No matter what my family is having for dinner, I guarantee we always have some type of bread on our table. We have a good bakery close to us where we’ll pick up something from time to time, but most days we make it ourselves—in under 1 hour. And no kneading, either!
I came up with this recipe at least 10 years ago, more out of necessity than anything. I’d forgotten to pick up bread when I was at the store and needed something quick. No-knead breads were having their heyday, but they still took a fair amount of time from start to finish. I needed something quick.
Undaunted by the fact I had six people coming for dinner in about 90 minutes, I grabbed my favorite savory quick bread recipe and swapped in rapid-rise yeast for the baking powder. Among my friends, it’s common knowledge and almost expected, that dinner at my house is an experiment. Some things work, others don’t, but as Julia Child said, “In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.”
The First Attempt
My first attempt turned out well enough and everyone enjoyed it, but there was significant room for improvement. It was very soft and pillowy, which some liked, but I was hoping for something a little denser and more flavorful. I knew I wouldn’t get a deep yeasty flavor in under an hour, so I added herbs and other flavorings to compensate. In order to get a more dense texture, I knew a little elbow grease was going to be needed. Not as much as you’d need when kneading traditional breads, but just enough to develop the gluten a tad.
After numerous attempts, I ended up with something I called Weeknight Focaccia. When my mother tried it, she immediately wanted the recipe. About a week later, she served up these cute focaccia rolls based on my recipe. She added her own twists, like making them in muffin tins and adding an herb-infused olive oil to the top before they went in the oven. After 40 some years, she was still teaching me things.
How to Make Herb Focaccia Rolls
What You’ll Need
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 package (1/4 ounce) quick-rise yeast
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh thyme, divided
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary, divided
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1-1/2 cups warm water (120° to 130°)
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Step 1: Combine flour, yeast, 1 tablespoon thyme, 1 tablespoon rosemary, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Add water and 2 tablespoons oil; beat 1 minute (dough will be very sticky).
Step 2: Divide dough among 18 greased muffin cups. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.
Step 3: Preheat oven to 375°. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stir together remaining herbs, salt and olive oil just until herbs are fragrant and oil is hot, about 1-1/2 minutes. Remove from heat; cool.
Step 4: Gently spoon cooled herb mixture over each roll. Bake until golden brown, 20-25 minutes. Yield: 1-1/2 dozen.
Editor’s Note: For standard focaccia, spread dough in a greased 13×9-in. pan. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes. Top with herb mixture; bake at 375° until golden brown, 25-30 minutes.
Over the years, I’ve added fresh garlic, every kind of fresh and dried herb you could think of, and for my cheese-loving friends, I’ve folded in and sprinkled on all sorts of cheese. In fact, I haven’t found a combination that hasn’t worked well. Some of my favorites are:
Chili-Garlic: Stir 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder into the dough and add 1-2 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic and 1/2 teaspoon dried chili flakes to the oil.
Rosemary-Sea Salt: Stir 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary into the dough. Add 1/2 teaspoon chopped rosemary into the oil and sprinkle a generous amount of coarse sea salt on top of the dough just before it goes into the oven.
Parmesan-Peppercorn: Stir 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper into the dough. Sprinkle additional Parmesan and pepper on top of the dough just before baking.
Are you game to try your own flavor combo? I’d love to hear what you bake up.