This bread is simply flour, water, salt and yeast in set proportions. It's easy. Weigh the ingredients, stir, wait, stir, wait, stir, wait, flop, spread, bake, eat! No guesswork, no kneading, no problems.
Bread made this way is chewy and delightful but to get the wonderful flavor of an Italian loaf you need Italian 00 flour. It is now readily available online if you cannot find it in local stores.
Also readily available online if you cannot find it locally is instant yeast by the pound. It is by far the cheapest way to buy yeast and it lasts over a year in the fridge.
1This recipe is based on "baker's percentages" which are based on the weight of the other ingredients in relationship to the weight of the flour. This recipe is 100% flour, 2% yeast, 2% salt and 85% water.
The equipment needed for assembling the bread dough includes a kitchen scale, two bowls (one small, one large), and a metal/rigid spoon for stirring the dough.
2Measure 600 grams of flour into the small bowl. Transfer to the large bowl.
3Similarly measure the yeast and salt, transferring each to the large bowl.
4Stir the dry ingredients to mix thoroughly.
5Add 510 grams water, measured by weight, into the flour mixture and stir with a spoon until all the flower is incorporated into the dough. It will be very sticky and a bit lumpy at this point.
6Cover the bowl and let the dough develop for 45 minutes. During this time, it will slowly grow in size and develop gluten. REPEAT this 45-minute rest twice more for a total of three 45-minute rests.
7At each 45 minute interval, stir and stretch the dough to further develop gluten, distribute food for the yeast to continue to work, and to break any large bubbles. About 20 to 30 strokes of the spoon, stretching and folding the dough on itself. The dough will slowly develop a consistency that seems like a cross between melted marshmallows and chewing gum.
8You may have noticed that the dough in the previous step seems to have developed large dark spots. That is because after the first rest of this dough I added rosemary and chopped oil-cured olives. Such additions are optional and may be incorporated in the dough as here or sprinkled on top of the dough when it has been shaped for baking.
9After the last 45-minute rest and stir down, flop the dough out onto a baking sheet that has either been well-buttered or lined with parchment paper as here. Use VERY WET hands to spread the dough until it it about 3/4 to 1 inch thick across the pan.
At this point, add any topping you wish to have stick to the bread. Dried or fresh herbs, sesame seeds, or freshly grated cheese are particularly good.
To have a golden crust, top as in the picture with olive oil, in this case drizzled and spread with oiled hands.
Finally, using a finger or the handle of a knife, dimple the dough in an all-over grid with about an inch between the dimples.
10Pre-heat the oven to 400F while the spread and dimpled dough rests a final 20 minutes. Bake in the center of the oven for 40 minutes or until the internal temperature of the bread is between 200F and 210F. Cool the bread on a rack. To keep the crust crispy, store unwrapped.
11The result is a chewy focaccio with an open crumb (plenty of bubbles), to hold melted butter, cheese, an olive tapenade or other goodies. Cut wide pieces and split open for sandwiches, cut thinner slices for making bruschetta, or cut thick for sopping plate juices.