Have you ever received a lump of Friendship Bread starter, the cinnamon-y sweet, sourdough chain letter of the baking world? First, you are overjoyed and happily feed the starter, make delicious loaves of bread, and give away starter to your nearest and dearest. Then you start to tire of the bread, and bring it to work and to gatherings because you can’t keep up with eating all of this sweet bread you have to eat every week! Then you start seeing it in your friends and coworker’s eyes — they are starting to hate the friendship bread. When they see you walk in with it, they groan inside. They do not want another morsel to pass their lips! You start to resent the friendship bread and the so-called friend that gave it to you. You imagine everyone you gave it to starting to hate you. You then let the friendship bread starter die a horrible moldy death in your refrigerator.
This is not that friendship bread.
This is a bread that you can bring to gatherings, stick in the middle of the table, and let people tear off hunks at will. It goes with soups, salads, starters, and stews, platters, and pastas. There will not be a bit left, and you’ll be asked to make it for the next gathering. You might even be asked for the recipe, as I was. Since I wrote it down for a friend, I thought I’d share it with all of my friends here, too.
I was inspired by the recipe in Love Soup by Anna Thomas but have tweaked it so much that I feel comfortable posting it as my own-ish (no recipe is really ever your own, you know?).
2 1/2 tsp yeast (I love SAF instant yeast)
1 c warm water
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
2 c all purpose flour
1 c white whole wheat flour. King Arthur makes great flour!
3 tbsp olive oil, more for drizzling.
Add all ingredients to a bowl and stir until they come together. If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook, add all ingredients to your mixer bowl and run the mixer slowly to combine. Start with 3 cups flour and 1 c water. You can always add more of one or the other based on how your dough is behaving. You want an ever so slightly sticky but very handleable dough.
Turn the dough out on your counter, sprinkle more flour on top of it only if/as you need it, and knead for 7-8 minutes. If you are using a mixer, knead with dough hook for 5-6 minutes.
When the dough is smooth and elastic, form it into a ball and put it into a large, oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and leave the dough to rise for an hour, until it has doubled in size more or less.
Punch down your dough and form it into a ball once again. Flatten it into an oval shape and roll it with a rolling pin until it’s about 12 inches long by maybe 8 or 9 inches wide. Put it in a parchment paper lined baking sheet, and snip slashes all around it, gently stretching the “arms” out and apart. Drizzle a little more olive oil on it, rub or brush it to cover. You can put sesame seeds, poppy seeds, herbs, coarse salt, olives, you name it on the top! Press in gently if you do. Cover and let rise again for about 45 minutes.
While the focaccia is near the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 425.
Bake the focaccia for 25-30 minutes in the parchment lined baking sheet, middle rack, until it is golden on top and sounds hollow when the bottom is tapped.
Enjoy, my friends!