August 2nd, 2011

Maggie’s Easy Focaccia, garden tomatoes, basil aioli


Since her acquisition of a mighty stand mixer with a dough hook, Maggie has become an avid baker. Oh, she was already accomplished, when it came to quick breads, cakes, skillet cornbread and such. Yeasted breads had her daunted–that dreaded yeast!

There seemed to be so many hurdles: how to successfully activate it (is this water too warm? not warm enough? did I just kill it?) and feed it (does it really like sugar?) and work it into a sponge (so sticky!) And then there was that all rising time, followed by punching down. And, another uprising!

Mercy. There seemed to be too many opportunities for things to go awry.

But when we talked a couple of weeks ago, she declared that she had conquered these fears. She was baking delicious ciabatta and focaccia breads with ease.

“I’ve got it down, Nance,” she said. “When you come out, we’ll make some. We’ll have it in the oven in under two hours. I’ve got the garlic and tomatoes, if you’ll bring the basil. It’ll be ready for lunch. Steve thinks its the best bread he’s ever eaten.”

I couldn’t wait! Off to the country…


Maggie had the modest ingredients assembled prior to my arrival, so we could get right to it. We decided to make a basic bread—just embellished with sea salt and olive oil. But it would be very easy to fleck the surface with fresh rosemary, or green onions, or sundried tomatoes.

We tested the water–very warm, almost hot (it should range between 105-115 degrees) and dissolved the yeast with the sugar. In less than 10 minutes, it had developed a foamy scum on top of the liquid. Proofed! Activated!


“What’s great about this recipe is that it only requires one rise,” she said.

Then she added the other ingredients. This is where the dough hook is so helpful—it churns up the flour mixture into a ropy sponge. When the dough comes together and climbs up the hook (it takes about 10 minutes) it is ready to form into a ball and knead by hand until smooth.


“So much of this is by feel,” Maggie said, hands busy shaping the dough. “What I learned is this: RELAX. It’s just bread. If you mess up, just throw it away, and try another time. I think that the reason I had failed in the past was because I was too uptight in the process. That kind of thing gets communicated into the bread.”

Meanwhile, the dough had achieved the right elasticity.
With that, she pressed the dough onto a baking sheet and set the focaccia aside for its one-time one hour rise.


Post-rise, we dimpled the surface to accept the fruity oil. We sprinkled the surface with a couple of fancy sea salts, gifts from one of her friends–Hawaiian pink and Fleur de Sel.


Once in the oven, we could turn our attention to lunch. A plummy Italian heirloom from her garden awaited.

I whipped up this intense aioli, using my garden basil, and Maggie’s garden garlic. Sometimes with these emulsions, I use the whole egg. This time, I wanted a smaller, more powerful amount, and in the Provencal manner, used just the yolk.

Place a swipe of this indulgence on your focaccia, still warm like ours, and slap a ripe tomato slice on top. A spritz of salt, another aioli dollop, and dive in. You’ll experience a summer treat that, as Maggie is wont to say, “is moanin’ good.”


5 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 2/3 cups Warm Water
1 packet (approx 2 t.) Rapid Rise Yeast
1 t. Sugar
2 1/1 t. Salt
Olive Oil – 1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp for coating plus more for coating bottom of pan
Sea Salt/Kosher Salt – to taste

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together Warm Water, Yeast and Sugar. Cover and keep for 5-10 mins until foamy.

Add Salt, Olive Oil and 4 1/2 cups of All Purpose Flour (more can be added as needed).

Mix with the dough hook until dough starts to come together. Let the dough mix for another couple of minutes, adding more flour as needed. Once you have a fairly smooth ball of dough, turn out onto a floured board. With floured hands, knead dough for 1 minute or until a smooth ball forms.

Generously drizzle Olive Oil to coat the bottom of a 15×10 inch baking pan. Place dough ball in pan and press into the bottom into an even rectangle shape. Cover with kitchen towel and keep in a warm place for 1 to 1 1/2 hours to rise.

Preheat Oven to 425

With your finger, gently make indentations one inch apart all over the dough. Brush the remaining Olive Oil on the top of the risen dough. Sprinkle with salt. Bake Focaccia for 20 – 25 minutes (Keep an eye on it towards the end – all ovens are different).


1 clove Garlic
1 Yolk from a farm-fresh egg
Juice from 1 Lemon
3 T. Basil Leaves, coarsely chopped
Sea Salt
pinch of cracked Black Pepper
8 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
food processor fitted with a swivel blade

Process the garlic and egg yolk together for a couple of minutes. Add lemon juice and process another minute. Then
add the basil—pulse until it is coated with the mixture. Season with salt and pepper, and add the olive oil, while processing, just drops at a time. Scrape the sides of the food processor from time to time. Continue adding olive oil. The mixture will become very thick and creamy–like garlicky basil melting in your mouth. Cover and refrigerate.

This makes a small amount–use within one day (so good, it’s easily done.)


