown San Diego at night, headed for the cozy golden light of the Italian bistro, Operacaffe. We opted for a small table outside, because in January in San Diego you can do things like sit outside for dinner. The twinkle lights were shining and the sounds and smells of the famous Gaslamp Quarter were just occasionally edging their way in.
“The bread is sooooooooo good here,” Danae exclaimed, eagerly looking through the window to see if the server would be bringing ours to the table soon. “I can’t wait for you to try the bread.”
We pored over the menu, deciding together that we would share a rich plate of lobster and artichoke pasta, ordered it, and began talking about things like life and hopes and dreams.
It was then that the bread arrived, much anticipated but not too late – warm cubes of focaccia and a plate of extra virgin olive oil swirled with thick balsamic – the acidic fragrance of the vinegar filling the air and lingering with that unmistakable smell of freshly baked bread. We dug in simultaneously and paused our conversation to linger over it.
“You need to write a recipe for this bread,” said Danae between bites. “You should put this on the blog.”
Finishing off my focaccia, I flashed a closed-mouthed smile and replied, “Hm. You’re right. Maybe I should.”
I tried a couple of different base recipes for focaccia before landing on the right one. I needed the texture and the flavor to be just so – the right balance of airy and chewy, golden brown and fragrant, to transport me back to that memorable meal in January. These cubes of focaccia, topped with fresh rosemary and sea salt, become the perfect vehicle for sopping up that good olive oil and dark balsamic. When the bread came piping hot from the oven, I sliced a garlic clove in half and rubbed it all over the bread, finishing it with a slight hint of garlic.
Focaccia with Rosemary & Sea Salt
Golden homemade focaccia with rosemary and sea salt. Adapted from Anne Burrell.
Yields: 1 loaf, serves 6-8
- 1 3/4 cups warm water
- 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 5 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- For Topping the Focaccia:
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 1 garlic clove, cut in half (optional)
- For Dipping:
- extra virgin olive oil
- good balsamic vinegar
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, combine the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Stir and allow it to sit and bloom (foam and bubble), about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, stir together the flour and salt.
Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil to the yeast mixture, then turn the mixer on low and gradually begin adding the flour/salt mixture. When all the flour and salt have been added, turn the mixer up to medium-high and knead the dough for 5 minutes until elastic. If the dough is somewhat sticky, add flour by the tablespoon until it just pulls away from the side of the bowl.
Oil a mixing bowl generously with extra virgin olive oil and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.
Line a jelly roll pan/large sheet pan with parchment paper. Generously oil the bottom of the pan with extra virgin olive oil. Place the dough gently onto the pan and press it out to fit the size of the pan. Make finger indentations all over the top of the dough by pressing firmly into the dough with the tips of your fingers. Return the dough to a warm place and allow to rise another 45 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425 degrees. When the focaccia is done rising, drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil on top of the bread and spread it with your fingers to coat. Sprinkle on the rosemary and sea salt. Bake 20-25 minutes until the bread is golden brown and fragrant. If using the garlic, rub the top of the hot bread with the garlic halves when you just remove it from the oven.
When bread has cooled enough to touch, slice it into cubes and serve it warm with olive oil and balsamic for dipping.