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Basil Spiral Focaccia

  • 2 1/2 tsps active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 Tbsp water, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup mild tasting extra virgin olive oil
  • 500g unbleached plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 to 3 Tbsp light extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large bunch fresh basil, about 1.5 to 2 cups tighly packed
  • 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Serves: 8 to 10; Makes one 10 inch focaccia. Whisk the yeast into the warm water in a large bowl; let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes. Stir in the room-temperature water and the oil. If you are making the dough by hand, combine the flour and the salt, add them in 2 additions, and mix until the dough comes together well. Knead on a lightly floured surface for 4 to 5 minutes, let the dough rest briefly, and finish kneading for another minute or two. The dough will be soft and as delicate as an ear lobe. If you are using a heavy-duty electric mixer, use the paddle attachment to mix the flour and salt into the yeast mixture until they form a dough. Change to the dough hook and knead for 2 to 3 minutes, or until the dough is as tender as an ear lobe. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover it tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured work surface and roll it with a lightly floured rolling pin into a 12 x 18 inch rectangle that is about 1/4 inch thick. The dough will roll out easily and repair easily, if it should tear. To fill, paint the 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the top of the dough - be sure to brush it thoroughly, even liberally - and then cover the surface with a thick carpet of basil leaves. Roll up the dough from the long end, like a jelly roll. Oil a 10 x 4 inch angel-food tube pan very well and slip the dough into it, seam side down. Don't be concerned if the 2 ends of the roll don't touch; they will after the second rise. Cover the dough with a towel and let rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Baking: At least 30 minutes before you plan to bake, preheat the oven to 200C/400F with a baking stone inside, if you have one. Brush the top of the "sfoglierata" with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place the pan directly on the stone and bake until golden, about 40 minutes. Let cool for 15 or 20 minutes, then slide the blade of a long thin knife or spatula between the "sfoglierata" and the pan sides and the center tube to loosen it. Place on a rack. Serve warm. NOTES: When you cannot get your hands on fresh basil leaves, you can use pesto as a filling ... just make sure that the filling is not too liquid or it will create a mess as you roll up the focaccia. It is delicious with pesto inside. I use pesto without the cheese added. I think a filling of olive pesto/pate or artichoke pate would be good too.

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