What's Baking: Rosemary and Olive Focaccia

Freshly-baked bread is one of my favorite aromas. Add in some olive oil, rosemary, and olives, and oof, my olfactory sense goes on overload! 

Aside from making the house smell amazing while it bakes, this savory focaccia bread also tastes delicious. You really can't go wrong with the flavor combination of fresh herbs and briny olives.

I'm typically intimidated by yeast breads and their multiple rises and general kneadiness (ha!) -- but this recipe is quite simple to put together. There is a bit of waiting in between rises, so make sure you have plenty of time available before attacking this recipe.

However, the time investment is definitely worth it. I've been eating this focaccia all week long -- by itself as a snack, as a side with soup for lunch, and even cut in half to make a fried egg sandwich at breakfast. You gotta love a savory bread that's good to eat at any time of the day!

Rosemary and Olive Focaccia (printer-friendly version)
makes 8 servings

2 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour (plus ~ 1/4 cup if necessary)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons sliced black olives
24 Kalamata pitted olives, sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary, plus a few small intact bunches (3-4 leaves)
finishing salt (such as pink Himalayan salt or Maldon flaked sea salt), for garnish

1. Pour two cups of warm water into a large bowl. Sprinkle the dry yeast over the water and stir with a fork to combine. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes, allowing the yeast to dissolve. If the mixture does not become frothy, you should start over with fresh yeast.
2. Add 4 1/4 cups flour and the salt to the yeast mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula to combine. The dough will be quite sticky. 
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Add more flour by the tablespoonful if the dough is sticky. 
4. Pat the dough into a large ball. Grease a large bowl with olive oil, then add the dough to the bowl, turning to coat it evenly with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free location to rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.
5. After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, add two tablespoons of sliced olives, and knead back into a ball. Return the dough to the oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise again until doubled, about 45 minutes.
6. Coat a 17"x11" baking sheet with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Punch down the dough, then transfer it to the oiled baking sheet. Use your fingertips to press the dough out into a large rectangle, about 13"x10". Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
7. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over the dough. Sprinkle the dough evenly with the sliced Kalamata olives and chopped rosemary. Press in a few small bunches of rosemary on top of the dough. Allow the dough to rise until puffed up, about 25 minutes.
8. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Use your fingertips to press into the dough, forming indentations all across it. Garnish with finishing salt. Bake the bread until golden and crusty, about 20 minutes.
9. Serve the bread warm or at room temperature. Store any leftover bread in an airtight container at room temperature.