A FOCACCIA EXPERIMENT

A few months ago I followed an interesting discussion at The Fresh Loaf forum, in which a member (Kevin) made a mistake while scaling up a recipe (I can relate to that too well, by the way) and ended up with one of the best focaccias he’d ever made!  Being a very experienced baker, he made several batches of the same recipe, to convince himself that the small alteration in the method was indeed responsible for the outcome.  It all comes down to holding back some of the water (and the salt) in the recipe, and adding it a little later to the dough.  The rationale behind doing it was actually discussed a few years ago by Steve in his blog “Breadcetera” – check it out by clicking here.

I was anxious to try this variation in my favorite, default recipe, and this past weekend I finally had a chance to perform this important experiment.

DOUBLE-HYDRATION FOCACCIA
(inspired by The Fresh Loaf Forum)

2 cups lukewarm water, divided
2 tsp active dry yeast
4 cups unbleached bread flour
3 tsp salt
2-3  tsp olive oil
2 T chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp kosher salt

Measure 1 + 1/2 cup of  water in a large bowl, sprinkle yeast over water and stir until dissolved. Using a strong wooden spoon mix 2 cups of flour until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 cups of flour, and knead with your hands (inside the bowl is fine), until the dough forms a very shaggy mass. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for 20 minutes.

Dissolve the salt in the remaining 1/2 cup of (lukewarm) water.  Add it to the dough, and mix with your hands using a squishing/kneading motion.  Do not be alarmed by the look of the dough at this point.   Slowly the water and salt will find their way into the mixture.  Once it all seems incorporated, cover the bowl and let it rise undisturbed for 1 hour and 20 minutes.   The dough will be very bubbly at this point.

Heat the oven to 450F. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 inch baking sheet. Pour the dough onto the sheet,  brush the surface with 2 tsp olive oil. Dip your fingers in cold water or olive oil and make indentations all over the dough, working to stretch the dough as you go.  Brush the surface with another teaspoon of olive oil, sprinkle with rosemary and  salt.

Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack and….

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments:  Compared to the regular recipe, this focaccia rose a lot more, had a more airy crumb, and a softer crust.  If you like to use focaccia to made a sandwich, a panini-type production, this recipe is perfect for it.  However, to make a proper comparison,  I must wait until we get home.  With a large oven, I will be able to make two batches, bake them at the same time and draw a clear conclusion.   So, stay tuned.  June is not too far away.  (I say that with mixed feelings,  it won’t be easy to say goodbye to Los Angeles… )

I am submitting this post to Susan’s Yeastspotting, a must-visit site for all lovers of bread…

and, I am also joining a fun blog party, hosted by Alyssa from Cupcake Apothecary:  “A Themed Bakers Sunday.”   This week the theme is a favorite of mine: Bread!   Check out all the other entries and vote for your favorite!

ONE YEAR AGO: Pierre Nury’s Bougnat (awesome recipe!)

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23 thoughts on “A FOCACCIA EXPERIMENT

  1. This is the same methodology as Chad Robertson does with the Tartine bread. Autolyse without the salt and last bit of water and then add them and squish into the dough. Sounds like a winner to me. The logic would be the same. I have started to do the same thing with a lot of my breads and it works consistently well. Seems like it should be good across the board.

    • Yes, that great Tartine book uses a similar approach, and you are right, it can be applied to any recipe. I actually intend to experiment a bit more once my baking situation is back to normal….

      amazing what a little change can do to a recipe

  2. Interesting. I’ve been making a ciabatta recipe in which only part of the water is added at first, and then the rest is mixed in a second go. I’ll be curious to see your side-by-side results. Looks like a great focaccia!

    • a metal baking sheet, pretty much like a cookie one, but with sides.

      HOwever, I’ve made round focaccias using a cast iron pan lightly coated with oil, and worked very well.

      I don’t see why a glass pyrex dish would not work, but I would probably cover it with parchment paper and grease the paper just in case.

      • Thank you. It makes sense to line/grease the paper in a glass pyrex dish to prevent sticking. I DO have a beat up old rectangular baking sheet, and a battered black 12″ pizza sheet (can you sense the common theme), come to think of it, that I can use as well. :)

  3. I can sense indeed a common theme ;-)
    Now, if you could see my cast iron pan, “abused” would be a more appropriate description, so you’ve got nothing to worry about!

  4. That is truly gorgeous and delicious looking focaccia! I recall the Breadcetera post you mention, I think I’ll have to try this out for our next get together with friends. They love being bread guinea pigs… :)

  5. Pingback: Five Favorites Friday – 5/20/11 « A Voracious Appetite

  6. Thanks for this, I’ve been making something with the same name for years and it always came out dense and thick.

    I have some baking in the oven now and it’s looking really good.

    I’ve been trying to get a handle on sourdough and I think I’ll be using the autolyze method from here on in

    • Oh, your comment made me smile! “Making something with the same name for years…”

      it just made me think of my croissants… THE most pathetic croissants ever made came out of my kitchen, and I must at some point redeem myself – I guess there’s always hope, right? ;-)

      thanks for stopping by!

      • I’ve been trying to make sourdough and thus far all I’ve managed is dense, wet, heavy door stops that look pretty. I feel the pain.

        I’m actually having a much better time making bread by winging it with the Bread Makers Apprentice except getting some sort of taste out the flour I’m using is eluding me and I’m craving something tangy.

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