Why It Works
- Two layers of garlic flavor—roasted garlic inside, plus garlic butter brushed on top—make this bread extra tasty.
- The no-knead method requires minimal effort to produce bread with a great crumb.
Anyone who understands evolution knows that it doesn't necessarily lead from simpler to more complex life-forms. Rather, it leads to life-forms better suited to their environments. The evolution of recipes is similar: It's not that every new recipe is better than its immediate predecessor; it's just that it's more suitable to the recipe developer's particular tastes at that particular moment.
Take, for example, this simple no-knead focaccia, flavored with roasted garlic. It's based on my no-knead olive-rosemary focaccia, which in turn was based on foolproof pan pizza. Both of those recipes are darned delicious, but neither of them quite fits the theme of the Italian-American pop-up dinner that Daniel and I were planning a couple years back.
This garlic focaccia is one I developed specifically for that Italian-American feast as a sort of riff on garlic bread, complete with garlic butter brushed across the top. As it turned out, those pop-up plans never came to fruition, and this recipe languished in my hard drive, like a brand-new species of exotic sea worm, waiting to be found at the bottom of the ocean. Well, I went excavating recently and decided it was time to show it the light of day.
Starting With the First Layer of Garlic Flavor and the Dough
It all starts with roasted garlic. To make it, I use the simplest method I know: Drizzle a whole head of garlic with olive oil, wrap it in foil, and throw it in the oven at 350°F (180°C) until it's tender and sweet, which takes about an hour. Once it's cooked, I toss it in the fridge and turn my attention to the dough, a basic no-knead formula made with bread flour, yeast, salt, and water.
Like all no-knead doughs, this one is really simple. Just measure your ingredients out into a bowl (use a scale, not cups and spoons, for the greatest accuracy), stir them together with your hand, cover the bowl with plastic, and let it rest overnight. No kneading, no futzing, no problem.
The next day, after the dough has had a chance to plump up and a good amount of gluten has developed, I turn it out into a cast iron skillet that I've greased with a few tablespoons of olive oil, then give the dough a few turns and pats. To build in garlic flavor, I take those tender pieces of roasted garlic and embed them right into the dough, pressing down on each piece until it's nearly completely surrounded. Once the garlic is in, I again let the dough rest for a couple hours. During that second rest, it should relax and spread out until it's almost in the corners of the pan, requiring just a bit of pushing and pulling to get it to fill the pan completely. Not only is the dough no-knead, it's essentially no-stretch as well.
Baking the Focaccia and Building the Second Layer of Garlic Flavor
Once the dough has risen and relaxed, into the oven it goes, at a blazing-hot 550°F (290°C). The high heat helps promote good oven spring, causing the bubbles in the dough to rapidly expand, for a crumb that's airy but chewy at the same time.
While the dough bakes, I make a quick classic garlic butter on the stovetop by heating butter, olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes in a skillet, just until the raw garlic flavor is cooked out.
The bread is done as soon as it's brown and crackly on the top, with a few darker spots. This can take anywhere from 16 to 24 minutes, depending on your exact oven. Most of the time, the bottom has no problem getting crisp in this time frame, but with some ovens that don't heat from the bottom as powerfully, you might find that the base of the bread needs a little more crunch. You can easily adjust for that by cooking it briefly on the stovetop after it comes out of the oven, using a small offset spatula to peek underneath as it crisps up.
Once it's ready, I spoon that garlic butter all over the top then slide it out onto a cutting board and cut it into squares.
This recipe was simply too good to not share with everyone. As for the bread itself? Well, you can share it at your own discretion. Or don't. You might not want to.
For the Focaccia:
1 whole head garlic
5 tablespoons (75ml) extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Kosher salt, for seasoning
500g all-purpose or bread flour (17 1/2 ounces; about 3 1/4 cups)
325g water (11 1/2 ounces; about 1 1/2 cups minus 1 tablespoon)
15g kosher salt (1/2 ounce; about 1 tablespoon)
4g instant yeast (0.15 ounce; about 1 teaspoon)
For the Garlic Butter:
2 tablespoons (30g) unsalted butter
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
For the Focaccia: Adjust oven rack to center position and preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Remove 4 cloves garlic from head and set aside. Place remaining head in the center of a sheet of aluminum foil. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon (15ml) olive oil and season with salt. Wrap tightly with foil and place in an oven-safe cast iron, carbon steel, or stainless steel skillet, then transfer to oven. Roast until garlic is completely tender, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and refrigerate until ready to use the next day.
Combine flour, water, salt, and yeast in a large bowl. (To account for rising, the bowl should be at least 4 to 6 times the volume of the dough.) Mix with hands or a wooden spoon until no dry flour remains.
Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, making sure that edges are well sealed, then let rest on the countertop for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Dough should rise dramatically and fill bowl.
Add 3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil to a 12-inch cast iron skillet or large cake pan. Transfer dough to pan by tipping it out of the bowl in one large blob. Turn dough to coat in oil. Using a flat palm, press dough around skillet, flattening it slightly and spreading oil around the entire bottom and sides of pan. Peel roasted garlic cloves and break up large cloves into 2 or 3 pieces each. Scatter roasted garlic evenly over surface of dough, then push down on each clove until it is embedded in a deep well of dough. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let dough stand at room temperature for 2 hours. After the first hour, adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 550°F (290°C).
At the end of the 2 hours, dough should mostly fill skillet, up to its edge. Use your fingertips to press it around until it fills every corner, popping any large bubbles that appear. Lift up one edge of dough to let any air bubbles underneath escape. Repeat, moving around dough, until no air bubbles are left underneath and dough is evenly spread around skillet.
Transfer skillet to oven and bake until top is golden brown and bubbly and bottom appears golden brown and crisp when you lift it with a thin spatula, 16 to 24 minutes. If bottom is not as crisp as desired, place pan on a burner and cook over medium heat, moving pan around to cook evenly, until bottom of focaccia is crisp, 1 to 3 minutes.
Meanwhile, Make the Garlic Butter: Mince 4 reserved raw cloves of garlic. Combine remaining 1 tablespoon (15ml) olive oil with butter in a small skillet and melt over medium-low heat. Add garlic, oregano, and pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant and garlic is just beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Transfer to a small bowl and season with salt.
When focaccia has finished baking, spread garlic butter over top with a spoon. Transfer to a cutting board, allow to cool slightly, slice, and serve. Extra bread should be stored in a brown paper bag at room temperature for up to 2 days. Reheat in a 300°F (150°C) oven for about 10 minutes before serving.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 13g||16%|
|Saturated Fat 3g||16%|
|Total Carbohydrate 47g||17%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||7%|
|Total Sugars 0g|
|Vitamin C 1mg||6%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|