Focaccia with Robust Olio Nuovo EVOO, Rosemary & Caramelized Shallots

Crusty, chewy, fragrant, and savory would all be excellent descriptors for this olive oil laden baked beauty above.  It’s a perfect union of wheat & olive oil and serves to highlight what can be done with the right olive oil plugged in to the right application.  A robust EVOO with larger-than-life personality, boasting throat closing pepper, bite, and savory, strong green vegetable notes is pleasantly tamed here and marries perfectly, balancing well with the sweet caramelized shallots, herbaceous fresh rosemary, and earthiness of fresh ground black pepper.

Using well made extra virgin olive oil as a spice or flavor enhancer in our baking and cooking, has the potential to elevate our food to a whole new level.  Thinking of olive oil as a one size fits all ingredient is akin to reading a wine list in a restaurant with a single wine offered to pair with all the dishes on the menu.  The right wine will do for the dishes what the right olive oil will.

5 cups all purpose, unbleached flour
2 cups lukewarm, water, filtered if possible
1 cup cooled, unseasoned, mashed russet potatoes
1/3 cup + 1/3 cup + more for drizzling: Olive Us EVOO, such as Empeltre, or similar, intense olio nuovo with excellent chemistry and super high phenol count of 400+, with strong savory flavor notes and heady bouquet.
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
2 medium shallots thinly sliced
1 package active dried yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves rough chopped
fresh ground black pepper
sea salt to taste

If making the dough in your bread machine, follow its instructions for the order of adding ingredients.  In the bowl of a stand mixer combine the water, sugar and yeast.  Allow the yeast to bloom for about 5 minutes.  Add 1/3 cup of olive oil, mashed potatoes and sea salt.  Mix to combine.  With the mixer running on the lowest speed, begin to add the flour, cup by cup, until the dough has come together and becomes elastic and just slightly tacky.  Reserve any leftover flour for rolling the dough out.

Cover the bowl and allow the dough to rise in a warm place for one hour.

On a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment, gently push the dough to the edges, using fingertips to stretch it and make dimpled indentations.  Cover and allow the dough to rise for another hour in a warm place.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Distribute the thinly slices shallots and rosemary evenly over the focaccia.  Drizzle with remaining 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of fresh ground pepper, and a sprinkle of sea salt.

Bake for approximately 35-40 minutes until golden brown.  While still hot out of the oven, drizzle with more extra virgin olive oil to taste.  Serve warm.

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