The perfect bread for the perfect panini is an old-fashioned focaccia. Light in texture yet rich and moist in the middle, it creates a luxurious foil for meats, cheeses, and vegetables when toasted between the grills of a panini press. Adding dried herbs directly to the dough will help preserve their flavor through the toasting.
2 1/4 cups bread flour
1½ cups water, luke warm
1 teaspoon instant yeast
Combine the sponge ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth. Cover and set aside for 2 to 4 hours, or until the top of the sponge falls when the bowl is tapped on the counter.
1 1/4 cups water, luke warm
2 1/4 cups bread flour
2 ½ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
½ cup olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper (optional)
Combine the sponge, water, flour salt, rosemary and 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the bowl of a stand mixture and stir until all ingredients are wet. Fit the mixer with the dough hook attachment and knead the dough on medium until it begins to get smooth, 6 minutes maximum. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside to rest for 20 minutes.
Remove the dough to a well floured surface. It will be very wet and sticky. Press the dough out into a 1-foot square and fold in thirds from side to side, making sure to brush off all excess flour. Fold the dough again in thirds from top to bottom. Brush off all excess flour lace in a lightly oiled container and set aside to rest for 20 minutes. Repeat two more times. This will gently and evenly develop the gluten structure of your bread. Over this first hour, you will see it transform from a loose, lumpy mass into a smooth, striated bread dough.
After the dough has been folded 3 times total, place it in a lightly oiled container, cover and set it aside to rise. Line the bottom of a 12x17 inch baking pan with parchment paper. Oil with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place the dough in the pan and oil the surface with an additional 2 tablespoons of oil. Then, pressing with your fingertips, stretch the dough out to fill as much of the pan as possible. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside to proof.
Preheat the oven to 475°F with the rack on the second shelf from the top. Once the dough has filled out the pan and has reached the rim, dimple the surface of the dough with your fingertips. Make sure to press all the way down to the bottom of the pan. Drizzle the dough with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Sprinkle the surface with salt and pepper if desired. Place in the oven and bake until golden brown all over the top, approximately 15-20 minutes.
Once the bread comes out of the oven, let it cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Then remove it to a wire rack and cool completely. Cut into squares and serve immediately. To store, wrap in plastic and keep at room temperature. If storing for more than 2 to 3 days, wrap tightly and freeze. The bread should be defrosted at room temperature.
sandwiches, cut each square in half. Fill with ingredients of your choice,
and press in a panini grill until warm and well marked.