The most common type of Focaccia that we see here in the states is an Italian flatbread baked in the oven. It may be topped with a variety of light toppings such as plain olive oil and sea salt, herbs, cheese, vegetables or even fruit. There are apparently two other types of focaccia as well. “Fugazza”, which is an Argentinian version cooked in a cast iron skillet and is generally thicker than the Italian Focaccia and sometimes stuffed with mozzarella (Fugazzeta). There is also a version called Focaccia di Recco from the northern coast of Italy. It is unleavened and stuffed with Stracchino, a young cheese which is gooey and messy like mascarpone.
Since my poor sourdough starter has been neglected lately, I decided to go with the basic Sourdough Focaccia recipe that was provided. One of my favorite pizza toppings is lemon and smoked mozarella, so I topped the focaccia with wafer-thin slices of sweet lemon, fresh thyme, smoked flaky sea salt and olive oil as my focaccia topper.
The bread was amazing! It’s by far the best sourdough focaccia I’ve ever made. The interior was moist but chewy with the big holes that should be present in focaccia and had a pleasant sourdough flavor. The crust had the typical thin and crispy crunch that I’m used to in a sourdough boule. Focaccia usually has a softer crust, but the crispy crust with the soft bites of caramelized lemon really worked well in this bread. It does take a bit of time, especially if you want good sourdough flavor which requires an overnight rest in the refrigerator. However, the actual hands-on time for this recipe is pretty minor so if you plan ahead, fresh focaccia for dinner is easy to plan for.
- 4 cups (1 liter) (540 gm) (19 oz) bread flour
- 1 cup (250 ml) active-fed sourdough starter (100 % hydration)
- 2 cups (500 ml) water
- 11⁄2 teaspoon (9 gm) salt
- 2 tablespoon (30 ml) olive oil (plus more for the top once bread is formed)
- 2 sweet Meyer lemons, sliced as thinly as possible, seeds discarded (A Mandolin works great)
- Flaky smoked sea salt for sprinkling on top
- fresh thyme leaves for sprinkling on top
- In a large bowl mix the flour, sourdough starter and water until the dough comes together into a wet and sticky mass.
- Let this dough rest for 30 minutes.
- Add salt and 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of olive oil to the dough.
- Knead the dough until a thin opaque film can be stretched from the dough between fingers “window pane stage”.
- The hydration of this dough is roughly 80% (by weight) so it will feel really wet and sloppy to start with but the more you knead it, the better the texture becomes.
- Cover the dough and leave it in a warm place until it doubles. It should look bubbly on the top.
- This can take anything between 6 hours at 25°C (77°F) to 20 hours at 4°C (40°F).
- Note: If you do the mixing at night and don’t want to risk over fermenting, just stick it into your fridge and bring it out the next day. An overnight rise in the refrigerator will give you better sourdough flavor as well.
- Once the dough has risen, scrap the sides and fold into the center gently, then turn it onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper.
- Drizzle with some olive oil
- Gently spread the dough out evenly to 2-3cm (3⁄4 -1 inches) thickness. Be as gentle as you can so the dough doesn’t deflate too much.
- Use your finger tips to make dimples all over the dough
- Layer the lemon slices evenly over the top, sprinkle with fresh thyme leaves and smoked salt and then drizzle a good coating of olive oil over the top.
- Allow the dough to rest while you heat your oven.
- Preheat your oven as high as it can get; to hot 450°F/230°C/gas mark 8 is good, or to very hot 500°F/250°C/gas mark 10 is even better.
- After the dough has rested about 30 minutes, put the focaccia into the oven and mist with some water to create steam.
- Bake in the preheated hot or very hot oven for 20-30 minutes depending on how thick your focaccia is. When the crust is set on both the top and bottom, and you can pick it up without it bending or deforming, and it sounds hollow when you tap on it, it should be cooked through. You may want to cover it with a piece of foil if it starts to brown too much to your liking
- Take the focaccia out of the oven, cover it with a clean towel. Allow it to cool down