In college, I went to a fraternity formal with a guy.
A guy that I liked.
That might be par the course for most girls, but at a small school, I didn’t belong to a sorority and had fewer opportunities to, well, fraternize.
Not to mention the fact that in high school, I probably would have been awarded Most Likely to Die Alone if there were such an award and if it were based on one’s ratio of school dance dates.
Now, this isn’t one of those posts, where I whine and whine and whine about all of the injustices that are adolescence.
I had friends who were as happily dateless as I was to giggle in the girls’ bathroom with during slow songs.
I also had little shame in my teenage years and I asked plenty of cute boys to dance.
Really, don’t feel bad for me, because I probably spent a good part of 1997 swaying to the Backstreet Boys in a high school cafeteria.
On the night of the formal, my date, our friends and I made dinner at my apartment before we all headed out for the evening.
We made pasta, defrosted homemade tomato sauce that someone’s mother had left in the freezer and opened a bag of salad to toss with bottled Caesar dressing.
Already a budding overachiever cook, I made focaccia bread from a boxed mix with simple instructions that, in my haste to do my hair and make-up, I must have misread.
The bread was tasty, but it didn’t rise quite as much as I’d hoped.
In other words, it looked very, very homemade.
Now I know that real, artisan bread doesn’t come shaped in perfectly round loaves with precise dimples and valleys.
Though my bread didn’t quite rise, I received the praise I was looking for and not a crumb was leftover.
As successful as the focaccia bread (and the rest of the date) was, I have ever since been on a quest to find and bake a better focaccia bread.
A real focaccia bread with the dimples, valleys and crust that my first bread lacked.
And, oh boy, I found it.
- Olive oil for greasing cookie sheet
- 1 pound (approx. ⅓ recipe) Artisan Bread in 5 Olive Oil dough (or your favorite pre-mixed dough)
- ¼ medium white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon for drizzling
- ¾ teaspoon dried rosemary leaves (or 1½ teaspoons fresh)
- Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, for sprinkling on top
- Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 425F, with an empty broiler tray on any shelf that won't interfere with the focaccia. The baking stone is not essential when using a cookie sheet; if you omit the stone, preheat can be as short as five minutes.
- Grease a cookie sheet with a bit of olive oil or line with parchment paper or Silipat. Set aside. Dust the surface of the refrigerated dough with the flour and cut off a 1-pound (grapefruit sized) piece. Dust the piece with more flour and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides, rotating the ball a quarter-turn as you go.
- Flatten it into a ½-3/4-inch-thick round, using your hands and/or a rolling pin and a minimal amount of flour. Place the round on a prepared cookie sheet.
- Sauté the onion slices in the 2 tablespoons of olive oil until softened but not browned; if you brown them they'll burn in the oven. Strew the onion sparingly all over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch border at the edge. Allow the majority of the dough surface to show through the onions as bare dough (you may have leftover onion at the end). If you can't see most of the dough surface you're using too much onion and the focaccia won't brown correctly).
- Sprinkle with rosemary, coarse salt and freshly ground pepper. Finish with a light drizzle of remaining olive oil over the surface, about 1 teaspoon but not so much it starts dripping over the sides (as with the onion you won't cover the whole surface with oil).
- Allow the focaccia to rest and rise for about 20 minutes.
- After the focaccia has rested place the cookie sheet on a rack near the center of the oven. Pour 1 cup of hot tap water into the broiler tray and quickly close the oven door. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the crust is medium brown. Be careful not to burn the onions. The baking time will vary according to the focaccia's thickness. Because of the olive oil, focaccia will not develop a crackling crust.
- Cut into wedges and serve warm.