I believe there are two types of people in the world, those who bake bread, and those who don't. Those who do know how simple, delicious and rewarding it can be. Those who don't, imagine it a time-consuming, temperamental undertaking, hardly worth it considering the wide availability of store-bought loafs.
But even those with little free time should at some point try their hand at bread baking. The fresh out of the oven taste, mouthwatering smell and sense of accomplishment can't be beat. Plus, no fancy tools or ingredients are needed for this focaccia – flour, sugar, water, salt, yeast and olive oil are the basics – the red peppers are an optional topping – and I did it all by hand with a bowl and wooden spoon, though a mixer with a bread hook attachment does make things easier.
While it'll take about 4 hours start to finish – most of that is waiting time, so you can go about all your other daily activities on a lazy Sunday while it rises. If you prefer, you can do the first rise in the fridge for about 12 hours overnight and then continue from there.
1 red pepper, roasted and sliced or jarred roasted red peppers
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast*
2 cups flour, plus extra for dusting
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for greasing and brushing
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
Stir together the water, sugar and yeast in a large bowl and let sit for 10 minutes until foamy. Add the flour, salt and
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the water, sugar, and yeast. Let the mixture sit until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the flour, salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil and mix well, either on low with the bread hook of a mixer or with a wooden spoon. Then, knead the dough for 8 minutes longer by machine or about 10 minutes by hand. When ready, the dough should spring back when poked with a finger.
Brush a large bowl with olive oil and scrape the dough into it. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. With a floured hand, press the dough down. Turn it onto a floured surface and divide into two balls. Grease a large baking sheet or two smaller ones with olive oil. Place the balls of dough on it and set aside for 20 minutes covered with a kitchen towel. Then, dip your fingers in olive oil and press and stretch each ball of dough into an 8-9 inch oval shape, making dimple holes with your fingers. Cover again and let rise for another hour.
Brush the dough with additional olive and oil and sprinkle the chopped red peppers over it, pressing them dough into the dough. Sprinkle the salt on top. Bake on 450 F for 15 minutes until golden brown and puffed around the edges. Consume immediately.
*Here in Israel, active dry yeast is not available but instant dry yeast – a better product – is. If using instant dry, skip the proofing step and simply add the yeast in with the flour – but not directly to the water, use the flour as a buffer between the two.