sugar loves her bread

I'm an independent woman. I live alone. I carry my own suitcase. I attempt to change my own lightbulbs.

But, I really like living in the North End. Those don't seem connected to you? Oh, but they are. When you go shopping in the North End at delis / butchers / markets / etc, men call you baby, sugar, bella, princess ... and it's amazing. It might be sound self-involved or something but I love this side of the North End. It's not about the names but more about the old-fashioned spirit of the whole thing. On your worst day, just pop into a local shop and buy some bacon and let them call you "Bella" as you tell them how many slices of pork  you plan on eating by yourself... I promise you'll feel amazing after.

But, let's be clear. I'd be totally pissed if someone called me "baby" on the street... outside of the North End.

One of my favorite quick meals to make for myself these days is focaccia with mozzarella and prosciutto ... and reduced balsamic vinaigrette. Oh, and I put it under the broiler for a minute so it gets all melty and crispy. It's super quick and affordable .... but focaccia is not super free. While super delicious, it is about $3.50 for a 6x6 inch square ... and that is hard to justify multiple times a week (especially with my yoga habit). So, this weekend I elected to give making my own focaccia a shot and it actually came together pretty well. And surprise! It's not hard. I mean would you expect anything more from me?

I had looked at a few different recipes for this one since they seem to vary greatly in rising time. One said 2 hours, one said overnight. And they had virtually the same ingredients. So, I obviously went with the 2 hour rise but in hindsight, I think the more patient you can be the better. Personally, I recommend getting a pedicure during the rising period. It's the perfect way to be patient and not constantly peek in on your baby dough ball.

(Step 1) Stir together the flour, salt, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Make a little well in the center and add the olive oil and water and mix on low speed until all the ingredients form a sticky ball. At this point you can switch to the dough hook and mix for several more minutes until the dough clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl.

(Step 2) Transfer the dough to a well floured surface. Gently knead the dough a bit until it's no longer sticky and in that great ole dough ball shape. At this point, I was a little concerned that my dough was too "hard" or tough, but I put that thought aside because I really wanted to eat some carbs. 
hi there dough baby

(Step 3) Place the dough in a large bowl and cover with dish towel. Let rise for 2 hrs. I would recommend putting it in a warm place (i.e. on top of a warm oven, near a sunny window, without the dish towel in an off oven).

(Step 4) Mix up your herb oil while the dough is rising. You want the oil to get all mingly and delicious. Combine all of the herb oil ingredients into a bowl. This is a really flexible part of the recipe. I used a combination of fresh herbs that I got for A DOLLAR at the market and some dried herbs that I had. The next time I make this, I think I'll also add in a little grated parmesan. So let this all sit in your kitchen. As a warning, you'll probably walk over to it and stir it and smell it about every 5 minutes. 

(Step 5) Admire your dough that has doubled in size! Take out your high rimmed sheet pan and line it with parchment paper. Grease up the parchment with olive oil. Don't be a baby and use your hands.

(Step 6) Roll out and stretch your dough to match your pan size. I went with about 3/4 inch thick but do what you want. You can fold your dough in half to help ease the transfer to the sheet pan.
(Step 7) Remember that glorious herb oil we made? Now we use it. Gently poke your fingers into the dough to create dimpled effect. Obviously, don't punch the dough or try and poke deep - be gentle, dough is like a baby. These dimples will help your amazing herb oil stay on the dough while it's cooking. Cover the surface of the dough with the oil - it's okay to have extra.
don't lie. that looks amazing.

using my "trendy" blue nails to gently dimple the dough. blue nail polish = the benefits of not working at a traditional company

Now, at this point I started cooking but another recipe I looked at had a second rise here. If I could do this again, I'd probably let it rest again but I'm not sure I could do the overnight rest they specified. 

(Step 8) Bake in a 450 F oven for 20 minutes. After 10 minutes rotate the pan so that your focaccia cooks nice and evenly. My focaccia took about 25 minutes but you'll know its done by the light brown crust.

(Step 9) As soon as it is out of the oven remove it from the pan so it doesn't get any extra cooking time. I also sprinkled a little extra kosher salt on it now because sugar likes it salty.

That's it. Now you can also save $7 a week like me. Just kidding, I'll probably be back to buying focaccia from Monica's Mercato next week.

Note: The bread will obviously be great the day you make it. In a freezer bag, it'll probably still be good for 3-4 days but let's be honest... is it going to last that long? Feel free to sprinkle a little extra kosher salt on the bread before you eat it since it won't be able endure the freezer bag.

4.5 cups bread flour
1 teaspoons salt
2.5 teaspoons instant yeast
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups water, at room temperature
Extra olive oil, for greasing the pan

Herb Oil 
1 cups olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh herbs (any combination of basil, parsley, oregano, tarragon, rosemary, thyme, cilantro, and sage) - OR - 1/3 cup dried herbs
1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 garlic cloves, minced

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