In my kitchen, you’ll seldom find me happier than when I am baking bread. Yeast breads are my go-to comfort food and something I truly enjoy baking.

There’s something about the aroma of freshly baked bread in a kitchen. Over the years, I’ve learned how lucky I was to have two grandmas who baked bread. My paternal Grandma Madeline baked her bread from scratch and my maternal Grandma Celeste used the bread machine to turn her loaves out. Each slice was enjoyed in a different way, Madeline’s toasted and Celeste’s warm, right out of the machine with a pat of butter and a generous spoonful of strawberry jam.

Focaccia bread is one simple recipe, and if you’re new to baking breads, this is a perfect one to try first. There’s no shaping, no intense scoring of the loaves or anything else that may give a beginning bread-master a reason to shudder. This bread is made up in one bowl, kneaded, plopped into a greased sheet pan and poked after rising. Nothing complicated takes place, and the results are outstanding.

Basic techniques and great flavors make up this simple type of bread. Too often, focaccia bread in the U.S. is super thick, and the texture lacks. This recipe will make up for those shortcomings with rich flavors and good texture. The addition of Parmesan cheese and fresh herbs wakes up and deepens the flavor.

Serve this simple bread alongside soups, spaghetti and meatballs, sliced into a scrumptious sandwich, or cubed or cut to size for dipping in hot or cold dips at parties.

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Focaccia Bread

Cristen Clark / Special to Agweek
Cristen Clark / Special to Agweek

By Cristen Clark foodandswine.com

Makes 1 large flatbread-style loaf

Ingredients

2 packets active dry yeast

2 cups warm water, divided

1 tablespoon sugar or honey

3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil divided

5 cups King Arthur All Purpose Flour

1/4 cup King Arthur Pizza Dough Flavor OR grated Parmesan cheese

2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons garlic powder or dried minced garlic

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1 teaspoon flaked/coarse sea salt

Instructions

Combine yeast, 1/2 cup warm water and sugar in large mixing bowl. Mix together and let stand until foamy, 5-10 minutes. Add remaining water.

Add 1/2 cup olive oil (reserve the rest for oiling the baking sheet) and flour, Parmesan cheese, salt, garlic powder, rosemary and thyme. Stir to combine until mixture comes into a shaggy ball.

Turn out and knead by hand for 6-8 minutes, or alternatively, mix in stand mixer fitted with dough hook for 5-7 minutes until smooth and elastic. Preheat oven to 425F.

Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm area. Allow dough to rise until double (45 minutes). Punch dough down and let rise until doubled in bulk.

Add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil to half sheet pan (15-by-11-by-10-inch pan), spread evenly. Turn risen dough out into the greased half sheet pan, pressing into an even layer. Press fingertips through the dough to create small holes all over dough, this prevents the final baked bread from being too lofty and keeps the traditional focaccia shape.

Sprinkle flaked/coarse sea salt over the olive oil. Place loaf into preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped or registers 200F on a digital instant read thermometer.

Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool to warm. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Store leftovers in airtight container, once completely cool.

*If fresh herbs are unavailable, use a combination of dried Italian herbs such as rosemary, thyme, basil, etc.

Cristen Clark lives on an Iowa farm where her family raises corn, soybeans, pigs and cattle. She loves cooking and writing, and sharing contest winning recipes with people she knows. She can be reached at cristen@foodandswine.com or at foodandswine.com.