Bits and Bobs
1 ¾ cups warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast
1 tbs sugar
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbs salt (plus some coarse ground sea salt to taste for finishing)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
Stir together the water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Allow to bloom for at least 15 minutes. The yeast should be foamy.
If using a stand mixer, fit with the dough hook. Combine the flour, the tablespoon of salt, ½ cup of the olive oil, and the yeast mixture on a low speed until it just comes together. Continue kneading for another 5 to 6 minutes on a medium speed until it becomes smooth and soft. If the dough still feels a little sticky, sprinkle with a little extra flour.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and continuing kneading by hand for another 30 seconds or so. Coat the inside of a bowl lightly with some oil and plop the dough in. Cover with plastic wrap and put in a warm place until the dough has doubled in size. This will take an hour. [This is where I put in the fridge overnight for its first rise}.
Coat a baking sheet that has sides with the remaining ½ cup of olive oil. Put the dough on the pan and begin to press it out to fit. Turn the dough over to coat with oil and continue to stretch. NOTE: spread your fingers out and press all the way through the dough. This gives the bread its signature dimples when it rises and then bakes.
Once it is stretched to fit the pan, put the dough in a warm place and allow to rise for another hour. Again it should double in size. [If you did the first rise in the fridge, this second rise will take a little longer as the yeast needs to “wake up”]
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Once the dough has risen and before it goes in the oven, sprinkle liberally with the coarse ground sea salt (and any herbs like chopped rosemary or thyme) and lightly drizzle with a touch more olive oil. Bake until golden brown, ~25-30 minutes. Allow to cool before wrapping or cutting and serving.