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Focaccia is a fairly flat yeasted Italian bread that is great as an appetizer with some olive oil. It's also my go-to bread to accompany brothy soups that aren't hearty enough for cornbread.

4 to 4 1/4 c. flour
1/2 c. warm water
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 c. warm water
1-2 tsp salt
1 tbs. olive oil
Coarse salt and/or Italian herbs
For the sponge: in a bowl combine 1/2 c. of the flour, the 1/2 c. warm water, and the yeast. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let sponge stand overnight (or at least 2 hours) at room temperature to ferment.

Gradually stir in the 1 c. warm water, the salt, and just enough of the remaining flour to make a dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining flour to make a stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (8-10 minutes). Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once. Cover, let rise in a warm place until double (~1 hour)

Turn dough out onto a baking sheet or pizza peel WELL covered with flour or cornmeal (you'll have to slide the dough off of it, so make sure you can move it easily). Place an extra large bowl upside down over the dough to cover it; let rest 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven and baking stone to 475 degrees.

Shape dough on baking sheet into a circle about 11 inches in diameter by pulling and pressing with your fingertips. (Don't stretch dough too roughly or it will deflate; you want to keep air bubbles intact.) Make 1/2-inch-deep indentations every 2 inches in dough. Brush dough with olive oil; sprinkle lightly with salt and/or spices. Carefully slide focaccia from baking sheet to preheated bread stone.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden, checking after 8 minutes and popping any large air bubbles with a sharp knife. Remove foccacia from bread stone with large spatulas. Cool on a wire rack ~15 minutes. Serve warm.

From: Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

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