Focaccia

By • June 27, 2011 • 63 Comments

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Author Notes: A note on the photos and references to them. For some reason, their order changes every time I add a new one. That they were never stored in sequential order in the first place only makes things more exciting. I have an email in to food52's resident geniuses, and until I hear back, I apologize for inaccuracies on photo references.


In the early part of the 10 or so years I've been making this bread, I adjusted this and that here and there, determined to get it to the point of being foolproof. I finally did; this dough simply "works". Nothing tricky about it. Not that there aren't a couple of important tricks to remember.

If you're about to feel daunted by the three days required to make it, calm down and please read on. The actual time you spend actively doing much to it is pretty minimal. The yeast and flour are going to do more work than you will. The job of the poolish is to take a minuscule amount of yeast and grow it into a population that will go into the final dough and begin growing another population. The same will occur during the final overnight proofing once the bread has been shaped. Well why not just use more yeast in the first place and be done in a day, you're thinking about now. Because the great character that true focaccia has develops over timefr with the additional bacterial activity which takes place during those long, slow proofings. The great benefit of having some patience is that in the end, you'll have a world-class slab of bread.

Focaccia is a sticky dough, and you'll need to make peace with that. It's sticky because it has a much higher level of hydration than conventional one-day doughs. Those tiny amounts of yeast require more water with which to reproduce. As well, the greater amount of water encourages the additional bacterial activity which contribute to the bread's wonderful character and flavor.

The water is also partially responsible for the near magical open, irregular crumb. When the dough hits the high heat of the oven (425 degrees), it turns to steam. It is retained inside the dough as it expands, being a gas, by the strong gluten you are going to develop as you knead the dough.

You might want to make the focaccia as is at first before you start adding ingredients to the dough. Kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, toasted nuts, etc. are all wonderful, but they do change the texture of the dough, so best perhaps to get comfortable to begin with. Toppings? By all means. Fresh herbs, sliced tomatoes, sliced onions, cheeses, nuts, and so on, are wonderful. Be sure to wait until the last to minutes or so of the bake time to add them, then quickly return the bread to the oven. As I mentioned, it's baked at 425 degrees, and toppings added at the begin tend to incinerate, for lack of a better term, by the time the bread is done. And that would be so sad.

boulangere

Serves 1 half sheet pan, 12"x18"

