The last time (and the first time) I made focaccia was in culinary school several years ago. Like all things bread, I was both completely enamored and intimidated by it. Bread making has always seemed so romantic and rustic to me, but I always felt like it was something I could never quite get the hang of. A few years ago, I ran across a beautiful picture of shaved potatoes on top of focaccia in Tartine Bread and had been dreaming of making it ever since. After finally buying a mandolin slicer I was finally out of excuses. I ended up using a more basic and traditional focaccia recipe then what was in the Tartine book. The potatoes were wonderfully crispy and cheesy on top of the bread. I would recommend serving this warmed up, perhaps with a fried egg on top.
Basic Focaccia Recipe:
(Proofing time: 2-3 hours total)
2 cups warm water (about 110 degrees Fahrenheit. If you don’t have a thermometer, it should feel warmer than body temperature, but not hot)
2 tsp active dry yeast
4 1/2 cups AP flour, plus more for dusting
2 tsp salt
2-3 T olive oil
Place warm water in a large bowl. Sprinkle 2 tsp. of yeast over it, then lightly stir and let sit for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate. The yeast should be dissolved and the mixture should be lightly bubbling. Meanwhile, prepare your work surface by making sure it is clean and lightly dusted with flour. Take a large bowl and lightly coat it with olive oil and set aside. When your yeast is ready, mix in 4 1/2 cups of flour and salt. It will be extremely sticky at first so you might want to use a wooden spoon (depending on your dough, you might need slightly more or less than 4 1/2 cups of flour. Try not to add more unless you absolutely need to, as more flour will make your dough more dense and less likely to rise). Once the dough starts to come together, place it onto your prepared work surface and begin kneading. Knead by pushing the dough out away from you with both hands, rotating it a quarter turn, and then folding it in to itself again and again. Sprinkle more flour as needed to keep the dough from sticking (I ended up not needing any extra flour). Knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough starts to appear smooth on the surface. Form it into a ball and lightly press it with your finger. If the dough bounces back, it is ready. If not, knead for a few more minutes until it bounces back. Form into a ball and place into the oiled bowl, rolling it around the bowl a bit to make sure both the bowl and dough ball are completely coated in oil. Cover with plastic and place in a warm, draft free area for 1 1/2 hours, until it has doubled in size. While the dough is proofing, prepare the potatoes or whatever topping you are putting on your focaccia. After the dough has proofed, punch it down, roll into a ball, and return it to the same bowl for another 45 minutes until it has doubled again. Meanwhile, prepare your sheet pan (15x10) by coating it with olive oil. Transfer the dough onto the sheet pan and begin carefully stretching it and pressing it into a rectangle, about 13x10. Take care not to press too much since you want some bubbles to stay. Let the dough rest if it is not stretching easily. Once shaped, distribute potatoes (recipe below) evenly over the surface, leaving 1/2 inch of crust all around. Let the dough proof for another 15-20 minutes, preheating the oven to 475 degrees in the meantime. Bake for 15 minutes, then rotate the pan and bake for another 20-25 minutes, until the potatoes look brown and crispy and the focaccia is a deep golden brown. Sprinkle the remaining herbs and cheese over. Serve warm.
3 lbs Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch or 2-3 T fresh herbs. I used thyme which was delicious, oregano or rosemary would work as well**
1 1/2 tsp salt
Salt and pepper to taste
3 oz shaved or grated Parmesan or pecorino cheese
*I would highly recommend only doing this topping if you have access to a mandolin slicer, otherwise you would need to cut them in extremely thin slices with a very sharp knife which is no fun and extra challenging
**or, try adding in some garlic, sliced onions, or whatever sounds good, the great thing about focaccia and potatoes is that anything goes as a topping so feel free to play around.
Wash and pat dry your potatoes. Using a mandolin slicer, carefully slice them into translucent, almost paper thin slices. Place the slices into a colander and sprinkle about 1 1/2 tsp salt on top and stir to distribute. Set aside, over the sink or on top of paper towels for about 20 minutes. The salt will suck out the moisture in the potatoes. After 20 minutes, squeeze and press as much water out as possible and the transfer the potatoes to a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, half of the herbs, salt and pepper. Distribute evenly over the prepared focaccia.