This EASY No-Knead Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia is all about letting time do all of the hard work for you. With just 20 minutes of easy active prep time, you can make an amazingly chewy, creamy garlic-studded, crisp-crusted, tender bread.
Who knew that the key to the tastiest bread you’ve ever sunken your teeth into was simply just to wait patiently?
If the idea of making homemade bread seems daunting to you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Bread has a reputation for being a temperamental and difficult thing to bake (or, at least, bake well)– that’s why you’ll rarely see a kitchen newbie shaping some from-scratch dinner rolls or laboring over a loaf of sourdough.
But there are some breads that even baking beginners can nail, and one of them just happens to be one of my favorite types of bread EVER: No-Knead Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia.
While it’d require an awful lot of effort to whip up an impressive loaf of focaccia today, it takes very little to have some tomorrow. The thing that makes this bread so simple is an overnight rest in the fridge (while you’re resting as well), which allows the bread to take on all of those amazing qualities that usually could only be achieved by kneading and working with the dough.
The end product, despite the minimal effort required, is a flavorful, crisp-crusted, lightly blistered, golden brown, fluffy, chewy bread masterpiece that you’re going to want to show off to all of your friends– but not to share, because man it’s hard not to want to devour this bread all by yourself.
WHAT IS FOCACCIA?
Focaccia (pronounced fo-cah-sha) is a classic Italian leavened flatbread that’s somewhat similar to pizza dough. It’s known for its airy, chewy center and indentations on the top for catching drizzles of olive oil. Made with an abundance of oil around the pan, focaccia winds up with a crispy, slightly-fried, golden crust. In fact, even tiny bubbles form around the edges, which adds extra texture and slight crunch!
Focaccia can be served without any toppings, but it’s very common for herbs, garlic, olives, tomatoes, or other vegetables to be incorporated. In this version I use garlic confit, fresh rosemary, and coarse sea salt to top the focaccia (and garlic oil for soaking in those bread dimples!) It’s even better than you’re imagining.
WHAT IS NO-KNEAD BREAD AND HOW DOES IT WORK?
There’s more than one way to make gluten, and that fact is exactly what no-knead bread relies on to work.
Gluten works like an elastic net of protein molecules in bread. The net provides structure to the bread, it traps gas bubbles which allow the bread to rise, and it even is what makes the bread chewy.
Gluten is created by combining water with two of the proteins found in wheat flour– glutenin and gliadin. Now, normally, this is done by kneading the dough. Pushing and stretching the dough forces different parts of the proteins to collide and link, which results in long strands of– you guessed it– gluten.
However, there’s another way to get the glutenin and gliadin to mesh. When a very wet dough is given a very long fermentation (AKA rise) time, the proteins are able to move around freely and form their own connections. In other words, adding more water and time to the formula will take out a lot of the effort required to create a beautifully chewy and structured dough.
But that’s not the only benefit of no-knead bread. Aside from being much easier to make, no-knead breads also are less likely to wind up dry and crumby due to their high hydration, and they also incorporate far less air (thanks to the lack of kneading it in, of course), which prevents oxidation of the dough. The less oxidation, the better the flavor. So, you might just say that lazy bread also happens to be the best bread. And I’m thankful for that.
GATHER THE INGREDIENTS
The brilliant thing about focaccia is that you don’t need a ton of ingredients to make it work.
- Flour. Either all purpose flour of bread flour will work well for creating a delicious focaccia.
- Yeast. Instant yeast is the key to getting the perfect rise without all the effort here. The packet will say “instant yeast” “quick rise” or “rapid rise”. This type of yeast does not have to be activated before being added to the dough.
- Water. As mentioned above, water helps the proteins to move around in the dough, so this dough incorporates a lot of it. It will be wet and sticky, but that’s exactly what you want here!
- Salt. Really you want to use two types of salt for the ultimate focaccia– kosher salt or fine sea salt in the dough, and very coarse sea salt on top before baking. This will give the best salty flavor and crunch, kind of like what you’d want in a good pretzel!
- Olive oil. Oil is so, so important to a proper focaccia, even though it’s not incorporated into the bread itself. Instead, the dough and pan are drizzled generously– and I mean generously— to allow the crust to crisp up and absorb some of the olive oil’s flavor
- Toppings. You really can top this focaccia with anything– olives, sun-dried tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, pistachios, onions, fresh herbs, and more. Feel free to get creative with it. Personally? I use garlic confit and rosemary for an unforgettable bread. More on that below.
MAKING THE GARLIC CONFIT AND GARLIC OIL
Focaccia is one of my favorite ways to use up homemade garlic confit and garlic oil— another recipe that requires almost no effort at all, and instead just lets time do its thing. When making the garlic confit for this recipe, I pop the garlic, oil, and rosemary in the oven as I prepare the dough for the focaccia. The garlic confit takes about 2 hours in the oven to cook, and the dough is resting in the fridge by the time it’s done. I pop the confit in the fridge as well, and then use both the tender garlic cloves and the resulting garlic oil to flavor the dough.
