Easy focaccia recipe that yields thick soft slices of delicious Italian bread. The yeast-leavened dough is enriched with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh rosemary and salt then baked until golden brown and pillowy.
Oven-baked Italian flatbread
Grab a warm slice of this focaccia bread and you’ll notice that each piece bounces back easily with a gentle squeeze. That springy tenderness comes from the fruity extra-virgin olive oil mixed into the dough and the gentle leavening of the yeast. The fermenting process works for just over an hour to create little pockets of air that lighten the baked bread.
Classic Italian flavors shine in this simple, yet elegant tray of bread. You’ll be delighted to learn just how approachable and effortless each step is to yield such an impressive product. Serve it as an appetizer with oil and vinegar to dip, or as a side to go with a big plate of pasta. You can even load it up with meatballs and make a hearty rustic sandwich.
A combination of kitchen staples like all-purpose flour, warm water, kosher salt, extra-virgin olive oil and a few teaspoons of dry yeast make up the savory dough base. Olive oil is used in and on the dough. The fat keeps the bread tender and easy to shape. Brushing the surface before and after baking keeps the bread flavorful and moist.
For a chewy texture, a slightly higher protein type of flour like bread flour (12 to 15% protein) can be used as a substitute. I like to sprinkle a little bit of yellow cornmeal on the baking sheet to give a little contrast of rustic texture and it prevents sticking.
Yeast adds the lift
Using live organisms like yeast gives the bread that characteristics high dough-rise in focaccia. Active dry yeast is used in this recipe. It’s rehydrated first in warm sugar water to wake up the cells and “prove” that they are alive. Let the bread rise at room temperature in a sunny area, or use a homemade oven proofing box for more efficient fermentation.
Hand knead the dough
This type of thick, tender, and spongy bread only requires a brief kneading to distribute the ingredients and build the gluten network. Therefore, you don’t have to take out the stand mixer unless you want a faster, hands-off method. Since there isn’t a crust and you don’t want a tough texture, minimal kneading is recommended to keep the dough soft.
How to make focaccia bread from scratch
In a large bowl rehydrate the yeast with warm water and sugar. Combine the bubbly yeast mixture with the remaining water, olive oil, and a portion of the flour. Stir in the salt and more flour, until a shaggy dough is formed. Transfer the dough to a floured board and knead it briefly, just until smooth.
Add the dough to a greased bowl and cover it with plastic wrap then allow it to rise until it doubles in size. Punch down the dough and then spread into a greased sheet pan. Brush with oil, and briefly rise one more time. Add dimples in the dough, add herbs and seasonings, then bake until tall and golden brown, about 20 minutes.
Baked focaccia doesn’t puff up with a domed shape like typical sandwich bread loaves, it stays relatively flat with dimples. A quarter-sized sheet pan is recommended for this recipe, about 12×8.5-inch size with at least a 1-inch rim.
Alternatively, a 12-inch cast-iron skillet provides a nice crisp crust on the bottom due to heat retention. Otherwise, a 13×9-inch baking pan will also work, but due to its size will make a slightly thinner product.
Make dimples with your fingers
Right before baking add some deep indents all around the top of the dough. This is also a good test to see if the dough has properly risen. If the spot holds its dimple, it’s ready to bake. The indents act as little bowls to cradle more rich olive oil and seasonings. They also prevent the dough from puffing up in the center and staying relatively flat when baked.
Ways to customize the recipe
The dough base is a canvas for endless flavor combinations. You can experiment with adding a light sprinkle of mozzarella or parmesan cheese on top or adding thin slices of tomato and fresh herbs to make pizza like on the streets of Rome.
For more intense flavor, incorporate fresh chopped or dried rosemary, thyme, basil, and oregano directly into the dough for herbaceous notes throughout each slice. If you have flaky sea salt, use that on top for crunchy briny bites. I also recommend brushing some pesto sauce on top or fresh garlic butter.
Ways to transform the dough for other uses
- Make 8 smaller rounds for individual-sized focaccia.
- Make a large thick crust pizza.
- Make 4 smaller pizzas and add personalized toppings.
- Slice the bread into sandwich-sized portions, cut down the center and fill with meat, cheese, or roasted vegetables.
Use instant yeast for a quicker rise
Instant yeast or RapidRise yeast can be used to cut down the fermentation time by half. Use a 1:1 amount, but add it to the dry ingredients. Add warm water around 120 to 130ºF (49 to 54ºC) and oil, mix, then knead as directed by the recipe. Keep a close eye on how fast the dough doubles in size. Waiting too long can create a deflated dough that won’t be as light and springy.
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Rosemary Focaccia Bread
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 ½ cups warm water
- 2 ¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
- 3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour, divided
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal, optional
- 1 ½ teaspoon chopped rosemary
- In a large bowl combine sugar and ¼ cup warm water, about 100 to 110ºF (38 to 43ºC), then sprinkle the yeast on top. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. If mixture bubbles and doubles in volume the yeast is active and ready to use.
- Add the remaining 1 ¼ cup of water, ¼ cup olive oil, and 1 cup flour to the yeast mixture. Stir with a spoon just enough to moisten the dough.
- Stir in 1 ½ teaspoon salt and 2 ½ cups of flour, until a shaggy dough forms.
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured board. Gradually use the remaining ¼ cup of flour, about 1 tablespoon at a time to sprinkle and knead the dough. Combine until a smooth and slightly sticky ball is formed, about 1 to 2 minutes. You may not need all of the flour, do not add too much as it will make the dough very dry.
- Grease a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Add the dough, turn to coat so that it is lightly greased.
- Cover the bowl with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a warm draft-free space until doubled in size, about 1 to 1 ½ hour. The ideal temperature is 75 to 85ºF (24 to 29ºC), the rise time is dependent on how warm the environment.
- Grease the bottom of a ¼ sheet sized pan (about 12 x 8.5 inch) with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Evenly sprinkle cornmeal over the pan. Alternately, use a 12-inch cast-iron skillet or 13x9-inch baking pan.
- Lightly punch down the dough then transfer to the prepared pan and evenly stretch and flatten. It should be no more than 1-inch thick.
- Brush the top of the dough with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Allow dough to proof uncovered in a warm spot until doubled, about 30 minutes.
- Set the oven rack to the center position. Preheat to 400ºF (204ºC).
- Add dimples all over the dough with fingers. Drizzle about 2 teaspoons olive oil into the indents.
- Evenly sprinkle ½ teaspoon of salt and the chopped rosemary over the dough.
- Bake focaccia until lightly browned, about 20 minutes. Brush with more olive oil if desired.
- Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes then transfer to a cooling rack.
- Slice the focaccia into smaller pieces and serve warm or at room temperature.
- If you have flaky sea salt like Maldon, use ½ teaspoon to sprinkle on top of the focaccia before baking.
- Substituting with instant yeast: Use the same amount of instant yeast as active dry yeast. The rise time may be faster so check on the dough after 30 minutes.
- Storing: Focaccia can be stored at room temperature in a resealable bag or airtight container for up to 3 days, or refrigerated for up to 7 days. Pieces can be frozen for up to 1 month.
- Reheating: Preheat oven to 375ºF (191ºC). Reheat on a foil-lined sheet pan until the bread is warm and soft, 8 to 10 minutes.
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