My good friend Chris Castro is a designer and chef from California and Oklahoma, who also happened to design our church website. We used to live across the street from his family. Like right across the street. Once a week around 10:00pm I would get a text from him: “Hey John Jay, you left your garage open again.” It became a running joke between us, but it was also a way to embody neighborliness. Often he would send over extras from food he was testing out. I cannot imagine ever having a better neighbor, and miss his family deeply. He also taught me how to make bread. Below is his focaccia recipe. Make a batch, then invite your neighbor over for some fresh bread, butter and honey. Maybe one day someone will tell your story about this amazing neighbor who baked fresh bread and brought it across the street.
-Pastor John Jay
2 1/4 pounds bread flour (about 7 cups)
3 cups warm water (needs to be about 110 degrees or you can kill the yeast!)
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
About 1/2 cup of olive oil
Maldon or Sel Gris for sprinkling
Optional Toppings: Olives, feta, cherry, tomatoes, Parmesan, herbs
Whisk together flour, water, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until full of sponge-like bubbles, about 2 hours.
Add salt. Attach bowl to mixer with the dough hook. Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes (scrape the sides of the bowl when needed). When dough begins to cling to and almost climb sides of bowl, raise speed to medium; mix 15 seconds. Dough will be wet, slack, and very sticky so be prepared (flour your hands and the surface you are working on).
Using a plastic bowl scraper, turn out dough onto a well-floured work surface. With the bowl scraper, gather and fold bottom edge of dough about 1/3 of the way toward center. Pat down to dislodge any extra flour. Fold top edge down 1/3 of the way toward center. Repeat with right and left sides, until all the edges meet in center. Gently scoop up dough and flip it over, seam side down. Place dough in a lightly floured bowl, smooth side up. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes (be sure not to rush this, it could take up to an hour and a half if you don’t have a warm, draft free spot).
Return dough to a well-floured work surface. Repeat folding process above. Lightly flour the mixing bowl, and return dough to bowl, smooth side up. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 450ºF. Coat a rimmed baking sheet olive oil (enough to coat the bottom of the pan); set aside. I like to split the dough in 2 and coat the bottom of 2 cast iron skillets with oil.
Place dough in prepared pans or sheet. Flip dough over, and coat both sides with oil. Push dough out toward edges of sheet (this will create lots of bubbles). Finish with desired toppings (shaved parmesan, sliced cherry tomatoes, olives, or any other favorites). Cover with plastic wrap; let rest about 10 minutes. With plastic wrap still on top, press out dough to spread out a little more. Remove plastic and drizzle remaining oil. Sprinkle generously with the salt of your choice.
Bake, rotating halfway through, until evenly browned on top, about 25. Immediately place focaccia onto a wire rack to cool.