The Musette: sourdough focaccia

I have an Italian girlfriend who makes the most divine focaccia. Whenever I buy some my beloved and I taste and compare it to her’s. “As good as” is as good as it has gotten.

As I’m plumbing all things sourdough, I thought I’d give sourdough focaccia a go and the results were quite surprising. It’s actually one of the easier things to make because there is no folding and no shaping. In short, it looks like: stir, long rest and rise, a short rest and rise, dimple, then bake. Then  – importantly – devour.

Making this focaccia is a two step process. First, you must prepare the sponge which helps to enrich the flavor, generate larger holes in the bread and keeps the bread light, crisp and airy. It is an incredible easy process and will significantly enhance the aroma and flavor of the bread.

While the actual time spent making the dough really isn’t much time at all, the entire process takes over 24 hours. It is absolutely necessary to prepare the sponge and let the dough rise for the recommended amount of time. Fortunately, no kneading is involved and all you need is a large bowl and spatula to prepare the dough.

Ingredients

Sponge

  • 530g (2 cups) sourdough starter
  • 125g (1 cup) whole-wheat flour
  • 250g (2 cups) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 500 ml (2 cups) filtered water

Focaccia dough

  • 250g (2 cups) plain all-purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Method

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1. If necessary, two days (or more) before you want to start the process, feed your starter each day, 60g (2 1/2 oz) each of flour and water, to build it up. You’ll need 530g (2 cups) for baking.

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a693c1db-41a9-4d0a-af8a-b54457fb50bc2. Make the overnight sponge by mixing together the sourdough, water whole wheat flour and 250g (2 cups) plain (all purpose) flour. Mix well and let it stand overnight or for eight hours, covered, in a warm place. The surface should be covered in bubbles.

3. Add the salt and olive oil and mix in the remaining flour, 50g (half a cup) at a time, until you have a fairly loose batter that just comes off the sides of the bowl but does not gather into a ball.

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4. Cover the bowl with a cling wrap and let the dough rise for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

5. Using a spatula, gently turn the dough over on itself in the bowl about 9 or 10 times, trying not to deflate too many of the lovely bubbles that have formed.

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6. Oil a large, approx. 38-40cm (15”) baking pan and pour the batter into the centre of the sheet and, using a spatula, help it along so it fills or nearly fills the pan. Brush on some olive oil to keep the batter from drying, but don’t cover it up with a towel or cling film (plastic wrap) – both will stick to the dough.

7. Leave the baking pan in a warm place for an hour or so until the dough has risen to fill the entire pan.

8. About half an hour before you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/gas mark 6.

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9. Now’s the time to add any toppings and, if you feel so inclined, make the trademark dimples in the dough. Just try not to deflate it.

10. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the top is lightly golden and the bread has started to pull from the sides. One way to tell your bread is done is to press it slightly, and if it springs back, you know it’s ready.

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11. Here’s the tricky bit. Let the bread cool on a rack at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving. Now would be a good time to add further olive oil and salt to taste.

Sheree’s Handy Hints

1.I prefer plain focaccia but you can add all sorts of topping: cherry tomatoes, garlic, herbs, olives, grapes, onion, cheese………..let your imagination run wild!

2. I replenish my starter with an equal weight of flour and water. For example, when I used a cup of starter for this recipe, I replaced it with an equal amount (in terms of weight) of flour and water. Thus may starter has 100% hydration. If you use the equal volume replacement method your starter will have a 166% hydration. Why does this matter? Well, if your starter has a 100% hydration you might need to use a little less flour than is listed in the recipe. Just keep that in mind when mixing the dough.

3. It’s best eaten on the day it’s baked otherwise slice it into portions and pop it into the freezer for later.