No kneading, no complications for crunchy, chewy focaccia

Julie Falsetti
For The York Dispatch

If one of your New Year’s resolutions is to make your own bread, focaccia is a great way to get your feet wet. With just four ingredients, and no special equipment needed, it is simplicity in itself. Best of all, no kneading required.

Focaccia (pronounced fuh-KAH-chuh) is a type of Italian flatbread. It dates back to Etruscan times, when it was baked on the “focus,” or hearth. It’s moist and pillowy, with a crunch on both the top and bottom crusts. It can be plain on the top, or serve as a palette to create a masterpiece. Instagram provides a huge sample of bread art to give you inspiration.

Since I can hardly draw a straight line, I decided to focus on taste rather than appearance. As with most artisanal breads, the secret to great flavor is a long, slow rise. In the refrigerator, the fermentation converts starch in the flour to simple sugars, which produces a more nuanced flavor.

While simple to put together, focaccia requires some planning — though exact timing is not important. The easiest way is to mix it up the night before. If something comes up the next day, no worries. The dough can sit in the refrigerator up to 72 hours. There is also a second rise of two to three hours depending on the temperature in your kitchen, so plan accordingly.

Focaccia owes its popularity to both ease of preparation and versatility. It makes a great accompaniment to soups and stews, and it can also be used for sandwiches.

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Focaccia is a low-rising, moist and pillowy bread with a crunchy top and bottom crust. (Julie Falsetti photo/For The York Dispatch)

Focaccia

  • 4 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, such as Diamond Crystal
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus additional for rub
  • Flaky sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary (optional)
A basic 9-by-13-inch pan is perfect for an unfussy focaccia. (Julie Falsetti photo/For The York Dispatch)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, yeast and salt. Add the water, and mix together with a rubber spatula until all the dry ingredients are incorporated into a sticky ball. Rub the dough lightly with olive oil. This step is important to keep the dough from drying out. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator for a minimum of 12 hours and a maximum of 72 hours.

When ready to bake, pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 9-by-13-inch pan. If you are using a glass baking dish, line with parchment before pouring the olive oil. Using oiled fingers, push the dough from the sides of the bowl to the center, to form a rough ball. Place the dough in the baking pan and let sit undisturbed for 2 to 4 hours. It’s ready to bake when it has spread out to cover most of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. If using rosemary, sprinkle it over the dough. Then pour 2 tablespoons olive oil over the dough and spread it out. Using all of your fingers, press straight down in the dough to create deep dimples. Generously sprinkle with flaky sea salt.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the bottom is crisp and golden. Let cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving.

— Julie Falsetti, a York native, comes from a long line of good cooks. Her column, From Scratch, runs twice monthly in The York Dispatch food section. Reach her with questions and comments at julietrulie11@gmail.com.