Kalamata Olive, Garlic and Celtic Sea Salt Focaccia Bread

Focaccia bread = so good. This focaccia bread = exceptionally good. Why? Two words, really: kalamata olives. I love them. There is an Italian grocery store near our apartment and they have a lovely olive bar there filled with about 50 different kinds of olives. I typically go for the straight up kalamatas in herbs, but they also have garlic clove stuffed kalamatas. They are a recipe for stinky breath for sure, but they are so worth it. Here’s my recipe for Kalamata Olive, Garlic & Celtic Sea Salt Focaccia Bread. This recipe is extremely versatile. You can top it with a number of ingredients, such as sun-dried tomatoes, chopped fresh basil, marinated artichoke hearts… I chose kalamata olives, garlic cloves, dried Italian herbs and Celtic sea salt. If you don’t have celtic sea salt, any grey salt, or coarse salt will work.

I love to make yeasted breads. Yeasted breads are one of those kitchen projects where you can start, walk away, come back to it, walk away, and then finish it. I use rapid rise yeast for this recipe. If you want to use traditional yeast, please do, but your dough will need to rise for a longer period of time.

Kalamata Olive, Garlic & Celtic Sea Salt Focaccia Bread
makes one rustic, flat & round loaf

1 c. warm water
1 Tbsp. natural sugar
1 – 1/4 oz. package rapid-rise active dry yeast
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
3 c. unbleached, all-purpose (or bread) flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper

For the topping:
1/4 c. whole kalamata olives
4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 Tbsp. Celtic sea salt (or other coarse salt)
about 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (for drizzling over the dough)

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm water; add the packet of yeast and stir gently. Allow to rest for 5-10 minutes to proof the yeast. If the yeast has bubbled, it’s active – if not, start over with a new packet because the yeast is dead. Then, add the olive oil, flour, salt and pepper. Knead for about 5 minutes using a stand mixer with a dough hook, or about 10 minutes with your floured hands on a floured surface. Pat dough into a large ball. Coat a large bowl with a thin layer of olive oil, and place the dough inside. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 1 hour. When you come back, the dough should have doubled in size. Punch down the dough and knead with your hands. On a large baking pan lined with parchment paper, form the dough into a large, flat circle. You can also use a rolling-pin if you’d like. Press the kalamata olives and garlic slices into the dough. Sprinkle with Celtic sea salt and dried herbs and drizzle some olive oil on top. Cover the loaf with plastic wrap again and let sit for 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Bake focaccia for 30 minutes, or until the edges are browned slightly and when you tap the crust it makes a hollow sound. Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes before you slice it.

I find that this bread is best as is, but would also be good along side a hearty minestrone soup or with chopped tomatoes and olive oil. Also, you could take a slice, slice it in half and make a pretty nice sandwich to go along with some soup. Yum.