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Focaccia Bianca with Rosemary

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Focaccia Bianca with rosemary and anchovies.

If you need an easy recipe for focaccia, thick-crust pizza, rolls, you name it, give this vertaile dough a try. It comes from Lorenzo Polegri, who teaches cooking classes out of his restaurant, Zeppelin, in the town of Orvieto.

Polegri, who calls himself “ambassador of Orvietan cuisine to the world,” is one of those chefs who wants you to tailor your recipes to suit your tastes, while bearing in mind the tradition of what it is you are making. So, for the recipe below, add garlic, capers and anchovies to the top, if you like. Turn it into pizza with your favorite sauce spread over the top and then garnished with the likes of fresh mozzarella and basil. Or use them in snails rolls in which you add in chopped grana padano cheese, guanciale and garlic.

But all the while, bear in mind the dough’s place in the history of Italian cuisine. “In Tuscany and Liguria, cooks prefer to leave indentations on the dough by pressing it with their fingertips,” he says. “In Umbria it is more common to put very little salt in the dough and then sprinkle on top of the focaccia coarse salt that has been ground in a mortar but still is rather coarse.”

This recipe makes a lot of dough. Freeze any for later use.

Focaccia Bianca with Rosemary

10 cups all-purpose flour
Scant  1/2 cup active dry yeast
1 tablespoon fine salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2  cups warm water
Additional flour, if needed
Rosemary sprigs

Sift the flour. Dissolve the yeast in a bowl with a small amount of water and add a heaping spoonful of flour. Mix until a smooth, thick mixture is obtained. Cover the bowl with a cloth and let stand in a warm place for 30 minutes. On a floured board, make a well with the remaining flour and place the fermented yeast mixture in the well and then add the remaining water, olive oil and salt. With floured hands knead the dough for about 10 minutes until a smooth and not sticky dough is obtained, which comes off easily from your hands. Form a ball, make a slash in the dough and cover with a cloth and let rise away from drafts for about 1 hour. Knead the dough again for about 10 minutes and then divide it into four equal parts. Use a rolling pin to roll out circles that are about 1/2-inch thick.

Once the desired shape and thickness have been obtained, sprinkle rosemary on top of the focaccio, then generously drizzle extra-virgin olive oil over the surface and cook for about 10 minutes. It is ready when the surface is golden, although it tends to be white where the oil has protected the surface from the heat.

Makes 2 balls of dough large enough for each to a baking sheet.

From Lorenzi Polegri/Zeppelin  Restaurant

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