Lemon Rosemary Focaccia

Lemon Rosemary Focaccia is easy to prepare without many steps. It can be used to sop up the flavorful gravy from your Grandma`s favorite stew recipe as you tear through the crispy crust and soft billowy middle, or may be used as an aromatic sandwich bread with roasted vegetables and homemade aioli or Prosciutto and Fontina cheese with a Dijon mustard and mayonnaise blend sandwich spread.

1 cup luke warm water
1 packet dry yeast (1/4 oz.)
Pinch of sugar
     1 additional cup of water
1 Tbl. olive oil
4 cups flour
1 tea. salt
1 Tbl. lemon zest
1 Tbl. chopped fresh rosemary (de-stemmed)
2 Tbl. chopped lemon pieces
1 Tbl. additional chopped rosemary (de-stemmed)

Warm 1 cup water slightly, approximately body temperature in a mixing bowl. Sprinkle dry yeast and a pinch of sugar over the warm water and let stand for 10 minutes until the yeast blooms. Be sure water is not too hot or it will prevent yeast from activating.

After yeast has bloomed, add additional one cup water and olive oil. In a separate mixing bowl combine flour and salt.  Add wet ingredients slowly while mixing at the same time until you get a slightly sticky dough that holds together.  Use more, or less flour to achieve this loose dough consistency.  Knead dough for two minutes until it forms a smooth ball.  Fold in and knead lemon zest and chopped rosemary until evenly distributed and form into a soft ball. Place the ball of dough into an oiled glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise, doubling in size for approximately 1 1/2 hours.

Prepare an 11"x17" baking sheet by brushing olive oil over the entire surface making sure to really get into the corners and the shallow sides. After dough has risen remove the plastic wrap and place the dough in the center of the baking sheet.  With the tips of your fingers push the dough to cover the entire baking sheet making sure the dough rests evenly throughout. Cover again with plastic wrap and allow dough to rise for no more than 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450-degrees.

Remove the plastic wrap from the second rise dough and lightly punch down again using only your fingertips creating small hills and pockets. Sprinkle with remaining lemon pieces and chopped fresh rosemary.

Place baking sheet in lower rack of preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes until golden, but not too dark. Allow to cool slightly and remove in one piece ready for slicing into sandwich size squares or 2-inch wide strips for serving with a grilled fish and lightly dressed salad for lunch, or that juicy hearty stew for dinner.

Recipe courtesy Lidia Bastianich.