1/2 cup (4 ounces) cool water
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast or 1/16 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
all of the starter
1/2 cup (4 ounces) lukewarm water
2 teaspoons instant yeast or 2 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups (8 ½ ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons (7/8 ounce) olive oil
Coarsely ground black pepper
Coarse sea salt or kosher salt
1) To make the starter: Mix the water and yeast, then add the flour, stirring till the flour is incorporated. Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; the starter will be bubbly. If you make this in the late afternoon, it’ll be ready to go by the next morning.
2) To make the dough: Combine the starter, water, and yeast. Stirring to combine. Add the remaining dough ingredients, and mix and knead—by hand, mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle—to make a soft, smooth dough.
3) Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let it rise for 1 hour. Gently deflate it, and allow it to rise for another hour; it should have doubled in bulk from its original volume.
4) Lightly grease an 18" x 13" rimmed baking sheet (or two 9" x 13" pans) with non-stick vegetable oil spray. Drizzle olive oil atop the spray; the spray keeps the bread from sticking, while the olive oil gives the bottom crust great crunch and flavor.
5) If you’re using the baking sheet, gently pull and shape the dough into a rough rectangle, and pat it into the pan. As soon as it begins to fight you and shrink back, stop patting. If you’re using two 9" x 13" pans, divide the dough in half, shape each half into a rough rectangle, and pat one piece into each pan. When the pieces start to shrink back, stop patting. Wait 15 minutes; pat the dough farther towards the edges of the pan(s). Repeat once more, if necessary, till the dough is close to covering the bottom of the pan(s).
6) Cover the pan(s), and allow the dough to rise for 2 to 3 hours, till it’s very puffy, almost billowy. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 400°F.
7) Gently dimple the dough at irregular intervals with your fingers, pressing down firmly, but not abruptly; you don’t want to deflate it too much.
8) Spritz heavily with warm water, and drizzle with olive oil (enough to collect a bit in the dimples), then sprinkle with rosemary (or the herb of your choice), black pepper, and a tiny bit of coarse salt.
9) Bake the focaccia for about 10 minutes. Reverse the pan(s) in the oven (top pan on the bottom, bottom pan on the top), and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the focaccia is light golden brown. Remove it from the oven, and immediately turn it out of the pan onto a rack to cool.
Yield: One large or two smaller focaccia, about 12 generous servings.
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