Category Archives: Focaccia

How to Make Focaccia

Fluffy, salty and redolent of aromatic olive oil and fresh rosemary, these little hunks of bread are great as casual appetizers, simple snacks, or as substitutes for dinner rolls (man, I should be writing ad copy). Begin by combining your ingredients in the bowl of a mixer.

Add about 5-6 ounces of the water, and mix on low for a minute, then medium, adding as much water as is necessary to get to the right consistency — which is this, sort of like melted fresh mozzarella…smooth, tacky and elastic:

Scoop it out into a bowl or a dough rising container and let it rise…

…until it’s twice its original volume. It’ll take about 4 hours.

Apply a liberal amount of olive oil to a half-size sheet pan…

…and spread it all around (don’t forget the lip of the pan).

Turn out your dough and let it rest for 10 minutes, then begin to gently stretch it out over the surface of the pan.

It will want to snap back, but just let it rest a few minutes after the initial stretch and try again. Repeat the stretching and resting until it’s almost spread out over the whole pan. About like so:

Allow it to proof another hour, until it’s puffy and has expanded to cover almost all of the pan (for the most developed flavor put the pan inside a clean trash bag and chill overnight in the fridge…then proof for about two hours). When ready to bake, make deep depressions in the dough with your fingers (i.e. push through to the pan) and pop any large bubbles.

Add a sprinkling of your favorite fancy salt (like fleur de sel) and herbs of your choice. Rosemary is the classic.

Drizzle on some more olive oil…

…and bake at 550 for five minutes. Rotate the pan in the oven, drop the heat to 425 and continue baking for another 25 minutes or so, until it looks like this:

Cool on a wire rack, slice and eat!

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Focaccia Recipe

There are several possible ways to go with focaccia, depending on the texture you like. Here’s my base recipe, and I’ll do my best to show you how to vary it.

16 ounces bread or high-gluten flour (substitute durum flour for up to half of it)
16 ounces poolish or starter preferment (directions for both to the right, you’ll need to double the poolish recipe and/or grow the starter as needed)
1/4 teaspoon instant yeast
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 ounces olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
9 ounces lukewarm water
toppings of your choice

Combine all the ingredients with 5-6 ounces of the water in the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook (not the toppings though, obviously). Mix on low for one minute to moisten all your ingredients, then turn the machine up to medium and knead for a full 15 minutes. You want your finished dough to be smooth and silky but still quite wet, so as the mixer is running add more water if it seems too stiff. It should clear the sides of the mixer bowl, but still stick to the bottom…all in all a consistency not unlike melted mozzarella cheese.

Apply cooking spray or olive oil to a bowl or dough rising container and cover with plastic wrap or a lid. Let rise until doubled, about four hours. Turn the dough out onto a well-oiled 18″ x 13″ sheet pan and let it rest for 10 minutes. After the time is up, with oiled fingers, spread/stretch the dough gently outward. If it springs back too much (and it will) allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes before stretching it more. Repeat the stretching and resting one or two more times, until the dough is most of the way to the edges of the sheet pan. Let proof one more hour, or until the dough starts to get puffy again and spreads out nearly to the corners of the sheet pan (alternately, for still better flavor, put the sheet pan in a clean trash bag and let rest overnight in the fridge…remove 2 hours before baking to allow it to warm up and proof).

Preheat your oven to 500 or 550 (whatever your oven will put out). With your fingers, dimple the dough all over so as to prevent the top crust from rising off the bread in one big bubble as it bakes. Apply a drizzle of olive oil, some fancy salt, herbs, or whatever toppings you wish. Bake for five minutes. Drop the heat to 425. Open the oven door, rotate the pan, and bake about another 20-25 or until golden. Cool on a wire rack and serve.

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What else can I put on focaccia?

There’s almost no limit to what can go on focaccia, but like pizza, the sparer you are with your toppings, the better the result. Salt, herbs and oil is the classic combo, and the herbs can be whatever you like: rosemary, thyme, basil, parsley, oregano, chives, sage, tarragon, chervil…either by themselves or in combination. Roasted garlic is another tried-and-true (just make sure you roast the cloves ahead of time and push them well down into the dough). Raisins, believe it or not, are common as a focaccia topping in the old country (where both sweet and savory focaccia abound), and are often accompanied by a light dusting of cinnamon. Other sweet variations include dates, (possibly with nuts, possibly with honey instead of oil) and candied orange peels. A few black olives can be very nice, throw on a couple of anchovies and some herbs to go full-on Provence. And let’s not forget cheese. A light dusting of good parmesan is delightful, especially with some thin-sliced or roasted garlic, but then lots of cheeses work well with focaccia (mozzarella, provolone, goat cheese, feta…just make sure to add them later in the baking…about halfway through, so they don’t burn). Where vegetables are concerned you can do chopped onion, chopped or sliced tomato, roasted red pepper slices, chopped mushrooms, sliced shallots, thin-sliced zucchini or yellow squash, spinach…just don’t pile on too many, or the result will be sodden bread. Pine nuts and walnuts work wonderfully, purées of all types (tapenade, pesto, roasted garlic), even meats like shredded chicken, sausage or pepperoni.

That’s a lot of stuff — and it’s by no means an exhaustive list (write in with more if you like, friends). Just for goodness sake don’t overload your dough. Think of your toppings more like garnishes and you’ll do fine. Mangia, mangia!

THAT WAS FAST: Lauren A. suggests using flavored oils. Sounds good.

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