A mashed potato (traditional in Puglia and other parts of Italy) adds moisture and tenderness to this focaccia dough.
Image: Lauren Chattman
- One 8-ounce Russet potato
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ cup pitted green olives, halved
- Sea salt for sprinkling
- Prick the potato all over with the tines of a fork. Place it on a microwave-safe dish and microwave on full power for 5 minutes. Turn and microwave for another 4 minutes. Pierce with a sharp paring knife. If it is still hard in the center, microwave for 1-minute intervals until cooked through. Scoop the cooked potato flesh into a bowl and set aside to cool.
- Combine water, yeast and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large mixing bowl and stir to dissolve yeast. Add the flour, salt and cooled potato and stir with a spatula until a rough dough forms. Knead the dough in an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook on medium speed until it is smooth and elastic, 5 to 7 minutes. Or knead by hand on a lightly floured countertop until smooth and elastic, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough is doubled in volume, 3 to 4 hours.
- Spray a 15½-inch-by-10½-inch rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Turn the dough into the pan and press it to the edges. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand until puffy and almost doubled in volume, 1½ to 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Dimple the dough at 2-inch intervals with a fingertip. Push an olive half into each of the dimples. Drizzle the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over the dough, letting it collect around the olives. Sprinkle with sea salt. Bake until golden and risen, 20 to 25 minutes.
- Use a large spatula to lift the focaccia from the pan and onto a wire rack. Let it cool for 10 minutes and serve warm. Wrap leftover focaccia in plastic and keep at room temperature for up to 2 days. Reheat in a 350°F oven for 5 minutes before serving.
- As with all yeast doughs, the longer and slower the rise, the more flavorful the result, so use lukewarm (not very warm) water and just a teaspoon of yeast to slow down fermentation. And be patient before proceeding. If you’re not sure that your dough has risen sufficiently, give it a little more time.
- After it rises in the bowl, the dough can be deflated, covered and refrigerated for a day or two before baking. Refrigeration overnight will make it even more flavorful. Let it come to room temperature in the bowl for an hour or two before pressing it into the pan.