I wish I had known twenty years ago that we could have home-made focaccia as often as we wanted and with just fifteen minutes of effort.
Start by making a basic no-knead bread dough: this step takes less than ten minutes.
In a large bowl, mix three cups of all-purpose flour, a teaspoon and a half of salt and the same amount of yeast, and a cup and a half of body-temperature water. (Depending on how tightly packed your flour is, you might be able to get away with a little bit less water, but a tablespoon one way or the other isn’t going to ruin anything.)
Mix until combined, using a large spoon (or your hands) to turn the dough over until there are no bits of dry flour left, and then cover the bowl (leaving a tiny gap for air to escape) and leave it on the counter for several hours while it more than doubles in size. (This will happen faster in a warm room than a cold one.)
The second step is to transfer the dough to the pan: this takes less than five minutes.
Around two hours or an hour and a half before serving, get out a baking dish with sides, like a 9×12 ceramic casserole dish or a pyrex baker or whatever you make brownies in. (You could use a pie plate or 8×8 square pan, but if so you’d probably want to reduce the amount of dough to 2c flour/1tsp salt/1tsp yeast/1c water.)
Smear the bottom of the dish with butter to keep the bread from sticking, then pour in a few tablespoons of olive oil and turn your dough out of the bowl. (You can use a butter knife to help free the sticky dough from the sides of the bowl.)
Use your hands to stretch out the ball of dough to the shape of the baking dish, flipping it over several times as you do so, so it’s all covered with olive oil. It should end up being basically flat and pretty much filling the entire dish, but it doesn’t have to be perfect. Leave it on the counter for an hour or so to rise a second time.
The third step is to season it and put it in the oven: this also takes less than five minutes.
Around an hour before serving, preheat your oven to 425-450°.
Around forty-five minutes before serving, use your fingers to poke lots of dimples all over the dough, pressing deeply into the dough each time. Drizzle a few more teaspoons of olive oil over the top and sprinkle it with several pinches of coarse salt (or regular salt) and dried herbs (like basil or oregano).
Place it in the oven and bake for about thirty minutes. The exact amount of time will vary anywhere from 25 to 35 minutes, depending on your oven, the baking dish, and how tall the dough has risen, so start checking after around 25 minutes and let it keep baking until the crust is nicely browned. (Maybe turn the dish half-way through so it browns evenly.)
When it comes out of the oven, run a small metal spatula or butter knife around the edge of the loaf and then gently pry it up from the bottom of the baking dish. If you put enough butter down before baking, the whole thing should pop out pretty easily. Set it on a cutting board and allow it to cool a few minutes before cutting it up.
Eat the whole thing on the spot, or wrap the leftovers in something to keep them from drying out and use them to make sandwiches the next day.
There’s lots of room for refinement — you could weigh your ingredients to get the ratios just right, or refrigerate your dough overnight after the first rise to let the flavor develop, or a hundred other things — but this technique seems very forgiving of minor variations, so the first step is to just jump in and do it a couple of times so it feels familiar, then you can fiddle with the details.