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Focaccia - the Easy Italian Bread

Focaccia is an absolutely delicious bread that goes with many types of meals and it's easy to make

Even if you are not the world's greatest baker, focaccia is nearly fool-proof in comparison to many bread recipes. It's an Italian favorite that usually features rosemary and parmesan, but there are many variations. If you don't like to knead dough and own a bread machine, you can also start it there. The instructions are different, however; you should find a focaccia recipe in your bread machine manual.

When it's done, you can serve it warm with olive oil or butter for dipping. It will also freeze well, so you can make a double batch and freeze one for quick and easy last-minute meals.

Focaccia with Rosemary and Parmesan

1 envelope active dry yeast
1 2/3 cups warm water (between 105 and 115 degrees)
4 ½ cups bread flour (can substitute with all-purpose unbleached flour)
Extra flour (can use all-purpose unbleached flour)
¼ cup olive oil + more for coating baking pan
3 Tablespoons olive oil (to mix with rosemary)
2 ½ teaspoons salt
1 heaping tablespoon chopped rosemary (fresh or dried)
2 heaping tablespoons parmesan (fresh or packaged)

Pour water into large bowl. Add yeast and stir with a wooden spoon. Wait five minutes and add 4 cups flour (reserve the half), olive oil, and salt. Use a mixer to form dough (about 4 minutes or use hands and blend for about 10 minutes). Add more flour as needed to form a firmer dough. It should still be a little sticky. On a floured surface, turn out dough. Add more flour if needed and knead for about 1 minute.

Coat a bowl with cooking spray and add dough. Spray top and sides and turn the dough to cover with the spray. Cover bowl with plastic and set in warm spot for about 1 ½ hours or until doubled in size.

Use a 15 ½ - 10 ½ baking sheet or one of similar size. You can also split the dough in two smaller pans. Coat the pans with olive oil. Add dough and stretch out with hands to create a flat surface. Cover with a towel and let rise about 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and use middle rack. Use fingertips to punch small marks in dough. Add rosemary to olive oil (or melted butter or margarine) and brush top of dough.
Bake for at least 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Turn out on cooling rack and then turn right side up. Sprinkle parmesan on top and let rest for about 5 minutes. Cut to any desired size.

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