Posted in Breads, Recipes, Sauces

22 Responses to “Maggie’s Easy Focaccia, garden tomatoes, basil aioli”
  1. Joyti Says:

    I just got a stand mixer myself, and can’t wait to start making my own bread too. Maggie’s easy focaccia looks delicious. And the basil aioli – yum (I usually make aioli with meyer lemon + saffron or chives + garlic, its about time to try a new variety). Everything looks great, and perfectly summery.

  2. Michele | Cooking At Home Says:

    There’s nothing quite like the feeling of accomplishment you feel when you master a yeast dough. Congrats to Maggie. I just love the dimpling of the focaccia and the aioli.

  3. Kitchen Belleicious Says:

    You had me with the focaccia. I am in love with that bread but never made it and you can bet a million I am making it now after seeing your post! Then you come and whip out the aioli that looks so incredibly finger-licking good I can’t get it out of my mind! Awesome

  4., Teresa Blackburn Says:

    This is “Summer Personified”! Simple, Fresh, Hand-made and eaten immediately. Getting over “Fear of Yeast” is a very empowering moment for us cooks and I congratulate Maggie for this cooking power she now has. I have had yeast breads not rise in my early days of yeast baking, but cooked the bread anyhow..the lovely yeast taste still there after baking, just more of a flatbread. Great post.

  5. Faith Says:

    This looks like the perfect summer lunch. That basil aioli sounds fantastic and I bet it would be good on so many things! (I’m envisioning a pasta salad tossed with that instead of mayo. ;) )

  6. Faith Says:

    I’m not sure if my last comment went through — sorry if this is a dup!

    This looks like the perfect summer lunch! That basil aioli sounds fantastic and I think it would be perfect on so many things (I’m envisioning it in pasta salad instead of mayo — yum!).

  7. Tracy Says:

    Those slices of tomato went to a very happy place atop that bread and under that aioli.

  8. Three-Cookies Says:

    I love a good focaccia and good aioli – never tried the basil version though. Looks awesome and I am sure it tastes just as good, or even better!

  9. Cathey Says:

    A toast to you and your new dough hook! I can’t wait to make the focaccia and aioli. I might just add a little balsamic on top….why not go all the way!

  10. goodfoodmatters Says:

    a splash of balsamic would be splendid—why not go all out with our wonderful tomatoes!

  11. Barefeet In The Kitchen Says:

    I adore a fresh foccacia bread. Yours is gorgeous!

  12. Barbara Says:

    Good for Maggie! This looks fabulous. Your aioli tops it off perfectly.

  13. kankana Says:

    I am still making my way to make a nice good bead with yeast. This looks fantastic and with that sauce .. perfect!

  14. Denise | Chez Danisse Says:

    You two are dangerous together. This looks so wonderful. And I love “RELAX. It’s just bread.”

  15. Michelle in DC Says:

    OMG, I’m making my husband (he’s good with yeast, I always screw it up) make the bread this weekend. I’ll do the aioli. Now I can’t wait to get yummy tomatoes at the farmer’s market tomorrow!

  16. 2 sisters recipes Says:

    Hi Looks delicious and great summer dish! Love it! :)

  17. Karen Says:

    Maggie should seriously consider opening up a Focacceria in Florence! Her focaccia looks incredible and I can only imagine how wonderful it tasted with your flavorful aioli and those beautiful tomatoes. Great, great post Nancy!

  18. Linda Says:

    My recent college graduate son and I had a foccacia ‘bake-off’ on Saturday. We tried a recipe from a “TV chef” and then tried yours. Yours was an overwhelming hit! I added caramelized onion to the top and we loved it. There was plenty to share with some neighbors. I am making it again today after I get back from the farmstand with the ingredients to make the tomato/corn/scallop dish. You are keeping my kitchen busy this summer. Thanks and Cheers to all!

  19. goodfoodmatters Says:

    That’s terrific, Linda–I love caramelized onion on focaccia. So glad that you’ve had such success. I hope that you’ll enjoy that scallop dish too–

  20. Maggie Says:

    So glad that your readers enjoy the bread & aioli!!! It was seriously good, and easy! I have a new, multi-grain twist on the focaccia that is wonderful, too. Nance, you’ll have to trek out for that sometime soon – before the best tomatoes are gone!

  21. rach Says:

    Good work nancy and Maggie. My mum did a bread making course recently and said that was some the best advice – to practice, experiment, persist and really feeling the dough. I keep promising myself I will take up bread making again and overcome my anxiety (’did I kill it’ made me smile with recognition ).

    You have made one of my favorite lunches, warm foccaccia (or pizza bianca here in Rome – its very similar) with slices of tomato and homemade garlic mayonnaise.

    I have missed you all. I have called by from time to time but have found it hard to be part of this world. It’s good to be back. Despite the pretty suffocating temperatures here , I am considering roasting some aubergines and tomatoes having just read your latest post – that is what I call an inspiration from Nancy.


  22. Good Food Matters » Blog Archive » Maggie’s Fruit-n-Granola Bread Says:

    [...] at it again. Friend Maggie has become quite the baker, and during our visit last week, she showed me how to make her latest favorite: a [...]

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