Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, May 1997. This is the bread that inspired 5-year-old Rob’s sensible question, “Why does Granny put Christmas trees on her bread?”
Chris and I discovered foccacia during our first week in San Francisco in 1992 at L’Osteria del Forno (closed in 2017) in North Beach, hands-down our family’s favorite restaurant in San Francisco. I do not think we have ever failed to visit L’Osteria if we were in San Francisco, though Grandpa’s parking karma is always needed. Another source of foccacia during our years in San Francisco was Liguria Bakery, also in North Beach. If you got there too late, say after 1:00 p.m., sometimes they had sold out and there was no foccacia to be had. I am happy that Liguria Bakery is still doing business in North Beach.
Excellent foccacia can be found in Charlotte at Pasta & Provisions on Providence Road. Once I put 4-year-old Davis and 2-year-old Grayson in their stroller and we walked to P&P from 1232 Providence for some great foccacia. I made another memorable visit to Pasta & Provisions on a spring afternoon in 2016 and took home a delectable tomato-olive-cheese foccacia. I had no idea I would go all the way back to Charlotte that very afternoon when Will and Gus decided that it was time to be born. The foccacia was wonderful at midnight for a double Birth Day celebration.
Makes one 15 ½ by 10 ½ inch rectangle or 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
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves
¾ teaspoon coarse sea salt (or 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt)
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.
With wet hands to prevent sticking, press dough flat into lightly oiled 17 ½ inch-by-12 ½ inch half-sheet pan. Or halve the dough and flatten each piece into 8-inch round on large, lightly oiled baking sheet or pizza pan. Despite oiling, the dough has a tendency to stick to the pan, so using parchment paper might be a good idea. 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, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 425°F. With two wet fingers, dimple risen dough at regular intervals.
Drizzle dough with olive oil and sprinkle evenly with rosemary and coarse salt, landing some in pools of oil.
Bake until foccacia bottoms are golden brown and crisp, 23 to 25 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool slightly. Cut into serving-size pieces (or just eat the whole thing yourself). Serve warm.