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Homemade Focaccia Bread

Focaccia squares
I used to own a small café in Sausalito, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, where our turkey sandwich was hands-down the most popular item on the menu—a fact which I attribute to the excellent focaccia it was served on. Here’s the recipe, which you can cut into 4-inch squares then split open horizontally for sandwich bread, or cut into sticks for dipping. (See the Cabernet Sauvignon chapter of “100 Perfect Pairings: Small Plates to Enjoy with Wines You Love” for a coffee-pepper dipping oil recipe.)

It doesn’t need a lot of hands on time, but it does need to be started at least a day before you plan to bake it.

Makes one 11 x 17-inch loaf (about 3 pounds)

4 teaspoons active dry yeast, divided
5 1/2 plus 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for the bowl and baking sheet
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, divided

Place 1 cup of warm water (118°F to 120°F) in a medium bowl. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the yeast on top of the water and set aside for 15 minutes (the mixture might not get foamy).

Stir in 1 1/3 cups of the flour. Loosely cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for 45 minutes.

Place 1/4 cup of warm water (118°F to 120°F) in the bowl of an electric mixer that has a dough hook attachment. Sprinkle the remaining 2 teaspoons of yeast on top of the water and set aside for 15 minutes (the mixture might not get foamy).

Add the flour mixture, 6 tablespoons of the olive oil, 1/4 cup of the salt, and 1 1/3 cup of cool water to the mixer bowl and stir lightly. Add the remaining 5 1/2 cups of flour and use a dough hook to mix on medium-low speed for 2 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then mix again on medium-low for 4 minutes. The dough should be smooth and slightly sticky.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, rolling it to coat. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then refrigerate it overnight. (You can prepare the dough in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for several months. Thaw in the refrigerator before proceeding.)

Coat a rimmed 11 x 17-inch baking sheet with olive oil. Place the dough on the baking sheet and gently coax it into about a 14 x 16-inch rectangle. Lightly cover the dough with plastic wrap and set it aside at room temperature until it expands to fit the pan and is about 1 1/2 inches tall, about 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Uncover the dough and use your fingertips to deeply dimple it. Drizzle the dough with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then sprinkle it with the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt. Bake the focaccia until nicely browned, 30 to 40 minutes. Transfer the baking pan with the focaccia to a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the baking pan and return it to the wire rack to cool completely. (You can prepare the focaccia in advance, storing it covered in the freezer for up to a month. Thaw at room temperature before serving.)

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