Serves: Makes 1 baking sheet, or 20 (3- by 3-inch) squares
- 2 cups (10 ounces) plump, sweet raisins
- 2¼ cups (18 ounces) warm whole milk (110° to 115°F)
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast, or 2¼ teaspoons instant yeast
- 5 cups (25 ounces) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 3 tablespoons (1½ ounces) olive oil, plus additional for brushing
- 2 bunches fresh rosemary, leaves removed and very finely chopped
- 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 to 3 tablespoons sanding sugar or turbinado sugar
Procedures:If you think the combination of raisins and rosemary sounds strange, one taste will convince you that it is a match made in heaven, and is especially welcome at breakfast. Don't worry, it's not necessary to get up at 4:00 a.m. for warm breakfast bread—the dough can be made the day before and refrigerated. In the morning, all you have to do is pop it in the oven. If you like, serve with a bit of mascarpone or your favorite jam and a good cup of coffee. Leftovers can be frozen for reheating another day. They're delicious split, toasted under the broiler, and spread with butter or cream cheese. Or, cut leftovers into cubes, dry them out, and use them to make a stuffing that would be especially nice with roasted pork loin.
- To plump the raisins if they seem dry (if not, continue to next step): Place the raisins in the medium saucepan with water to cover. Bring the water to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover the pan, and let the raisins sit for 5 minutes. Drain the raisins in the colander set in the sink and shake off any excess water. Spread the raisins on the baking sheet and let cool.
- Mix and knead the dough: Combine the warmed milk and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast over the top. Whisk in ¼ cup of the flour by hand. Let the mixture sit for 10 minutes, or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. Whisk in another 2 cups of flour, or enough that the dough resembles a thick pancake batter. Attach the paddle attachment and mix on low speed for 4 minutes.
- Add the raisins, olive oil, rosemary, cinnamon, and salt to the dough, attach the dough hook, and knead on low until well blended. Add the remaining 2¾ cups flour and knead for 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and turn the dough over in the bowl so everything is mixed evenly. Continue to knead for 2 minutes longer. Don't worry if the dough sticks to the side of the bowl-the extra moisture gives the crumb an open and chewy texture that is the signature of a good focaccia.
- Rise the dough (first rise) : Lightly oil the tub or bowl, scrape the dough into the tub, and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rise until doubled in size, 1 to 1½ hours. If you are using a tub, be sure to mark the starting level of the dough with a pencil or piece of tape so it's easy to tell when the dough has doubled.
- Punch down and shape the dough: Scrape the risen dough onto the prepared baking sheet. Lightly oil your hands and press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don't knead the dough again. Begin to push and gently stretch the dough into an even layer in the pan. To stretch the dough into the corners of the pan, slip your hand under the dough and pull gently from the center of the dough toward the corner. As you reach the corner, grip the dough and gently shake it up and down as you pull outward—this will help to stretch the dough while preventing it from tearing. Repeat until the dough is in an even layer filling the pan all the way into the corners. You may not be able to stretch it into the corners on the first try. If the dough begins to pull back and resist the stretching, brush the top with a little olive oil, set the pan aside for 10 minutes, and then try again.
- Proof the dough (second rise) : Brush the top of the dough with a little olive oil and cover the pan with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise until it is almost doubled in size (it will look quite puffy and bubbly).
- Prepare the oven: Place a baking or pizza stone in the oven. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Be sure to allow 30 minutes to 1 hour for the stone to fully heat.
- Bake the focaccia: Remove the plastic wrap. Dimple the dough by gently pressing your fingertips into the dough, about ½-inch deep, taking care that you don't deflate the dough by pressing too vigorously or making too many indentations.
- Sprinkle the dough with the sanding sugar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the bread is a deep golden brown and cooked through. The internal temperature should register 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a cooling rack and immediately brush the top of the bread with olive oil. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Cut the focaccia with a serrated knife.
Storing: The focaccia will keep at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, for 2 days. Reheat in a 375°F oven for 10 minutes. To freeze focaccia, cut it in pieces, wrap each piece in plastic wrap, place in a resealable plastic freezer bag, and freeze for up to 1 month. Thaw for 1 hour and reheat as directed above.