  • FOR THE POOLISH
  • 2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 16 ounces tepid water (80 degrees)
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast OR 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
  • FOR THE DOUGH
  • All the poolish
  • 2 cups unbleached bread flour
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sea or kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast OR 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
  • 2 ounces tepid water
  • 2 ounces olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 ounces very good olive oil
  • Sea or kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
  1. Make the poolish. Measure flour into a large mixing bowl. If using instant yeast, stir it in. If active dry, stir it into the water, then add the mixture to the flour. Stir it all together. It will look lumpy and shaggy and wet. That's perfect. Cover with plastic and let sit at room temperature overnight. By the next day, it will have changed dramatically. It will appear actively bubbly, will have a lovely glutinous texture, and will smell fantastic (photo 1).
  2. Make your dough. Try to do so early in the day so it has abundant time to rise. It doesn't like to be rushed. Pour all of the poolish into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add both flours and salt. Add instant yeast if using, otherwise dissolve the active dry yeast in the 2 oz. of tepid water and add. Pour in the olive oil and honey. Mix with the dough hook on lowest speed until dough comes together and all dry ingredients have been hydrated. Dough should leave the sides of the bowl, but if some sticks to the bottom, leave it alone. It's called a "foot" and every good batch of focaccia has one. It tells you that your dough is adequately hydrated. Try hard to resist the urge to add flour until it goes away.
  3. Turn off the mixer and cover the top of the bowl with plastic. Set a timer for 20 minutes and walk away. You're giving your bread a rest period called an "autolyse". It allows the gluten strands in the flour to absorb water without at the same time undergoing the stress of being kneaded. It's almost miraculous how, after the rest period, when you turn the mixer back on you'll find a completely different dough.
  4. After the rest period, remove the plastic and keep it nearby. Turn the mixer back on to low speed. You should see your dough practically stand right up and square its shoulders and it comes together in its silken glory (photo 3). Knead for 2 or 3 minutes, then stop the mixer and test for a windowpane. Pull off about a walnut-sized piece of dough and quickly round it up between your palms. Next, carefully stretch it out over your fingertips. You're trying to get it as thin as possible (think sheer) without it tearing. If successful, you've just windowpaned your dough. The windowpane tells you that your gluten is developed to the point that not only will it hold up your bread, but it will also stretch to accommodate expanding pockets of steam, also without tearing and allowing the steam to simply escape into the oven, leaving a flat, dense bread behind. If at this point you can't quite get a good windowpane, toss the knob of dough back into the bowl and turn the mixer back on. Knead for a couple of more minutes, then repeat the windowpane test. When it's there, remove bowl from mixer. Turn dough out onto your board and either pan spray the inside or wipe a bit of oil around with a paper towel. Return dough to bowl, then turn it over so that the oiled surface is on top. Cover with your sheet of plastic and allow to proof at room temp until doubled in size. This can take 2 or 3 hours, sometimes more.
  5. When your dough has fully doubled - photo 4 - (press the surface gently with a finger, then let go; if finished proofing, the dough will retain the impression of your fingertip; if it still feels springy, it needs to proof longer), prepare your baking sheet. Oil it generously with your favorite cooking oil (I save the good stuff for the top). Spread the oil all over, especially into the corners, with your hand. Turn your dough right onto the oiled baking sheet (photo 7). Press both your palms into the oil. Working from the center, begin pressing your dough to fill the pan (photo 5, my assistant the lovely Amanda). Have faith; it will. Always work from the center towards the edges. DON'T stretch it or tear it! After a few presses, you'll feel it "stop". Suddenly it won't press without shrinking back. The gluten has gotten tired of being pushed around and is fighting back. Stop. Back away from the dough. Let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes, then go back to it, always gently. Repeat as needed until dough has stretched to fill the pan. If necessary, pour a bit of olive oil into the palms of your hands. Rub them gently over the surface of the dough. At the point, you're just trying to prevent your piece of plastic from sticking to it (photo 6). Cover your dough and refrigerate it overnight.
  6. The next day, a good 2 hours or so before you plan/need to bake your bread, remove the dough from the refrigerator. It needs to come to room temperature and finish proofing. Once again, it's done proofing when it retains the indentation of your finger. When it's approaching that point, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
  7. Just before putting bread in oven, make both your hands into claw shapes. If you have long fingernails, you'll probably want to glove up for this step. Gently press your fingertips all over the surface of your dough, creating dimples which will trap your lovely olive oil (photo 6, lovely Amanda again). Pour the oil into the center of the dough (photo 8). Use you hands to spread it all over the surface; feel free to add a little more if you think you need to. Scatter sea or kosher salt over the surface, followed by several grinds of black pepper (photo 9). Place bread in oven and bake for 25 minutes, rotating at the halfway point.
  8. Focaccia is done when fully golden brown and glistening. Remove from oven and cool on a rack. When cool enough to handle, the easiest way to remove the focaccia from the pan is to slide a hand gently under one long edge and be sure it's loose all over, then slide it off onto the rack (photo 2).
  9. How to eat it? Slice it thinly and grill it (photo 12). Cut it in squares, split them through the middle and use it for sandwiches. Or, hold onto your hats, a hamburger. Once you taste a burger on focaccia, there is no going back.
Jump to Comments (63)

Tags: focaccia

Comments (63) Questions (0)

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Henrykiss

4 months ago arielleclementine

Thank you thank you for this extraordinary recipe! We ate our finished product today and it was completely perfect and your instructions were flawless! What a thrill!

Mrs._larkin_370

over 3 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Ahhh, jackpot! Will be trying this soon!! Thanks, boulangere!

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Have fun with it!

Gator_cake

over 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I baked this today, and the results are fabulous! Boulangere's instructions are wonderfully clear and precise. I highly recommend giving this bread a try!!!

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

YOUR results are fabulous! Happy 4th!

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Where are the pictures? so glad yours turned out also. Its the best recipe ever!

