If you pay any attention to food-related media, you’ve heard of Samin Nosrat. She became an overnight celeb upon debuting Salt Fat Acid Heat on Netflix, a food/travel mini-series based on her water-color illustrated cookbook, which by the way, is an excellent starter cookbook for anyone dipping a toe into cooking. The world binged watched the show and couldn’t get enough of Samin, who is paving the way for a new breed of celebrity chef – humble, lovable and female.
In the episode titled Fat, Samin visits with an old Italian Nona who teaches her the art of baking Ligurian focaccia, a thin but fluffy, greasy and salty table bread. The Nona’s big secret was to brine the dough with salt water before baking it to keep the bread moist and salty.
On a recent episode of Brad Leone’s Bon Appetit YouTube show, It’s Alive, Samin and Brad goofily and haphazardly throw some focaccia together.
That video came out on a Friday, and Andrew and I decided to watch it late at night. About halfway through, we both turned to each other and unanimously agreed we’d start baking immediately. (This is emerging as a trend – we also barely got through the first episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo before hauling half of our belongings to Goodwill.)
If you know me or this blog, you know that late night dough making (no, not hustling) is one of my favorite pastimes. A few years ago, I discovered Jim Lahey’s No Kneed Bread. I’d come home on a Friday night a little tipsy, throw the bread flour, yeast, water and salt in a bowl, “juujh” it together with my fingers and stash it in a closet to be discovered the next day. Then, I’d quickly proof it, bake it and slice it open in time for an early evening snack. Call it my Bread Vampire Phase if you want to.
My New Year’s Resolution this year was to bake more bread. I’d envisioned revealing a craggy crumb on a perfect sourdough loaf, sprinkling brioche with demerara sugar and laminating croissants before the sun rose. Yes, these are all still aspirations I hold close, but cultivating a starter is serious business and the gazillion-step recipes for these more advanced breads would have me holed up in my apartment for hours. Instead I’ve turned to more time effective options like Challah, Garlic Naan and now focaccia.
This recipe is arguably better suited for a tipsy Friday night than the No Kneed Bread. The dough comes together with no resistance thanks to a LOT of olive oil. The next day, the mass will have ballooned into a gigantic glutinous pillow which is an oddly satisfying image to behold. From there, the steps are simple and straightforward, very much achievable without sacrificing your weekend to the Gluten Gods.
And the result? Well, if I had started a starter (which I haven’t…don’t get me started), I’d toss it out because this focaccia was as good as anything I could ever hope to pull out of my oven. We ate it piping hot, cutting squares off with a pair of kitchen shears. Not sure if that’s a proper serving method but it felt right. The crust was crunchy and oily, the inside – fluffy, salty and…also very oily. We repurposed what was left for simple breakfast toasts and salad sides. Next time, I’m slicing it longways and making a biiiiig sandwich with lots of Italian cured meats and cheeses. Until then, I’ll be waiting for next Friday after sundown! Awoooooooooo!
Ingredients (From the Salt Fat Acid Heat website)
2½ cups (600 grams) lukewarm water
½ teaspoon active dry yeast
2½ teaspoons (15 grams) honey
5 1/3 cups (800 grams) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons (18 grams) Kosher salt
¼ cup (50 grams) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for pan and finishing
Flaky salt for finishing
1½ teaspoons (5 grams) Kosher salt
⅓ cup (80 grams) lukewarm water
1. In a medium bowl, stir together water, yeast, and honey to dissolve. In a very large bowl, whisk flour and salt together to combine and then add yeast mixture and olive oil. Stir with a rubber spatula until just incorporated, then scrape the sides of the bowl clean and cover with plastic wrap. Leave out at room temperature to ferment for 12 to 14 hours until at least doubled in volume.
2. Spread 2 to 3 tablespoons oil evenly onto a 18-by-13 inch rimmed baking sheet. When dough is ready, use a spatula or your hand to release it from the sides of the bowl and fold it onto itself gently, then pour out onto pan. Pour an additional 2 tablespoons of olive oil over dough and gently spread across. Gently stretch the dough to the edge of the sheet by placing your hands underneath and pulling outward. The dough will shrink a bit, so repeat stretching once or twice over the course of 30 minutes to ensure dough remains stretched.
3. Dimple the dough by pressing the pads of your first three fingers in at an angle. Make the brine by stirring together salt and water until salt is dissolved. Pour the brine over the dough to fill dimples. Proof focaccia for 45 minutes until the dough is light and bubbly.
4. Thirty minutes into this final proof, adjust rack to center position and preheat oven to 450°F. If you have a baking stone, place it on rack. Otherwise, invert another sturdy baking sheet and place on rack. Allow to preheat with the oven until very hot, before proceeding with baking.
5. Sprinkle focaccia with flaky salt. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes directly on top of stone or inverted pan until bottom crust is crisp and golden brown when checked with a metal spatula. To finish browning top crust, place focaccia on upper rack and bake for 5 to 7 minutes more.
6. Remove from oven and brush or douse with 2 to 3 tablespoons oil over the whole surface. Let cool for 5 minutes, then release focaccia from pan with metal spatula and transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature.