Focaccia is the signature bread of Liguria and is enjoyed as a starter, an accompaniment to a meal or as a snack. Focaccia can be simply flavoured with extra-virgin olive oil or topped with onions, tomatoes, herbs, potatoes or olives. The trick to making a soft, fluffy focaccia like those served in bakeries across Liguria and cut to order with scissors, is brushing water on the dough and maintaining steam in the oven. This recipe uses biga to give the focaccia a greater depth of flavour. This requires some advance preparation. If you are reading the recipe the day you want to make the focaccia then see the notes below. —woo wei-duan
The night before you want to make focaccia, make the biga and place in a sealed container in the refrigerator.
In a measuring cup, mix warm water (ideally 37˚C) with the yeast and let it sit for 10 minutes.
Mix both of the flours with salt. Add the biga, warm water with yeast, 30 mls of olive oil, and 210 mls of cold water.
Knead by hand or in a standing mixer with the dough hook attachment for 12 minutes on low speed.
If you are using a standing mixer then mix until the dough no longer sticks to the bowl while the machine is on.
The dough is ready when you can spread it between your fingers to form a thin “window” and it does not break.
Using a dough scraper (the dough will be very soft and sticky) to fold one side of the dough over the other, turn the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Keep repeating until all four sides have been folded over.
Pour over 30 mls of olive oil over the dough and flip the dough over in the bowl.
Cover the top with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave the dough to double in size in a warm place for 1 hour. You want a slow rise so make sure the dough is not left in a hot location.
When it has doubled in size, punch it down.
Using the dough scraper again, fold in all four sides again.
Flip the dough over again. Let it rise again for 1 hour.
The dough is ready when it has doubled in size.
Place paper in a 65 cm x 45 cm sheet pan or two 45 cm x 32.5 cm sheet pans.
Press the dough into the paper-lined sheet pan with your fingers.
Brush generously with remaining 20 mls of cold water.
Invert another pan on top and cover with a damp tea towel. Let double in size.
Place a cake tin full of water in the bottom of the oven. In the middle of the oven place either a baking stone or an unside down sheet pan. Heat the oven to 180 C.
Use your fingers to press dimples into the focaccia dough, brush generously with 60 ml of olive oil.
Sprinkle coarse sea salt.
Sprinkle the rosemary over the top. Place on top of the upside down pan or baking stone in the oven. Spray the oven with water. Cook 5 min. Spray the oven again with water and bake for another 35 min.
Remove the focaccia from the oven and immediately remove from pan and paper and place on a wire rack to cool. Brush again with remaining 80 mls of olive oil. Let cool before cutting with a serrated knife or scissors.
Notes: To make the focaccia the same day without the use of the biga, add 2 grams more of fresh yeast (or 1 gram more of dry yeast) to step 2. Then add an extra 65 mls of cold water and 135 gms 00 flour in step 3. The total preparation time including waiting for the dough to rise will take 5 hours.