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I saw the picture, fantastico!!! Molto bella! BTW, Boulangere, the Italian was so happy, he was shouting and showing everyone the foccacia. His father was here visiting from Milano and they both loved it. Michele was so happy he kissed the bread!!! People were throwing their buns away and putting the burgers on the foccacia. It was a real hit. Michele said this is focaccia the way its supposed to be, like he remembers from Italy. That is a real compliment. Thanks Boulangere for a great recipe and all the help along the way.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

To see someone - an Italian! - kissing focaccia, well, there is no higher compliment! KUDOS to you! You are clearly an artist. And please kiss your Italian for us all!

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

It was pretty funny, he really thought it was great. You know Italians have a love affair with food he looks like Mario Batali and is a wonderful chef, He made this amazing grilled pizza, to die for. His little old father just sat in a chair, only spoke a few words of english and ate the bread with a smile on his face. It was so cute. I can't wait to make it again.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Now that's a memory for us all. Thank you so much for sharing it.

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Thank you so much you are so kind!

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I am posting pics now, baked it early couldnt wait, took it out early this morning. Turned out amazing tastes so so good. Not as nice as yours but such a VAST improvement I can't wait to make it again. Posting on my deleted recipe you won't miss it.

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Does it look right to you?

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Not sure I understand how to find the photos. I'm chewing my fingernails!

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

OK, I found it. You and HLA are rock stars! Fantastic job! It gives me chills that you're so happy about bread!

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

You have no idea how good I feel, the sense of accomplishment is amazing. Yeast bread for me is a real challenge partly because I am so afraid of making mistakes. This recipe is pure gold!!

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

So glad you've built up your confidence!

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I sent you a message regarding my mistake on day two of the foccacia, long story short I spread the dough on the sheet pan that went well but didn't have computer access and made the claw and imprinted fingertips today rather than tomorrow, realiizing my mistake tried to smooth it out, spread oil, covered in plastic and its resting in my refrigerator did I totally blow it???

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Oh, not at all! It'll recover just fine overnight. The dough may absorb some of the olive oil in the meantime, but I suspect that'll only make it better. So tomorrow, proceed as you would on bake day. Take it out in time to warm up, wake up, and finish proofing. Then re-dimple and re-oil it. I can't wait to hear how it turns out!

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Oh I'm so glad every step went so well, the dough was silky smooth and I even did the windowpane thing, the first time it tore so I did like you said and turned the kitchenaid back on for a few more minutes and I got it pretty sheer without tearing. It rose nicely took 4 1/2 hours to double in bulk but I was patient and when I got the intendation that didn't spring back spread in the pan. Gave it a nice oiling before I put in the fridge thanks so much, Your instructions are impeccable.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

It'll be beautiful!

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I will post pictures on one of my deleted recipes so you can see how it looks. I can't wait to see how it turns out. I hope I didn't put too much oil on it today, will go lighter tomorrow after the proofing. I just wanted to make sure it didn't stick to the plastic wrap.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Seriously, don't worry about the oil. There isn't anything you can do about it at this point. I'm sure you're absolutely fine, and wish I could be there for the great moment when you pull your gorgeous creation of the oven. I'll definitely be looking for photos!

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I am going to bake it around 2PM tomorrow, will post pics then. I am so excited to see how it comes out. The first time making a recipe is always the hardest. The second time I make it I will know what I am doing. I think its going to be amazing. One of the people at the BBQ tomorrow is an Italian chef, he is a fantastic cook I can't wait for him to try the foccacia.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Right on! Italian bread for a native Italian. Hooray for you!

Scan0004

over 3 years ago susan g

I would love to be in one of your classes! I'm sure your teaching matches the clarity and understanding of your recipes.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

You're so sweet! Any time you're in Montana . . .

Me

over 3 years ago wssmom

i cannot wait to try this!!!!! I have EVERYTHING I need at home, too! YAY!

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Ooooh, please let us know how it turns out for you.

Img_0733

over 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

boulangere, you are incredible. What brilliant instructions, brilliantly written. It's almost like you're sitting on the cook's shoulder telling them what to do. Your instructions remind me of Maida Heatter--her books were always so great to learn to bake from because it was like she was in the kitchen with you--you do that, too. Thank you for sharing your expertise with us.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

You're too sweet!

