I make this bread. We call it Belly Button Bread. It has nothing to do with belly buttons. Although I have to admit when it is rising it looks a bit like a belly—well a middle-aged belly maybe. And the little divots we put into it before it bakes sort of look like innie belly buttons. At least that is what Darla thought when she saw the first loaf. The moniker stuck and its been Belly Button Bread ever since.
The original recipe started from a recipe I saw on the Naked Chef. (He never was nekked that I saw.) I’ve added, subtracted, messed with, and generally overhauled the recipe to be something that is easy for me. The basic recipe is what follows. But we change it up sometimes and add cheese or thinly sliced tomatoes or basil or garlic or olives. I have even made a sweet version and topped it with cinnamon sugar and butter. YUMMO.
Play around with it as much as you want. Or stick to the recipe. Just be careful who you give it to once it is baked. They will keep asking for it and you’ll feel obligated to bake more and more and before long you’ll lose your job and live to watch yeast get all foamy, and smell this amazing bread baking. Be careful!
I put the salt and bread flour in my fancy dancy mixer and give it a whirl. You can just use a big bowl. Whatever works. Then add the honey to the warm water and mix before adding in the yeast.
When the yeast water is all foamy, turn the mixer back on and slowly add it to the flour. Once it is all mixed up, I take off the paddle and put on the hook attachment. Then I add more flour until the dough forms a ball and comes away from the sides in one big lump. You can mix it in by hand in the bowl or on a floured surface until you have a smooth, slightly sticky dough. Knead for five or six minutes.
Put it in a bowl that is coated with oil, pop on the lid and wait for about an hour. This is when it kind of looks like a belly. Sort of.
Then it is divided into two pans, brushed with oil, poked, and left to rise again.
Finally it is dusted with rosemary, baked on high heat, and fills your house with a smell that will make you weak in the knees. Really it will.
2 cups warm water
2 TBS active dry yeast (about 2 pkgs)
2 TBS honey or sugar
2 cups bread flour (or all-purpose flour if you don’t have this)
2 1/2 – 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
1 TBS kosher salt
2 TBS extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling (or whatever oil you have)
1/2 TBS rosemary, roughly chopped or banged around in a mortal and pestle
Combine the warm water, yeast, and honey in a small bowl. Put the bowl in a warm, not hot or cool, place until the yeast is bubbling and aromatic, at least 5 minutes. In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the bread flour and two cups of flour, kosher salt, olive oil, and the yeast mixture on low speed. (Or do all of that in a bowl or on a floured surface using your hands.) Add in more flour until the dough has come together. Continue to knead with dough hook for 5 to 6 minutes on a medium speed until it becomes smooth and soft. Give it a sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky. Transfer the dough to a clean, lightly floured surface, then knead it by hand 1 or 2 times. Again, give it another sprinkle of flour if the dough is really sticky and tacky.Lightly coat the inside of a plastic, lidded bowl with olive oil and put the dough in the bowl. Attach the lid and put it in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size, at least 1 hour. Punch down and divide into two pieces.
Dust two baking pans with corn meal (or if using metal pans you can coat liberally with olive oil). Put the dough onto the pan and press it out to fit the size of the pan (leaving it free form makes it look more authentic). Drizzle or brush the top with olive oil. Spread your fingers out and make finger holes all the way through the dough. (Chef’s Note: Yes, this is strange. But when the dough rises again it will create the characteristic belly buttons. If you do not make the actual holes in the dough, the finished product will be very smooth.) Cover with plastic wrap.
Put the dough in the warm place until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. Ten minutes before the dough is finished rising a second time, preheat the oven to 550 degrees F (or as hot as your oven goes).
Liberally sprinkle the top of the focaccia with rosemary and lightly drizzle a little oil on top. Bake the dough until the top of the loaf is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Remove the focaccia from the oven and let it cool before cutting and serving (or dig in immediately before Jackie can get his hands on it).