Susie Csorsz Brown
Best lunch box bread ever: Susie's Focaccia
I have to tell you: I actually like packing lunches for my kids. I know, call me crazy. But I love putting in the effort to assemble a healthy lunch and snack for my kids, knowing that they will open it, and enjoy what I put in there, all the while feeling like I am thinking of them. (Okay, they won't always think that, and very often something I think will be a big hit is, instead, a flop, or they come home with only complaints, but usually it is a much more positive experience.) That said, most days, I am scrambling to get their lunch together. There is never enough time for everything I want to accomplish before they walk in the door. (In case you're wondering, I pack lunches the day before. Those of you together enough to do it in the mornings, hats off to you.)
And now, I should tell you: I’ve been holding out on you. I have what can only be described as the world’s easiest yet tastiest bread recipe that works perfect for sandwiches, for breakfast toast, or to grab and eat on the run. Guys, this bread is that good. AND it’s so easy. I know people tell you that all that time, yeast breads are easy, blah blah blah. But this one literally will take you 5 minutes to mix (I timed it: took me 4 m 39 secs, actually), and then you’re done for at least 8 hours until baking time. The dough just sits there, letting the yeast do its magic. Then you (quite literally) dump it on a pan, let it warm back up, and then bake it. So easy. My kids are loving this as much with hummus as they are with PB&J.
(a riff on Saltie’s Focaccia, if you’ve seen that recipe floating around)
Makes 1 sheet pan of bread
6 ¼ cups flour (I add more fiber by using 3 ¼ wheat and 3 white flour)
2 tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3 ½ cups warm water
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and drizzling
Coarse sea salt
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the warm water to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until all the flour is incorporated and a sticky dough forms. Pour ¼ cup olive oil into a very large bowl. Transfer the focaccia dough to the container, scoop a little oil from the sides over the top, and cover tightly. (If you're using a bowl, wrap tightly and thoroughly in plastic wrap, making sure there's plenty of room in the bowl for the dough to rise. And to be honest, I pour in a bit to the bottom and then pour a bit more on top, to avoid having to ‘scoop’ anything.) Place in the refrigerator to rise for at least 8 hours or for up to 2 days.
When you're ready to bake, oil an 18 x 13-inch baking sheet. Remove the focaccia dough from the refrigerator and pour onto the prepared pan. Using your hands, spread the dough out on the prepared pan as much as possible. Place the dough in a warm place and let it rise until it doubles (roughly). The rising time will vary considerably depending on the temp of the room. Warmer, and it may be 20 minutes; cooler, and it may be up to 2 hours. When the dough is ready, it should be room temperature, spread out on the sheet, and fluffy feeling.
Roughly 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 450° F. Sprinkle the entire surface of the focaccia evenly with sea salt.
Bake, rotating once, until the top is uniformly golden brown, 25-35 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool, then slide out of the pan. Use the same day or slice crosswise, cut into squares, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. Note: I like to cut mine into kid-sandwich pieces, dump them into a freezer bag and pop them into the freezer. Then, when you're packing lunches, just get out however many squares you need about 30 minutes before lunch packing, and they'll be thawed and ready to go. Even better if you drop them in the toaster for a few minutes to recrisp them. Also, this recipe doubles nicely. You don't need to double the amount of yeast; maybe just up the amount a smidge and it'll rise beautifully.