Focaccia is a delicious Italian bread that, when done right, is amazing. But unfortunately it’s rarely done right. Focaccia should be thick, with big holes in it. It should be chewy and salty, not mealy. I’ve made thousands of pounds of focaccia as a bread baker in Napa Valley and for Todd English and beyond, and this focaccia will be the best you ever tasted, promise. —Duff

Makes one 11 x 17-inch pan

DOUGH

  • 2 (¼-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more as needed
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • Fine cornmeal for dusting

TOPPINGS

  • ½ cup chopped fresh basil
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup sliced red onion
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  1. To make the dough: In a big bowl, mix the yeast, sugar, and 2 cups warm water and let it sit until it bubbles, about 7 minutes. Add the oil, flours, and salt and mix until sticky and wet. This is a wet dough.
  2. Turn out the dough onto a floured surface (get all the dough out or you’ll have to wash the bowl) and knead by hand for 10 minutes, until smooth and soft but still wet and sticky. Oil the bowl well and place the dough back in the bowl. Cover tightly and let it rise for about 1 hour in a warm spot, like on top of the fridge, or until doubled in size.
  3. Pour a light coating of olive oil onto a half sheet pan or 11 x 17-inch cake pan—you want about  inch of oil on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle on the cornmeal, as much or as little as you want.
  4. Punch the dough down and turn it out into your pan. Push the dough around so it’s roughly even across the whole pan. Oil the top and let the dough rise for another 30 minutes, or until doubled in size (or the size of my big grape head).
  5. To make the toppings: In a blender, puree the basil with the olive oil.
  6. Preheat the oven to 425˚F.
  7. Don’t punch the dough down, but make a claw with your fingers and poke deep holes all over the dough, going all the way to the bottom. Arrange the onion slices on top, pour on the basil oil, and let the oil settle into the finger holes. Sprinkle the Parmesan and salt all over the dough.
  8. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the bread has a good, dark color to it (it could be up to 45 minutes, depending on the thickness and the mood of the bread). Focaccia should be pretty dark, not blond like you see at chain restaurants. Pull the bread out and let it cool. The oil on the bottom of the pan will have boiled and basically deep-fried the bottom, so it should be well browned and crispy when you take it out of the pan. Let cool completely and enjoy at room temp or warmed up in the oven.

Options: You can top the focaccia with anything you like—olives, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, scallions, bacon bits, whatever. Focaccia is the granddaddy of pizza, remember that. Also, remember that different veggies cook for different times, so don’t put garlic on at the beginning—let the bread bake most of the way through and then add it. Garlic is delicious, but burn it and it becomes disgusting. Same thing with anchovies.