Also known as Birth Day Foccacia and adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, May 1997, with extra help from Martha Rose Shulman in the New York Times.
One afternoon in the spring of 2016, I went to the fabulous Pasta & Provisions on Providence Road in Charlotte to buy Pecorino-Romano cheese. The store usually has a tempting stack of freshly-baked foccace in the front showcase. I couldn’t resist a tomato-olive-cheese foccacia and took it back to Lancaster. I had no idea I would go all the way back to Charlotte that very day when Will and Gus decided that it was time to be born. At midnight, the foccacia was wonderful for a double Birth Day celebration.
I wouldn’t try to duplicate Pasta & Provisions’ foccacia, but here is a recipe that makes delicious twin focacce in the spirit of that transcendent Birth Day.
Makes two 8-inch rounds.
1 medium baking potato, peeled and quartered
1 ½ teaspoons rapid-rise yeast
3 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 cup warm water (105 to 115°F)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling bowl and pan
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted, with juice
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt to taste
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
freshly ground pepper
4 ounces halved Kalamata olives
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, shredded
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Boil 1 quart water in small saucepan; add potato and simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain potato well; cool until it can be handled comfortably and grate through large holes on box grater. Reserve 1 1/3 cups lightly packed potato.
Meanwhile, in workbowl of food processor fitted with steel blade, mix or pulse yeast, ½ cup of the flour, and ½ cup of the warm water until combined. Put workbowl lid on and set aside until bubbly, about 20 minutes. Add cooled and grated potato, remaining 3 cups of flour, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, remaining 1/2 cup of warm water, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Process until dough is smooth and elastic, about 40 seconds.
Transfer dough to lightly oiled bowl, turn to coat with oil, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in warm, draft-free area until dough is puffy and doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
While the dough rises, make the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a medium saucepan or skillet and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, until it begins to smell fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute, and add the tomatoes and salt to taste. Cook, stirring often, for about 20 minutes, until the tomatoes have cooked down to a fragrant sauce. Stir in the thyme. Taste and adjust salt, and add pepper. Remove from the heat.
With wet hands to prevent sticking, halve the dough and flatten each piece to an 10-inch round on a large, lightly oiled baking sheet or pizza pan. Cover dough with lightly greased or oil-sprayed plastic wrap; let rise in warm, draft-free area until dough is puffy and doubled in volume, 30 to 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425°F. With two wet fingers, dimple risen dough at regular intervals. Spread the tomato sauce over the dough smoothly. Scatter the olive pieces over the sauce. Drizzle dough with olive oil.
Bake for 15 minutes, then scatter the shredded mozzarella over the foccace. Bake about another 10 minutes until foccacia bottoms are golden brown and crisp. Transfer to wire rack to cool slightly. Cut into serving-size pieces and serve warm.