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Suzanne, it depends on how warm it is. Being summer, you'd probably be better off if you make it late afternoon-ish and let it sit overnight. The good news is that your dough is probably going to rise in close to 2 hours rather than 3.

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

The pictures are great! Its so helpful to see how it should look at the different stages. It really rises. I can see how it will easily fit on a baking sheet. I am going to start the poolish on Saturday baking it Monday morning.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Wooo hooo!

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

drbabs is so right, your instructions are so detailed and easy to follow. Thank you!!

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Can't wait to see how yours turns out! I'll be posting baking photos today.

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Me too, looking forward to photo's of baked bread. It so helps seeing pictures of the finished product.

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

When I make the poolish can I make it in the morning and have it sit out all day and over night or is it best to make at night? Does it matter when I make it?

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I am so incompetent on a computer sometimes. I just posted your answer under drbab's post. So here it is for you own eyes. Suzanne, it depends on how warm it is. Being summer, you'd probably be better off if you make it late afternoon-ish and let it sit overnight. The good news is that your dough is probably going to rise in close to 2 hours rather than 3.

3-bizcard

over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Thank you, will make before i go to bed, Been pretty hot here so that dough will be nice and toasty sitting in my kitchen all night..

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Perfect!

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Oh the photo's are great, looks beautiful. I just love the pictorial. Its a huge help!

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Thanks, good to know. I think I tend to overdo.

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

No you don't over do for those of us who don't have the experience that you do and I am speaking of myself the pictues and explicit instructions are so helpful, Most recipes don't give enough instruction or post step by step pictures its so helpful and I refer to the pics as I cook so that I know what I am doing is right. You can never over do it as far as I am concerned

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Sometimes OCD is a good thing.

Massimo's_deck_reflection_10_27_13

over 3 years ago lapadia

Thank you, boulangere, for this beautiful instructed recipe...Love it!

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I hope you'll give it a whirl.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Hey, you're the one making it.

Gator_cake

over 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

This sounds amazing! Definitely on my to do list.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Lots of people think it's difficult to make, but really it isn't. Have some fun with it!

Gator_cake

over 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

I'm going to start a poolish today! Thanks for such a wonderfully constructed recipe.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Oh, please let us know how it turns out. I hope you enjoy the process.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Photos are up.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Oh yeah, just work backwards from the date you need to use it. What do you think you've been doing wrong?

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Many things, didn't use the bread flour, used to much yeast, didn't let it rise long enough only two rises and not that long each, gluten probably never developed. The list could go on and on I'm afraid. I have tried several different recipes and none were really good. It wasn't focaccia totally wrong. I had given up on making it and thats such a shame because its one of my favorites. It was more like pizza dough than focaccia which is light it was just all wrong. I will start on the July 2nd and bake on the 4th the party isn't until 4pm so I can bake it around 2pm.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Wow! You've really analyzed your prior processes. I sincerely hope this one works better for you. Happy 4th!

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I only know now what I did wrong after seeing your recipe. The recipes I have used called for AP flour, a packet of active yeast which is 2 1/4 tsp, 60 minute first rise and 60 minute second rise. I remember exactly because it was so disappointing. I will make this and let you know how it turns out I know it will be good I can tell by the length of time for proving the dough. Thats what focaccia is all about.

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

This totally different, obviously. I hope it makes you happier.

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I have 100% confindence in any recipe you post. I KNOW this one will be fantastic. Can't wait to make it

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

I'll have some more interesting photos posted tonight.

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over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Looking forward to the photo's I may just do it tomorrow, I'm short on patience and really want to make it. I'll bring something else to the picnic or could I freeze it and serve on the 4th? It would only be a couple of days in the freezer?

Dscn2212

over 3 years ago boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Photos are up. Thinking more about your description of another recipe, it's clearly predicated on the more is faster is better principle. But it really isn't better, is it? I so can't wait for you to pull your bread out of the oven and try to wait for it cool some before you slice into it and see that open, irregular crumb, and taste its chewiness.

3-bizcard

over 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

I am so thrilled to see this, no wonder my focaccia never turned out I was doing it all wrong. I can't wait to make this. If I am making for 4th of july should start on the 2nd I think. This is fantastic!!!