This bread has been on my bucket list for a while. So I decided it was time to knock it off! A bread that I have had in restaurants occasionally, I learned it can be really good or just gross.
Reading through the long recipe multiple times in my Bread Baker’s Apprentice book, I kept changing my mind about whether or not to attempt this bread. I have gained a sense of trust with this book now that I have made multiple breads from it, but the amount of oil in the recipe was a bit scary. Other recipes I looked at for focaccia did not use as much oil, but also did not seem to be as complicated in order to develop that impeccable flavor coming from long fermentations.
Still much in doubt, I pushed myself to make this 2-day bread. There were two versions to choose from, yet another decision! That was an easier one though since they both promised the same result, so I selected the poolish version.
*If you’re wondering what the reddish, brown things are on the left side of the focaccia, they’re sun-dried tomatoes :)
I did run into a few dilemmas. For instance, I realized 3/4 of the way through making it that I didn’t have the right pan. The closest pan that approached the required size pan was a baking sheet, which would have worked, except it doesn’t have sides. So, the dough expanded beyond the pan and the herb oil leaked out of the pan, on to the counter and began to drip onto the floor. Trying to create a boundary, I used more plastic wrap and towels to secure the oil/bread inside the pan while it finished fermenting. Fortunately, my mom saved the day by picking up the right-sized pan while she was at the market. :)
I also adjusted the oil by a lot in the herb oil topping and the extra oil to spread in the pan.
Despite having to let the dough rise longer and be transferred to a different pan pretty late in the game, this bread turned out beautifully and was delicious!! Even people who didn’t care for focaccia bread loved it! It lent an airy, light, chewy crumb and an amazing flavor complimented by the herb oil on top!
Here is the recipe with my tweaks if you would like to give it a try!
Yield: one 17 by 12 inch focaccia
Day 1: Poolish- makes about 23 oz
2 1/2 cups (11.25 oz) unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 cups (12 oz) water, at room temperature
1/4 tsp instant yeast
1. Stir together flour, water and yeast in a mixing bowl until combined. The dough should be soft and sticky and look like thick pancake batter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours, or until mixture becomes bubbly and foamy. Immediately refrigerate it. It will keep up to 3 days in fridge.
Day 2: Focaccia
3 cups (20 oz) poolish- a little less than above recipe makes
2 2/3 cups (12 oz) bread flour
2 tsp (.5 oz) salt
1 1/2 tsp instant yeast
6 TBP olive oil
3/4 cup water, lukewarm (90 to 100 degrees F)
1. Remove poolish from fridge 1 hour before making dough to take off chill.
2. Stir together flour, salt, and yeast in a 4-quart mixing bowl (or in bowl of electric mixer). Add oil, poolish, and water, and mix until ingredients form a wet, sticky ball (or mix on low speed with paddle attachment). I used an electric mixer so I will post instructions for this method instead of hand method. Switch to dough hook and mix on medium speed for 5-7 minutes or as long as it takes to create a smooth, sticky dough. It should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom. You may use additional flour to firm it up to achieve a soft, pliable consistency. The dough should still be sticky but not unmanageable.
3. Sprinkle enough flour on counter to make a bed about 6 inches square. Transfer sticky dough to flour bed and dust liberally with flour, patting dough into a rectangle. Wait 5 minutes for dough to relax.
4. Coat hands with flour and stretch dough from each end to twice its size and fold it letter style, over itself to return it to a rectangular shape. Mist top of dough with spray oil, dust with flour and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 30 minutes.
5. Repeat this stretch, fold, mist, dust and cover process. Let rest 30 more minutes.
6. Repeat one last time. Then allow dough to rest (ferment) on counter for 1 hour. It should swell but not necessarily double in size.
During this time, you can make the herb oil. Heat 1/2 cup olive oil to about 100 degrees F. Take off heat and add 1/4 cup fresh herbs (can include any combination you would like); I used lemon basil and rosemary. You could also add half the amount of dried herbs or a combination. Then add 1/3 tsp kosher salt, 1/6 tsp ground pepper, and 1 clove of pressed garlic.
7. Line a 17 by 12 inch sheet pan (with edges) with parchment paper. Drizzle on about 2 TBP olive oil (not herb oil) and spread it with hands to cover surface. Transfer dough to pan. Spoon a little less than 1/2 the herb oil over dough. (Leftover herb oil can be stored in the fridge for other uses; great to dip bread in.) Then use fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it to fill pan simultaneously. Try to keep thickness as uniform as possible. You can pull the ends to stretch a bit, but don’t worry about it too much because it will expand to edges of pan as it rises in the next step.
8. Loosely cover pan with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours or until dough fills the pan.
9. After the dough has filled the pan, put on any pre-bake toppings such as sun-dried tomatoes (which I used on half of my bread). You can also use high moisture cheeses (fresh mozzarella, blue cheese, or feta cheese), course salt, or sugar. Let dough relax for 15-30 minutes to build gas in dough back up.
10. Preheat oven to 500 degrees with rack on middle shelf. Place pan in oven and lower temp to 450 degrees. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate and continue baking for 5-10 minutes more or until dough turns a light golden brown. The internal temp should be about 200 degrees.
11. Remove pan from oven and transfer bread out of pan to cooling rack. Remove parchment paper. Allow to cool at least 20 minutes before slicing or serving.
Adapted from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice