Softer and fluffier than focaccia or pizza, think of this as a flat loaf of very flavorful bread topped with gooey cheese. If you want it a little crisper, just bake it longer. And here's a bonus: you can make it well ahead of time, then reheat it in the oven so you've got warm bread with melty cheese whenever you need to serve it.
Overall, this is a pretty easy loaf. Mix it the night before, pop it into a bag and refrigerate overnight. No need for serious kneading since the overnight rest will do a fine job of developing the gluten.
I tried to think of a brilliant name for it but the best I could come up with was "Soft Focaccia." Because, really, that's closest to what it is. Since there's so much flavor in the dough, you won't have to add a lot of toppings, but you could embellish it as much as you like.
The spice mix I used is a blend from a local spice shop that includes garlic, thyme, basil, oregano, and marjoram. You can use your own favorite mix.
About the author: Donna Currie has been cooking for fun and writing for pay since the days when typewritten articles traveled by snail mail. When she combined those talents in a food column for a newspaper in her area, she realized that writing about food is almost as much fun as eating. You can find her on her blog, Cookistry or follow her on Twitter at @dbcurrie or @cookistry.
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon mixed Italian herbs
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil (plus more for drizzling)
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 4 ounces cheese (your choice of type) thinly slices or shredded
Combine all ingredients (except the cheese) and knead (using your favorite method) until well combined and gluten is starting to develop. Drizzle a zip-top bag with a little bit of olive oil, transfer the dough to the bag, and close the bag. Refrigerate over night.
The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it warm up on the counter for an hour.
Preheat the oven to 400°F and flour your work surface. Turn out the dough and knead it briefly, then stretch and cajole it to fit a baking sheet. Cover it with plastic wrap or use another baking sheet of the same size as a "lid" for te pan. Set aside to rise until it feels soft and puffy - about an hour.
Top the bread with the cheese and bake at 400°F until the bread is browned and the cheese is melted, about 25 minutes. Check the underside of the bread to make sure it's browned and as crisp as you like it. Remove the bread from the pan as soon as you can handle it and place it on a rack so the bottom doesn't get soggy as it cools.