When I was little, my grandmother would often send me to the backyard to pick perilla leaves. They grew on stalks nearly as tall as I was on a small plot of rich soil behind our home. I was always so proud when I came back to the kitchen with a T-shirt full of leaves as big as my face. Perilla leaves are easy to grow in your yard or even a small urban garden on your patio. Though they look like large mint leaves, they are tender and mild, with notes of sesame. I love using them for salads and in this focaccia.
- In a small bowl, mix together the yeast, sugar, and warm water. Set it aside until the mixture starts to foam, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, garlic, ¼ cup of the olive oil, and the perilla ribbons.
- Slowly pour the yeast mixture into the flour. Using a wooden spoon (or chopsticks), stir the mixture together until a dough forms. Using your hands, knead the dough for about 5 minutes. You can do this in the bowl or you can remove the dough and knead it on a floured surface.
- Wash and rinse the bowl with warm water. Mist it with a little cooking spray and return the dough to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid, and set it aside somewhere warm until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour. Re-cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid, and set it aside somewhere until it has doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
- Punch the dough down to release excess gas. Knead it for another minute or so. Add the remaining ¼ cup olive oil to a medium pan (I use a cast-iron pan, but you can also use a 9-inch baking pan).
- Place the dough into the oiled pan and use the fingers of both hands to spread and press the dough so that it stretches to the edges of the pan. Flip the dough over and repeat, creating the trademark “dimpling” of focaccia. Cover the pan with a dry kitchen towel and let it sit for another 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425°F.
- When the dough is ready to bake, sprinkle generously with sea salt and top with a few whole perilla leaves. Bake until golden brown, about 22 minutes.