Herbed Focaccia with Seasonal Toppings

Herbed Focaccia with winter toppings

I love making this herbed focaccia to bring to other peoples’ houses. It’s a great pizza-like, carb-heavy snack that transports well. Plus, the basic focaccia dough works with pretty much any type of topping, meaning I can use whatever leftover seasonal products I have on hand.

This time I made it to bring to my friend Eva’s house for her rockin’ New Years Eve party. It was also a shout-out to brand-spanking-new dad Chef Ben, the originator of this recipe (I don’t know if it’s actually his, but he’s the one who gave it to me) – baby Cyrus was born just before Christmas.

Buttercup squash Caramelized onions

This time, the toppings I used were roasted baby potatoes in different colors, buttercup squash, roasted garlic and caramelized onion. Just be sure to used enough salt or you’ll have to resort to doing what I did, which was asking Eva for her salt shaker in the middle of the party as a last-ditch attempt to adjust the seasonings.

Readying garlic for roasting Potatoes

Also note that this isn’t a last-minute recipe – it takes quite a bit of time for the dough to rise, so allow at least four hours if not overnight. Here’s the recipe:

Herbed Focaccia

1 ounce fresh yeast or 2 envelopes active dry yeast

2 cups whole milk, lukewarm

1 tablespoon sugar

5 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon minced rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon minced thyme leaves

2 teaspoons kosher salt

Toppings of your choice – have fun with it!

In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, dissolve the yeast in the milk. Add the sugar and 1 cup of flour. Mix well and cover with a towel. Let stand in a warm place for 15 minutes for the yeast to activate (the mixture will rise and become foamy).

Dissolving yeast

Meanwhile, set a large saute pan over medium heat. Pour in the olive oil and add the rosemary and thyme. Turn off the heat as soon as the herbs begin to sizzle. Transfer the oil to a heat-proof bowl and cool to room temperature.

Herb Olive Oil

Return to the dough. Begin to mix slowly using a dough-hook attachment of the mixer. Slowly add the remaining flour and the salt; blend on low speed until it’s all incorporated. Add 1/2 cup of the olive oil to the dough and knead with your hands until smooth.

Mixed dough

Form the dough into a ball. Lightly coat a bowl with olive oil and set the dough ball inside. Cover with a damp towel and allow to rise in the refrigerator until doubled in bulk, at least 45 minutes or up to overnight for a fuller rise.

Dough ball

Once the dough has risen, add a bit more olive oil then use the heel of your hand to press the dough into a flat rectangle (don’t use a rolling pin). Transfer the dough to a baking sheet and brush with the remaining oil. Cover again with the towel and let rise until doubled, about 30 to 40 minutes.

Risen dough

Add the toppings and let the dough rise for another 10 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Bake until the bottom is medium-brown and the center of the dough is set, about 30 minutes, rotating once. Cut into squares with a pizza cutter and serve warm.

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