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Rosemary and Garlic Focaccia (Flat Italian Bread)

Makes one focaccia

There are many sources for excellent baked focaccia, a flat Italian bread, whether it be a local or online bakery or your grocery store. However, there is nothing quite as satisfying as making bread from scratch. First, there is the pleasure of feeling a perfectly kneaded dough. Then, there is the aroma that permeates the entire house as it is being baked. And, of course, do not forget the fresh taste and the pride of having created a masterpiece. Heavy-duty mixers with dough hooks make the task quite simple. However, this bread can be made entirely by hand, adding extra kneading time as needed. The dough for this recipe is based on one from a book by Biba Caggiano.

Ingredients

   Sponge    Dough    Topping

Place the ingredients for the sponge in the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer. Mix with dough hook until well-mixed, then knead for 3 to 4 minutes until smooth and pliable. Place dough in lightly oiled bowl; cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

For the dough, follow the same process as for the sponge. Add the sponge before kneading; knead for 4-5 minutes. Add additional flour if dough is sticky. Lightly oil a large baking sheet, such as a jelly roll pan. Place the dough on the sheet and, using your fingers, push out to a 15 x 12-inch rectangle. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let double in volume, about 45 minutes.

While the dough is rising, heat oil in skillet over medium-low heat. Add garlic and sauté just until softened, but not browned. Remove from heat and cool.

To bake, preheat oven to 400° F. Brush the top of the dough with the oil and garlic. Sprinkle with the rosemary and salt. Make small indentions all over the dough with your finger. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a golden color. Cool for 5-10 minutes on racks, then remove bread from the pan. Bread can be served warm, cut into desired pieces, or cooled completely.

Notes: Focaccia can be topped with any variety of seasonings and even cooked vegetables, such as onions or tomatoes. Use your imagination. It is also excellent sliced in half horizontally and used as sandwich or panini bread.