Total time: 1 hour, plus overnight rising and proofing times
Servings: Makes 1 loaf, 10 to 12 servings
Note: Adapted from "American Pie" by Peter Reinhart.
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5 3/4 cups (26 ounces) unbleached bread flour, more if needed
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
2 1/2 cups ice-cold water
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for brushing
VIDEO: Click here to watch focaccia bread being made in the L.A. Times Test Kitchen.
1/2 pound crumbled Gorgonzola or other blue cheese
1. With a large metal spoon, stir together the flour, salt, yeast and water in a 4-quart bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer until combined.
2. If using a mixer, fit it with the paddle attachment and mix on low speed until all the ingredients are hydrated and begin to form a wet ball of dough, about 2 minutes. Set the dough aside to rest for 5 minutes. Switch to the dough hook, add one-fourth cup olive oil and resume mixing on medium-low speed until all of the oil is incorporated and the dough is sticky, supple and smooth; it should clear the sides of the bowl and stick just a little to the bottom. This will take 3 to 4 minutes. If the dough seems like a batter and does not have sufficient structure to hold itself together, mix in more flour by the tablespoonful.
If mixing by hand, repeatedly dip one of your hands or the spoon into cold water and use it much like a dough hook, working the dough vigorously as you rotate the bowl with your other hand. As all the flour is incorporated and the dough becomes a wet ball, after about 3 minutes, stop mixing and set the dough aside to rest for 5 minutes. Then add the olive oil, dip your hand or spoon again in the water and continue to work the dough for 3 to 4 more minutes. The dough should be very sticky, but it should also have some texture and structure. If the dough seems like a batter and does not have sufficient structure to hold itself together, mix in more flour by the tablespoonful.
3. Form the dough into a ball and place it in a bowl brushed with olive oil. Turn the dough to coat it with the oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and immediately refrigerate it overnight. The next day the dough should have nearly doubled in size. Allow it to come to room temperature, about 2 hours, before making the focaccia.
4. To bake, line a 12-by-17-inch jellyroll pan with parchment or a silicone liner and oil well. Wet your hands and gently scrape the dough from the bowl onto the pan; be gentle with the dough to deflate it as little as possible.
5. Using only your fingertips, press down on the dough, creating dimples and pockets all over the surface. Do not press the dough outward toward the edges of the pan; instead, simply press downward at only a slight angle toward the edges. The dough will spread on its own; any attempt to force it toward the pan edges will tear it and cause uneven sections. The dough will probably fill the pan a little more than half full before it begins to become elastic and spring back toward the center. When this occurs, stop pressing, cover loosely with a damp cloth or plastic wrap, and set aside for the dough to relax at room temperature, about 15 minutes.
6. Repeat the dimpling process, beginning at the center and gradually working out toward the edges of the pan. This time the dough will nearly fill the pan. Try to keep the dough somewhat even across the top. Again, cover and set the dough aside to relax at room temperature for about 15 minutes.
7. Repeat the dimpling. This time the dough should fill the entire pan (if it does not quite fill the corners, don't worry, it will when it rises). Do not deflate the dough any more than necessary as you spread it to fill the pan. Set aside to rise again until it fills the pan, about 2 to 3 hours.
8. Heat the oven to 500 degrees. Just before baking, sprinkle the Gorgonzola over the top of the dough. Place the pan on the middle shelf of the oven, lower the temperature to 450 degrees and bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue baking until the top and underside are golden brown and slightly crisp, 10 to 20 minutes longer.
9. Using a metal spatula or pastry blade, loosen the focaccia from the sides of the pan. Slip the spatula between the focaccia and the parchment or baking liner and lift the edge of the focaccia. Then jiggle the focaccia out of the pan onto a rack, leaving the liner in the pan. Pour any oil left in the pan over the top of the focaccia. Cool the focaccia briefly before cutting and serving.
Each of 12 servings: 330 calories; 12 grams protein; 45 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 12 grams fat; 5 grams saturated fat; 17 mg cholesterol; 0 sugar; 650 mg sodium.