The garlic cloves pop right down into the dimples you create in the dough, studding it throughout with pops of garlic goodness!
Note: Garlic Confit is a very low-acid environment, meaning improperly storing it is dangerous and can put you at risk for food-borne illness. Be sure to refrigerate your confit until you’re ready to use it. Focaccia made with garlic confit will have to be consumed immediately or refrigerated for safety.
HOW TO MAKE THE BEST FOCACCIA
- Combine the dough ingredients. No proofing is necessary here, and the dough will be easy to combine because of the high hydration. Just whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast, and then mix in that water so everything will be well-distributed.
- Let it rise. Here’s where that long wait time comes into play. Oil the dough, cover it, and let it rise in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours (and up to 24). While you’re doing that, you can pop your garlic confit ingredients into the oven, if you’re using them. If not, go run some errands, get some sleep, write a symphony… your time is open and the possibilities, endless.
- Get it in the pan. Coat the baking dish with more oil, and then move the dough to the dish. Flip the dough over so it’s completely covered in oil (this part also helps stretch the dough a bit!) and then work the dough toward the edges of the pan.
- Second rise. I know, I know, two rises. But this step is necessary so you can get all those glorious air bubbles throughout your focaccia, and it will make the dimples in your dough work magic. Just cover the dough and let it sit for another 2 hours, while you go do whatever you want.
- Add the toppings and the indentations. If you’re using garlic confit, now’s the time to sprinkle those cloves all over the top, and then use your fingers to press them into the dough. Then sink your fingertips into the dough all around (check out the video below for help) and top with the rosemary and sea salt.
- Bake. You want to bake quickly at a high temperature to get that crisp, oven-fried crust. 450ºF for 20-30 minutes will do the trick.
- Slice and serve with garlic oil. This one speaks for itself.
HOW TO SERVE FOCACCIA
As mentioned above, this focaccia is great served warm with a drizzle of garlic oil, but you can also use it in other ways!
- As a side for soup (imagine it with Lemon Garlic Chicken Orzo Soup)
- Or along with a simple garden salad!
- Sliced in half, it’s great for Italian-inspired sandwiches (like Eggplant, Prosciutto, & Pesto Pressed Picnic Sandwiches, Grilled Pesto Chicken Sandwiches, or even Garlic Knot Chicken Parmesan Sandwiches— without the garlic knots, of course).
WATCH THE VIDEO
Adapted from Jim Lahey’s No Knead Bread method from his book, My Bread
- 4 cups all-purpose or bread flour
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 2 cups warm water
- 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
- Optional toppings: garlic confit, chopped fresh rosemary, and coarse sea salt. (See notes 1 & 2)
- Whisk together the flour, kosher salt, and instant yeast in a large bowl, making sure there’s plenty of room for the dough to rise dramatically. Add the water and stir until no streaks of flour remain. The dough will be very sticky. Drizzle with oil and rub over the top of the dough.
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 12 and up to 24 hours. Prepare the garlic confit, if using. (See note 2.)
- Use 2 tablespoons of the oil to coat the bottom and sides of a nonstick 9×13 baking dish. With a fork in each hand, lift the edges of the dough farthest away from you toward the center of the bowl. Turn the bowl and repeat until the dough is deflated and forms a more manageable dough ball.
- Transfer the dough into the oiled baking dish. Pour over any excess oil from the bowl. Turn the dough to coat in the oil and then gently pull and press the dough to the edges of the pan. Cover and let sit in a warm place for two hours. Then preheat the oven to 450ºF.
- As the oven warms, add the toppings. If using the garlic confit, scatter the cloves evenly around the top of the focaccia and press all the way down into the dough. Continue to dimple the dough using your fingertips, making sure that you are reaching all the way to the bottom of the pan with your fingers. Scatter chopped rosemary over top and sprinkle generously with coarse salt.
- Bake on the center rack until golden and crisp, 25-35 minutes. Turn out onto a cooling rack. Let the focaccia rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting to serve. Finish with an extra flourish of garlic oil or serve on the side for dipping. Store in the refrigerator. (See note 1.)
- I use garlic confit and rosemary for this recipe, but it can be made without it, or with a variety of toppings such as cherry tomatoes, olives, nuts, other herbs, and more. Keep in mind that bread made with garlic confit must be stored in the refrigerator for food safety.
- If using garlic confit, prepare up to 3 days in advance and store in the fridge or prepare while the dough is resting and refrigerate until ready to use. The garlic confit and garlic oil recipe can be found here.