20 - 22 HOURS
This focaccia recipe is a pretty straightforward artisan recipe. It creates a dough with the most perfect spongy crumb, that's still light.
It can be eaten on its own, sliced in half and filled with a sandwich filling or stretched into a longer tray to be cut into slices and served as a starter to a meal.
I love focaccia, it’s the perfect balance of elegance, flavour, and beauty, and this focaccia recipe personifies bread making.
How to make focaccia video tutorial
For the biga:
200g White flour
0.8g Fresh yeast (0.3g active dried)
For the dough:
300g White bread flour
6g Fresh yeast (3g active dried)
30g Extra virgin olive oil
27g Second water
To top the focaccia:
Extra sea salt and extra virgin olive oil
Popular combinations include: Potato and rosemary; tomato, basil and mozzarella; rosemary and sea salt; sage and onion; dried herbs and cured meats.
Method to make focaccia
Start the biga
Create the biga the day before by whisking the yeast and water together until the yeast is dissolved. If using dried yeast follow the instructions below. Add the flour to the bowl and lightly mix until combined. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid and leave for 12-18 hours.
Begin the autolyse
When the biga is ready it will have risen around 50% and you will see large bubbles breaking up the surface. Place the flour, biga, 1st water and yeast into a mixing bowl or dough mixer. Mix for 30-60 seconds, until the ingredients are incorporated. Cover, and leave to autolyse for 20-30 minutes. This helps gas retention in the dough and reduces the kneading time.
After the autolyse, add the salt and set a timer. Remove from the bowl and knead slowly with long, gradual motions for 10 minutes. Place back into the bowl and leave covered in the fridge for 15 minutes.
If using a dough mixer:
After the autolyse, add the salt to the dough mixer, fitted with a dough hook attachment. Set a 8 minute timer and start mix on a slow speed. Then increase the speed and knead for a further 8 minutes. The dough should be strong with lots of long strands of gluten visible.
Lower the mixer speed and add the second water, when most of it is absorbed, turn the speed up until it is fully incorporated. Repeat the same process with the olive oil. Skip to step 5.
Fast knead the dough
Take out of the fridge and knead for 5 minutes. This time the kneading should be more aggressive. I prefer to use the stretch, slap and fold method at this point.
Add the 2nd water and olive oil
Put the dough back in the mixing bowl and pour in the second water. Mash the water into the dough by pushing the dough into the edges of the bowl and turning it over. This may take a while but it will get there! When the water is absorbed, do the same thing with the extra virgin olive oil. Once incorporated, knead on the table for a couple more minutes or until the dough feels strong and even.
Bulk fermentation pt 1
Put the dough in an oil’ed bowl, cover and leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
Stretch and fold
Complete a stretch and fold (turn) and return the dough into the bowl.
Bulk ferment pt 2
Place back in the bowl to rest for a further hour. You'll want to think about getting your oven preheated at around now. Ideally preheat the oven with a baking stone (but this recipe will work without) to 250C (480F) for an hour.
Grease the baking sheet
Grease a lipped baking tray or dish generously with olive oil. This tray must be capable of withstanding high temperatures without wilting.
Stretch the dough in the tray
Take the dough out of the bowl and stretch it out with your hands as you place it in the tray. Flip the dough over to cover both the top and the bottom with oil and start to push the dough to the edges. You may find they keep springing back, don't worry if this happens, we'll fix it in a bit. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.
Prepare the toppings
A hardy herb like rosemary, some cheese that will melt nicely and veg works well. Get the, all prepared. Any light herbs or leaves are best added near the end of baking.
Add the toppings!!
After the dough has rested, stretch the dough back out to the edges by using the tips of your fingers to massage the dough. Next, build your toppings on top of the dough.
Bake the focaccia
Before placing the focaccia in the hot oven, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Drop the temperature to 220C once it's in. No need to add steam, but do switch to top and bottom heat if your oven allows it. Bake for 20 minutes then open the door to release the steam, give it a turn and bake for a further 10-15 minutes, until the top looks nice and golden.
Cool then finish with more oil and sea salt!
Remove from the oven and drizzle some more extra virgin olive oil and sea salt! As soon as it is cool enough, get it onto a wire rack to cool. Drizzle with more sea salt and extra virgin olive oil before serving if you wish!
Using dried yeast
If using instant yeast, divide the amount of fresh yeast used by 3 and follow the same method as fresh yeast.
Active dried yeast needs to be activated before use. In this case, warm the water for the biga to 35C (95F) - no higher. Add the yeast to the bowl, whisk and leave for 10 minutes to bloom. Combine the flour for the biga with the yeasty water and place in the fridge for 10 minutes to cool. Return to the worktop and allow to ferment as above.
When ready to start the dough, warm 20 grams of water to 35C (95F), add the yeast with half a teaspoon of sugar, whisk and leave to stand for ten minutes before adding to the dough. Remove 20 grams of the 1st water addition from the recipe.
Top tips for this focaccia recipe
Take a temperature reading at the end of mixing and after the stretch and fold. If it is above 26C (75F) place the dough to rest in the fridge, if under this it should be kept on the worktop, providing the kitchen temperature is not excessively hot. For more accurate controls of temperature, use some of the advice in this article.
The dough should already by soft and elastic before the additional water is added. This helps to get an uneven and open crumb. Don't be scared to add it!
For a 1 day focaccia recipe, increase the yeast in the biga to 2g and ferment for 4 hours.