This recipe for Meyer Lemon Focaccia is a perfect balance of sweet, sour, and salty flavors. You might not think this all works together, but it does, and it does so beautifully.
Hey! Hi! Helloooooooo there! I know I’ve been MIA for a little bit, but it’s only because I’ve been working on a new project that I’m very excited to share. Okay, and I took a vacation. But that was way less interesting than what I’m about to tell you…
I’m writing a cook book! Well, sort of. I guess it would be better described as a blending book, because it’s going to be all about making smoothie bowls. Thick, frosty, gorgeously decorated smoothie bowls, just like the ones we serve at Soulberri. Cooking, blending, whatever you want to call it… it’s still the same amount of work, which is to say A LOT. I’ll be taking the next few months to work on the book AND get ready to reopen Soulberri for the summer, so I apologize in advance if you find me popping into your inbox slightly less than usual. I’ll still be posting regularly on social media with lots of updates about both the book and the shop, so you can always follow along with me over there.
Now that we’ve addressed the elephant in the room, lets move on to this focaccia. You might be thinking, “Lemon? On bread? With the rind and everything?” Well I’m here to say YES, YES, and YES! This recipe has become an absolute obsession of mine over the past few months ever since I discovered it on Food52. I made a few minor changes to the recipe to make it a bit simpler and more clear, but honestly, it’s pretty perfect as written. I tried altering the ingredients and tweaking it to be my own, but no matter what I did, nothing could compare to the amazing flavor of the original version. So that’s what I’m sharing with you today.
The focaccia dough itself is simple. It’s a no-knead recipe that relies on time and a few strategic folds to do all the heavy lifting. The folds require a bit of attention, but they are important. They activate the gluten, which provides structure to the dough and creates an amazing airy, chewy texture once baked. Time, on the other hand, produces flavor. A long, slow ferment in the refrigerator allows the yeast to slowly develop, making the subtle bread flavor taste more pronounced and complex. That said, I experimented with baking the bread the same day (instead of refrigerating over night), and it turned out just fine.
The original recipe calls for splitting the dough in half and forming it into two circles, sort of like you’re making a pizza. That is fine if you want to do it that way, but the second time I made it I just made one big slab like I normally do with focaccia, and I’ll do it way again in the future. It just makes things easier. Plus, there’s one less pan to clean up which is something I’m always striving to achieve.
Meyer lemons get thinly sliced and scattered across the top of the dimpled dough. You might be afraid that the bitter rind and pith of them lemon will be off-putting. I’m here to tell you that, well, it might be. However, it definitely might not. For me, I find the slight bitterness to be incredibly pleasing. It plays against the sour, the salt, and the sweet in the most amazing way. Chaser, on the other hand, doesn’t love it as much. He finds the bitterness off-putting, and we just couldn’t seem to agree. I find this astounding, too, since I’ve never met anyone that loves lemon as much as him (he thinks yellow starbursts are the best, you guys, like some kind of psychopath). For the record, he still ate plenty of it, so it couldn’t have been that bad.
The top gets sprinkled with a little bit of rosemary for an herbal, savory note, along with a generous dusting of flaky sea salt and coarse sugar. The flaky salt and coarse sugar are definitely important to getting that crunchy texture on top, but regular sugar and salt can always be subbed if that’s all you have on hand. I was a bit confused by the sugar the first time I made this, but after trying it, it made so much sense. It doesn’t taste sweet, it just caramelizes with the meyer lemons and balances out both their bitterness and acidity. The sugar is countered so fiercly by the generous amount of salt and obvously the lemon, making the combination of flavors insanely addicting.
Olive oil makes the crust ultra crispy and provides a fantastic counter texture to the pillowy interior. Don’t be afraid to let it char a bit in certain places. It adds to the complex flavor of this incredibly unique bread. I recommend making a double batch, considering we polished off the whole thing without blinking an eye, and that was with a husband who “didn’t really like it”. Plus, like most breads, the leftovers freeze exceptionally well.
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon active dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for greasing
- 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 large meyer lemon (or 2 smaller ones), very thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons coarse sugar such as demerara or sugar in the raw (granulated sugar may be substituted)
- 2 teaspoons flaky or coarse sea salt, such as Maldon or Sel Gris
- Add water and yeast to a medium bowl, then let sit for one minute so the yeast can bloom.
- Add 1 teaspoon kosher salt, 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and the flour. Mix with a large spoon just to blend, then cover and let rest for 5 minutes so the dough can hydrate. Mix for another minute or two until the dough comes together and feels smooth. Rub a large bowl with olive oil, then use a spatula to transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover and rest for 10 minutes.
- Lightly oil your hands, then grab one end of the dough and gently pull to stretch it out, then fold the dough in half. Repeat with the other three sides, then flip the dough over. Let rest 10 minutes, then repeat this same process 3 more times, allowing 10 minutes rest in between each time.
- After the last fold, cover the bowl and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 - 1 1/2 hours. Alternatively, you can refrigerate for up to two days.
- If refrigerating the dough, be sure to take it out about 2 hours before you want to bake. Let it come to room temperature for about an hour before proceeding to the next step.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, then rub generously with olive oil. Place the dough on the sheet pan and gently pat out into a rectangle. Cover the dough and let it relax for about 10 minutes, then use lightly oiled fingertips to press the dough out to cover the pan as best you can. If the dough is very resistant, simply cover and let rest for another 5-10 minutes, then come back and try again.
- Once the dough is stretched out, gently dimple the top with your fingertips to create little crevices. Cover and let rise for about 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the temperature of your dough and kitchen.
- In the meantime, preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. When the dough has puffed up, scatter the lemon slices and rosemary over the top, then drizzle with the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons coarse sugar and 2 teaspoons coarse salt.
- Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 450 degrees and cook for another 10 minutes or until the focaccia is golden brown. Some parts might look charred while other parts look a bit underdone - this is exactly what you want.
- Let cool for about 5 minutes, then cut into pieces and serve while still warm.
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