Of all the things that help me blow off some steam, bread dough has got to be my favourite. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that I can take out my frustrations on an innocent piece of dough, or that my sense of order is restored by pummeling flour and water into a cohesive mass, or maybe just that the smell of baking bread is one of the most soothing things in existence… but whatever it is, it works like a charm every single time. On top of that, it’s cheaper than therapy (though slightly more fattening too).
Thankfully, no one seems to complain about my preferred coping mechanism. I think it’s because they’re usually too busy stuffing themselves with fresh bread to be able to comment on much of anything, though. :)
When it comes to focaccia, I’m particularly fond of this olive/herb/Parmesan combo, but the options for toppings are pretty much endless… try subbing oil-cured sundried tomatoes for the olives, using fresh rosemary instead of herbes de provence, or adding in a few cloves of roasted garlic for extra oomph.
Olive and Herb Focaccia
1 cup lukewarm water
1 pkg active dry yeast
3 cups flour
2 tbsp herbes de provence, divided
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1/2 cup oil-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
In a small bowl, mix the yeast in warm water until dissolved. Set aside for 5 minutes to proof.
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, 1 tbsp herbes de provence, sugar and salt. Stir in yeast mixture and 2 tablespoons olive oil, mixing until the dough starts to pull together.
Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface, and knead until soft and elastic. Add olives and knead until the olives are evenly incorporated into the dough, around 1-2 minutes. Shape into a ball.
Place the dough in a greased bowl, and turn to coat the top with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled, about 45 minutes.
Punch dough down. Divide in half and roll into two balls. Cover and let rise another 5 minutes.
Shape each dough ball into a 10-inch circle. Place the loaves onto parchment-covered baking sheets. Cover and let rise until doubled once more, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375F. Using your fingers, make several shallow indentations into top of loaves. Drizzle with remaining olive oil, then sprinkle with Parmesan, sea salt and remaining herbes de provence.
Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.