My aerogarden is currently blowing up with fresh herbs. I’m constantly trimming back my Thai and Genovese basils to make room for more plants. I even have little bowls full of water and herb cuttings spread across my counter in an attempt to keep the leaves fresh until I can use them. My plan for using some of the herbs was to make a big pot of tomato sauce with the Genovese basil for pasta and a cast iron skillet pizza. However, I kind of messed up and used all of the sauce in the pasta dish, which left me with a bag full of pizza dough. Fortunately, store-bought pizza dough is versatile! It can be used in recipes like the Orange Glazed Pecan Cinnamon Rolls I made a few weeks ago or to make a loaf of savory Black Olive Focaccia Bread.
It’s not too difficult to make focaccia bread from scratch. However, using store-bough pizza dough is even easier and considerably faster. Focaccia dough and pizza dough are very similar. This is why you see focaccia used for flatbread pizzas. The primary difference between pizza dough and focaccia dough is the amount of yeast used. There is more yeast in focaccia, so it rises a bit higher and is less dense than pizza dough. The lower density makes focaccia bread a bit of an olive oil sponge.
Focaccia dough is normally brushed with a salt and olive oil mixture before baking. It can be left plain or be topped with herbs, thinly sliced onions, a light grating of cheese, or halved olives. A less is more approach is generally better for focaccia bread, so just pick one type of topping. I usually opt for plain or rosemary garnished bread. However, I’ve had a jar of oil cured black olives taking up valuable shelf space for far too long, so I decided to experiment a bit.
When I make focaccia bread from scratch, I follow the recipe in Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. Her recipe was my guide for this black olive focaccia bread. Oil cured black olives seem well suited for baking, because they are kind of dry. And by dry, I mean they aren’t packaged in a liquid brine. I feel like this helps prevent the bread from becoming soggy around the olive during baking. These olives aren’t pitted, so preparation is a little tedious. Luckily, the bread doesn’t need too many olives! This bread is best the day it’s made. If you are like Ben and I, as much as we may want to eat an entire loaf straight out of the oven, you probably won’t do that in one meal. I wrap any remaining bread in foil and reheat in the oven at 400F or higher for about 10 minutes.