Few years ago, while visiting friends in Fort Worth, they took me to a local Italian place where, soon as you ordered drinks and got menus, they put down a platter with a small, fresh loaf of focaccia and a saucer. Into the saucer went spiced olive oil, then a splash of balsamic vinegar; you took a slice of bread and swirled it in the oil/vinegar mix, and DAMN, that was good. I've been hooked on it ever since.
And I very happily found out that focaccia is easy to make. This is the recipe I found somewhere and I've been using since.
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 pinch ground black pepper
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mozzarella
In a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt, sugar, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil and black pepper.
Mix in the vegetable oil, water and yeast(see below).
When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place for 20-40 minutes, till about doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
Punch dough down; place on greased baking sheet. Pat into a 1/2 inch thick rectangle, let rise 20-30 minutes.
Brush top with olive oil. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and mozzarella cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.
Let me note a few things:
The spices are optional; it comes out nicely without them, though they do add flavor. Same for the cheese; the loaf I made tonight I grated some Asiago on top before baking.
Speaking of yeast: proof it first. If you're not familiar with that, it's easy: put a little warm- not hot, just warm to your finger- water in a bowl with a little sugar, then add the yeast and let it sit while you're mixing the dry ingredients. If the yeast is good, in a couple of minutes it'll get foamy, and you know the bread will rise. Make a hole in the middle of the dry stuff, add the water(I warm it), oil and yeast mix and stir together.
I've ALWAYS needed more than one cup of water; if that's not enough, just add a bit more until it forms a nice dough.
Don't be worried about the kneading: throw some flour on the cutting board or whatever, dump the dough on it, sprinkle some more flour on top; push the dough with the heel of one hand, then fold it over and repeat. If it seems too sticky, throw a bit more flour on. I've never kneaded this more than two minutes, just enough to make sure it's all mixed together well.
And if you don't want the big loaf, cut everything in half; comes out just as well.