Almost every time I go to San Francisco, I am tempted to get focaccia from the place with the blue awning in North Beach aka Liguria Bakery.
On my most recent attempts in the last few years, I would get hyped up only to be let down by the bakery being closed over the holidays. When my friend Marrisa and I planned to take a day trip to San Francisco over our spring break, getting focaccia was the first thing to do before they ran out for the day.
There’s something so satisfying about being able to satiate a food craving that is exactly as you remember it. The focaccia at Liguria is light and fluffy but still has a slight chew. And of course let’s not forget the olive oil that gets absorbed in the bread leaving a sweet tang. I trekked that bread around for the morning and finally ate it under the cloud-filled sky in Union Square. It was double cloud heaven.
Even though I know I can’t get on the level of Liguria Bakery’s focaccia, I decided to make my own interpretation of this versatile flatbread. Focaccia bread is one of the easiest breads to make. This is partly because there are so few ingredients and also because the dough is quite forgiving. It’s not terribly sticky and comes together without a fuss. Bread making does take some time and patience but it is completely worth it in the end.
Let’s start with plumping up the raisins. I’m not the biggest fan of raisins but I don’t mind them in breads. But a dry old raisin in bread is not a pleasant experience. It’s kind of like getting disappointed with dried blueberries in blueberry muffins instead of fresh ones.
Pour the boiling water over the raisins and cover with plastic wrap or a plate to keep the steam in.
In the meantime, proof the yeast. See this post for a more in depth explanation and troubleshooting problems with using yeast.
Once the raisins look sufficiently plump, strain them and pat dry. Reserve the leftover liquid and place in a large mixing bowl with the fully proofed yeast, olive oil, salt and 2 1/2 cups of flour.
Stir, stir, stir until the dough forms a shaggy dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Gradually knead in the raisins until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough.
There are two rising options for this particular recipe. It can either slowly rise in the fridge overnight or rise for about 2 hours at room temperature. The first one will allow the gluten to develop more and create a chewier more flavorful focaccia. The second one results in a fluffier focaccia. It's all about the texture but either will result in a perfectly fine bread.
After either option, punch down the dough to release the all the air bubbles. Lightly coat the sheet pan with olive oil. Use just enough so all corners and crevices are covered. Turn out the dough onto the sheet pan.
Dimple the dough to the shape of the sheet pan using your fingertips to created the dotted effect unique to focaccia. If you find that the dough is resisting your touch, let it sit for another 15 minutes and try again until it’s spread to fit the pan.
Cover the dough with a damp towel and place in a warm place for the second rise.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown in a 400 degree oven. Cut, serve and enjoy.
Stacking is perfectly acceptable too.