Focaccia bread is a flat Italian yeast bread, usually topped with generous amount of olive oil, salt & herbs. You can go crazy with the toppings like onions, tomatoes, garlic, parmesan, rosemary, olives to name a few. It has a crisp outside with a soft porous tender inside crumb. A perfect accompaniment to any meal, or even as a snack!
A dear friend on my recent visit served some slices of focaccia to go along with a simple oil and vinegar dressing to dip in. I couldn’t stop at one piece! It ended becoming the whole meal!
I’ve used cherry tomatoes, onions, mozzarella cheese and dried rosemary as my toppings apart from the generous olive oil and coarse sea salt.
Using the Poolish / Preferment in baking this Focaccia Bread
We basically start with a poolish, which basically means preferment. It’s a fairly wet mixture of equal parts (by weight) of flour & water and left to ferment naturally for 8-10 hours. As a result, you develop the natural sweetness of the flour and also get extensibility and chewiness. This also reduces the amount of yeast needed later.
Of course, you can make the bread without poolish, but when you get an amazing texture and deeper flavour in the bread with literally few minutes of work and some patience, why wouldn’t you!
This recipe is adapted from Zingerman’s, a famous US bakery. They add a little yeast in the preferment itself to kick-start the process. Also, the dough is proofed twice before final shaping, which definitely adds to the open airy pores inside the final bread.
I baked this bread in a 9″x13″ cookie sheet. You can halve the recipe for smaller pans or make 2 smaller focaccias.
- 225 g All-Purpose Flour
- 225 g Water room temperature
- 1/4 tsp Instant Yeast
- 450 g Poolish
- 113 g Water room temperature
- ½ tsp Instant Yeast
- 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 340 g All-Purpose Flour
- 1-½ tsp fine Sea Salt
- 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tsp Coarse Sea Salt
- 2 tbsp Fresh Rosemary coarsely chopped
- 1/2 cup grated Mozzarella Cheese
In a mixing bowl, combine flour, instant yeast and water.
Stir them with a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon until combined. Beat them for a minute to properly incorporate everything.
Cover the bowl with cling wrap and set it aside at room temperature for 6-8 hours to ferment.
Use immediately or refrigerate to use within 24 hours for best results.
Add water to your poolish bowl and mix to loosen it a little. Transfer it to a larger bowl.
In a large bowl, add your poolish, olive oil and yeast and mix. Add half of the flour and mix well with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon till you get a smooth pancake-like batter. Add the remaining flour and salt and mix to combine.
Continue mixing until you get a shaggy dough. Scrape down the bowl and turn it onto a clean work surface.
Knead the dough for 6-8 minutes until the dough gets strong and elastic. DO NOT ADD extra flour when it gets sticky in beginning.
Form a round ball of dough and put in an oiled bowl. Cover it with cling wrap and allow it to proof for 1 hour (or little more) at room temperature till it almost doubles in volume.
Turn out the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and punch it to degas it. Stretch and fold the dough over itself like an envelope ( stretching and folding left and right edges to the centre and then top and bottom edges to centre).
Place the folded dough back to the bowl and cover with cling wrap. Let the dough ferment again for 1 hour at room temperature.
Preheat the oven and the 9"x13" pan to 220C. If using a baking stone, preheat it as well.
When the dough is proofed, take it out on a lightly oiled surface. Degas it and press it into a rectangle roughly 8"x12" in size.
Line the baking sheet with parchment paper and sprinkle some cornmeal (optional). Place the dough on the baking sheet and brush the top with olive oil. Use your fingertips to gently press and dimple the surface of the dough.
Use your fingertips to gently press and dimple the surface of the dough. Sprinkle the top of the focaccia with coarse sea salt and grated cheese. Scatter the toppings you are planning to use - I've used sliced onions, tomatoes and dried herbs.
Bake the focaccia bread at 220C for 20-24 minutes until the top is golden brown.
Remove the focaccia from the oven and place on a cooling rack. Brush the top with some olive oil with a pastry brush. Cool completely before cutting into squares.
The focaccia bread is best eaten within 3 days when stored at room temperature.