Mostly, I’m a strict traditionalist when it comes to Thanksgiving. I need a good bird, mashed potatoes and gravy, some sort of dressing, and a side or two. And rolls. And pie. And wine.
Okay, you get the idea.
But, I’m seriously considering replacing the rolls at my Thanksgiving table with this Thanksgiving Focaccia this year. Let me just repeat that so it’ll completely sink in: I might not have rolls and instead make this bread.
It’s a big deal, people.
But, hang with me. This focaccia does all the things a good roll can do. You can use it to sop up gravy. You can use it to make little sandwiches. But, it also has a nice crispy crust (which rolls lack) and I think it’s actually easier to make than a big batch of rolls. So, it kind of does it all.
While you technically could use any flour for this recipe, I highly recommend using a good flour like Bob’s Red Mill Artisan Bread Flour. I made a batch of this focaccia with all-purpose flour and it was noticeably different. It was still bread, but the crumb wasn’t the same. It didn’t have the same chew to it. So, if you’re going to make this, especially for a special day, it’s worth getting some good bread flour to make it happen.
Should you substitute this for rolls on your table? I can’t answer that for you, but it should be in your baking arsenal and should be in the running to make the big boy table on turkey day.
- Combine water, yeast and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer. Let sit for a few minutes until the yeast is active and bubbly.
- Add in salt, herbs, and 1/2 cup olive oil. Then start to mix in the flour in 1 cup batches. Five cups should leave you with a soft dough. It’s okay if it’s a little sticky but if it’s really sticking to the bowl, add more flour by the quarter cup until it’s soft.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and let dough sit and rise for 90 minutes until it at least doubles in size or store it in the fridge overnight (if you do it overnight, pull it out at least 30 minutes before you shape it so the chill can come off it).
- When ready to shape, add about 1/3 cup of oil to a sheet pan or jelly roll pan. It’ll seem like a lot of oil (and we will add more later) but it’s good! Start pressing the dough into the pan, really stretching it into the corners. It’s good to poke through the dough with your fingers, leaving little holes. If the dough is hard to stretch, let the dough sit in the pan for five minutes to relax and then try stretching it again.
- Once you get the dough all the way to the edges of the pan with lots of tears and bumps along the way, drizzle more olive oil on top and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. and let dough rise for a second time in the pan for 30-45 minutes.
- Bake focaccia at 425 degrees F. for 25-30 minutes until it’s golden brown around the edges and browned on top. Remove and let cool before slicing and serving.
I haven’t been baking much this year (thanks children), so I was feeling a bit rusty when I started testing this recipe. It was honestly really easy though. It’s a simple dough and an easy bake.
The only thing you might get caught on is the olive oil. It’s not a typo. You need a lot.
Mix the warm water, honey, and yeast in a bowl for a mixer (or you can mix it by hand). Once the yeast is bubbling, add in the fresh herbs, salt, and 1/2 cup of olive oil. Then start adding this stuff!
Mix the dough with a dough hook (or you can knead it by hand on a floured surface) until it’s soft and not super sticky.
This is too sticky at this point. Add more flour if yours looks like this.
Eventually it should be soft and it’s okay if it’s a tiny bit tacky. It should be pretty loose and flexible though.
Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and let it rise for at least 90 minutes. Personally, I recommend making the dough the night before and sticking it in the fridge for a night which will work as a long, slow rise.
If you do that, just be sure to pull it out of the fridge 30 minutes before you want to shape it to take the chill off it.
Now the fun part: Shaping!
This is not a recipe that requires skill or subtly. It requires A) a lot of olive oil B) aggression.
Start with about 1/3 cup of olive oil in a sheet pan and start working the dough flat in the pan. Really press it down to spread it out. Use your fingers so there are loads of dimples in the dough. It’s actually good to poke completely through the dough. There should be holes in it at this point.
If the dough isn’t cooperating, let it rest for a few minutes so it can relax and then go back to pressing it into the pan.
When you get it near the edges, drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle well with coarse sea salt. The good stuff.
This was my finished focaccia ready for the oven. Before this goes in the oven, let it rise for a second time for about 30-45 minutes.
Pop this beauty in a ripping hot 425 degree F. oven for 25-30 minutes. What will happen is a beautiful thing. The oil will soak into the bread as it bakes, creating a rich interior, but also crisp up the outside of the dough. A good focaccia is a wonderful thing.
Maybe the most important (and hardest part) of this recipe is to really let this cool down before chopping into it. It shouldn’t really be served warm, which means you can make it well in advance for Thanksgiving.
The finished pieces though are perfect with a nice mix of crunch and chew.
What do you think? Will Thanksgiving Focaccia be on your table this year? Leave a comment!