The Magic of Focaccia

Sun-Dried Tomato Focaccia
Rosemary Focaccia

One of my favorite culinary techniques is working with doughs or all sorts. I think I probably have the most fun with focaccia dough because it is rather unlike most other doughs in that it is soft and wet. Rather than kneading the dough and punching it down, you instead do a sequence of stretching and folding the dough to develop the gluten followed by a sequence of what I like to call “playing the piano.

The lightness and airiness of the interior of the focaccia coupled with the crispiness of the crust and the toppings you select make for a delightful bread that rightfully can stand alone but also makes a great sandwich bread or dipping into gravy (either my Italian tomato gravy or Bolognese).

While it takes a little bit of forethought in that you have to start your poolish at least 16 hours prior to your mixing the dough and then allowing another 5 hours thereafter for your proofing and baking, trust me, it is soooooo worth it! And, it isn’t really all that labor intensive in that once your do set your poolish, there’s nothing to do until you are ready to mix the dough. From that point forward, you will need to make yourself available at least once every half hour to perform the next step, but each is quick; and you can move on to what you were doing otherwise. Just remember to set your timer.

Oh, and have fun with this one! I know I do. You are only limited by the choice of the toppings you nestle upon it. But most importantly, enjoy your focaccia once it comes out of the oven.

Focaccia

1 Poolish, prepared one day prior (see recipe below)

4-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons Double Zero or bread flour

1-3/4 cups water @ 102 degrees Fahrenheit

7/8 teaspoons instant yeast

3-1/2 teaspoons Seasonello Bologna Aromatic Herbal Salt

¼ cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Bench flour

  • Place all ingredients into a large stand mixer set up with a dough hook.
  • Mix on low speed for a total of six minutes. You will need to stop every two minutes to scrape down the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl.
  • After all the ingredients have been incorporated, increase the speed to medium for an additional minute. Unlike traditional doughs, focaccia dough is wet, loose, and sticky.
  • Coat a large clean mixing bowl for proofing (I prefer glass or ceramic) with a scant amount of olive oil, and pour dough into it. The temperature of the dough should be between 75-78 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough will be quite loose at this point. Put a slightly damp clean cloth over the top. (This is when I pull out my Excalibur dehydrator to maintain a steady environment.)
  • Let it rest for 30 minutes, and then give it one stretch-and-fold sequence. (put the dough on a board, then stretch the right end of the dough outward, and then fold it one-third over itself. Repeat for the left side, then the side in front of you, then the side towards the back. Fold the corner under, then move the dough back into your proofing bowl and cover with the damp cloth.
  • Perform this stretching/folding sequence four times. Each time, you will notice the dough taking on a more stable and stronger dough-like structure as the gluten develops. Finish the sequence with a 30-minute rest period.
  • Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Preheat a standard-size cookie sheet by generously brushing the bottom and sides with most of the olive oil remaining oil, reserving 2 tablespoons.
  • Place the entire dough on the baking sheet. Add about 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil on top of the dough to prevent your fingers from sticking. Here’s where you get to “play the piano”…using your fingers, spread them apart and gently compress the dough outward towards the sides and edges of the pan. No worries if it resists at first, it will eventually yield to your friendly persuasion.
  • Let the dough rest for 10 minutes, then “play the piano” again, creating a dimpling effect on the top of the dough.
  • For the next 30 minutes, repeat “playing the piano” at the 10-minute, 20-minute, and 30-minute marks, which will gently coax the dough to finally reach the edges and sides without any effort and without draw-back.
  • After the second piano play, go ahead and add any desired topping, such as rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes (but not cheeses).
  • After the 30-minute mark, allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.
  • Bake the focaccia for approximately 30 minutes.
  • If adding cheese, do so after 20 minutes of baking has completed.
  • When done, take out of oven and remove from pan. Allow to cool.

Poolish

  • 2-1/2 cups Double Zero or bread flour
  • Pinch of instant yeast
  • 1-1/2 cups water @ 70 degrees Fahrenheit

Combine all ingredients in a clean bowl, and mix by hand with a spoon until mixture is smooth. (Note: The poolish will be very wet and sticky in consistency. Cover it with a plastic lid or plastic wrap so that there is no air between the cover and the poolish. This will eliminate any skin from developing on the top of the poolish. Allow the poolish to ferment for at about 16 hours at room temperature (68-70 degrees Fahrenheit)

*An important aspect of sharing original recipes is to give proper credit to the author(s) of the recipe(s). I hope that you enjoy using these recipes and making them your own; but please do so with that integrity in mind. With much gratitude. Linda

 

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