Focaccia Bianca with Herb Oil

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  • Level: Easy
  • Total: 12 hr 35 min (includes resting and chilling times)
  • Active: 40 min
  • Yield: 1 sheet pan or 2 to 3 round focaccia 
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Ingredients

3 tablespoons olive oil

White Master Dough, recipe follows

1/2 to 3/4 cup Herb Oil, plus more as needed, recipe follows

2 cups freshly grated Parmesan, Romano or Asiago cheese (optional)

White Flour Master Dough:

4 1/3 cup unbleached bread flour (567 grams)

1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt (11 grams)

1 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast (4 grams)

2 cups water, cool (about 60 degrees F) (454 grams)

2 tablespoons olive oil (28 grams)

Herb Oil:

1 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon dried basil

1 tablespoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves or dried

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional

1/4 teaspoon hot or mild paprika, optional

1 teaspoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt

Directions

  1. Five hours before baking the focaccia, line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat and oil the bottom and interior sides with 3 tablespoons olive oil. Begin panning and dimpling the White Master Dough, at 20-minute intervals, dipping your fingers in olive oil to keep them from sticking to the dough as you work. After three to four rounds of dimpling and resting, the dough will have relaxed enough to cover the whole pan. At this point, rub the remaining 1 teaspoon of oil over the dough and cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap. Then allow 3 hours for the final rise.
  2. When the dough reaches the rim of the pan (or doubled in size), position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 475 degrees F (425 degrees F for convection). Carefully peel off the plastic wrap, drizzle the dough with 2 tablespoons herbed olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with 2 cups Parmesan or Romano cheese. Return to the oven for 2 to 3 minutes to melt the cheese. Transfer the focaccia to a cutting board and let rest 3 to 5 minutes before serving.  
  3. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 8 minutes. Then rotate the pan 180 degrees and bake 9 to 12 minutes longer, or until the top and the undercrust are golden brown. If using cheese, remove the pan from the oven when the focaccia looks done and sprinkle it with the cheese. Return the pan to the oven for 2 minutes and then remove it.  
  4. Transfer the baked focaccia to the stovetop or to a heatproof counter. Using an offset spatula or bench blade, carefully slide it around the edge, between the crust and the side of the pan, and then lift the focaccia out of the pan and slide it onto a cutting board. Drizzle any oil remaining in the baking pan over the focaccia. If the parchment paper or baking mat is still clinging to the focaccia, remove it. Let cool for 5 minutes, then cut into 3- or 4-inch squares and serve. 

White Flour Master Dough:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt and yeast. Add all of the water and mix on slow speed for 30 seconds or stir with a large spoon to form a coarse, shaggy dough. Add the 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, increase the speed to medium (or continue mixing with the spoon or with wet hands), and mix for another 30 to 60 seconds to make a wet, coarse, sticky dough. It may seem too wet to form a cohesive dough at this stage. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes to fully hydrate.
  2. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high (or continue mixing by hand) and mix for another 30 to 60 seconds to make a smooth, sticky dough. It should be soft, supple and sticky to the touch, and offer a little resistance when pressed with a wet finger.   
  3. Use 1 teaspoon of the extra oil to make a 15-inch-diameter oil slick on the work surface. Rub some oil on a plastic bowl scraper and on your hands and use the scraper to transfer the dough to the oil slick. Stretch and fold the dough. Cover the dough with a bowl and let it rest for 2 to 5 minutes. Repeat the stretch and fold (rub more oil on the work surface as needed), cover the dough, and let it rest for 2 to 5 minutes. Then repeat the stretch and fold, cover with the bowl, and again let it rest for 2 to 5 minutes. Perform a fourth and final stretch and fold to make a smooth ball of dough. The dough will have firmed up after each stretch and fold and will now be soft, smooth, supple, and somewhat sticky but firm enough to hold together when lifted. Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 12 to 72 hours.   

Herb Oil:

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the oil, basil, parsley, oregano, rosemary, thyme, garlic and pepper flakes and paprika (if using), gradually adding the salt and whisking the oil to bring the salt to the surface before tasting. Store in the refrigerator in a container with a lid, where it will keep for at least 6 months. Makes 1 cup.

Cook’s Note

I recommend using whole-leaf dried herbs, not ground herbs, for the Herb Oil. If you'd prefer to use fresh herbs, use three to four times more than the dried herbs by volume, mince them and stir them into the oil immediately to prevent oxidation.

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