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Focaccia Romana

3/4 to 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup very warm water
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (King Arthur)
1 cup cake or soft pastry flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp olive oil for the bowl

Warm your oven (and pizza stone or ceramic tiles) to 550 degrees.
550 is the secret to this recipe. Lower starting temperatures make
a heavier bread. Proof the yeast in the cup of warm water, perhaps
adding a pinch of sugar. Add all the flour and the salt to a large
mixing bowl, mix and make a well in the center. You might want to
sprinkle a little rosemary or garlic powder or chile powder into
the dry ingredients at this point, or if it's your first, go plain.
Pour the yeast mixture into the flour and mix using a (wooden)
spoon. As the dough becomes ragged, use your hands to mix it. The
dough will take the amount of flour it needs, don't worry about
any left in bowl. Turn the dough out onto a slightly floured board.
Add flour if dough becomes sticky. Knead the dough for about 6
minutes. This part is my favorite relaxation technique. When it
is light and elastic (like a baby's bottom), rinse and dry the
mixing bowl. Put the 1/2 tsp olive oil in the bowl, drop the dough
in and turn it over. Cover with cling wrap and let it rise for 1
1/2 to 2 hours. (Double in volume.)

Turn the dough back onto the floured board and punch down. Use
the whole dough for one large flatbread. Roll or hand stretch and
pat the dough into an 8 - 10 inch circle about one inch thick (I
make it thinner) on a peel or board sprinkled with a little cornmeal.
Dimple the surface with fork tines or the handle of a wooden spoon.
Set aside to re-rise (about 1/2 inch) Top with very thin coat of
olive oil and tomato sauce(with chiles) and/or thin sliced red
onions, garlic, or olives. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Cheese
and/or chopped parsley or other herbs can be added too. Turn oven
temp down to 500. Slip the bread onto the baking stone or ceramic
tiles (or baking pan) working quickly to keep the heat high. This
is the method that blisters the crust. After five minutes reduce
oven to 425-450. When you take it out, sprinkle with Mex oregano.
Total bake time can be 25-30 minutes. Prep time, 15 minutes, not
including rising. I watch the bread in the oven starting at about
the 15 minute mark and take it out when the surface is crisp and
golden. I can't keep this stuff in the house. Everyone passing
through the kitchen rips off a piece and walks away. Folks peel
the two crusts apart and stuff the "snack" with cheese, cold meat,
sliced vegetables, etc.


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