Lemon Rosemary Focaccia
Last Sunday, I attended a posh, impromptu Superbowl shindig with the Gentleman Vikings Fan (who was hoping for a Steelers victory). I have been kicking myself for forgetting to be that embarrassing food blogger with the camera. I didn’t snap a single photo of the amazing spread, because I was too busy stuffing my face with smoked trout & herbed spread on crackers, endive garnished with blue cheese and black mission figs, pigs-in-blankets, shrimp with cocktail sauce, chicken wings, fresh fruit, baked brie with raspberry sauce, and chocolate cake. I’m not sure how much football I actually saw, but I had the layout of the buffet memorized. Our friends outdid themselves, and we pretty much had to roll ourselves out the door when it was time to leave.
Our contribution to the party was lemon rosemary focaccia. I love this lemon focaccia recipe, which is the creation of Sally Schneider, author of A New Way to Cook. Homemade bread is wonderful to begin with, but something extraordinary happens when very thin slices of lemon melt into baking focaccia. The flavor is unexpected and delightful.
Starting with a sponge will give the dough a pleasantly chewy texture and a more well-developed flavor than otherwise. I also like to use a bit of honey instead of sugar to kickstart the yeast, because I think it imparts a little extra flavor. (And because I am obsessed with honey.) If homemade dough is not your forte, then make this focaccia with store-bought pizza dough — I promise I won’t tell, and you’ll be glad you gave it a try.
For the sponge:
1/2 cup warm (not hot) water
1 tsp honey
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
Dissolve the honey in the warm water and pour over the flour and yeast in a small bowl.
Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 1 hour, until the mixture forms a thick foam.
For the dough:
1/2 cup warm water
1 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp kosher salt
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and salt. Stir in the sponge from above, 1/2 cup warm water, and the olive oil. Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for about 5-6 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large, oiled bowl. Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk, either overnight in the refrigerator, or about 2 hours at room temperature.
Lemon Rosemary Focaccia
(paraphrased from A New Way to Cook by Sally Schneider, p. 366)
1 lb. pizza dough
1 Tbsp fruity, extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp finely chopped, fresh rosemary
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 lemon, scrubbed and dried
1 Tbsp freshly grated Parmigian0-Reggiano cheese
Thirty minutes before baking, preheat oven to 425 F and place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet in the oven to heat. On a sheet of parchment paper, roll out the dough into a circle that is roughly 11″ inches in diameter. Prick the dough evenly with a fork and brush lightly with some of the olive oil.
Sprinkle the rosemary and grind the black pepper over the dough. Cut the lemon in half through the stem, reserving one half for another use. Slice the remaining lemon half crosswise as thinly as possible.
Remove any seeds. Arrange lemon slices in a single layer on the dough. Brush lemon slices lightly with olive oil. Cover dough loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for another 15 minutes.
When dough is ready, discard plastic wrap. Slide the parchment paper with the focaccia dough onto the hot stone or pan. Bake until crust is golden brown and slightly puffed, about 20 minutes. Brush the dough with the remaining olive oil, sprinkle with the grated cheese while still hot, and serve.