Monday, January 20, 2014

January Sourdough Surprises - Sourdough Focaccia

This month's Sourdough Surprises was awesome. Pretty basic, really, as far as sourdough recipes go, but delicious and super fun to make. As a result, this post is going to be pretty photo-heavy. 

This month we made focaccia. Focaccia is kind of like pizza dough, but... that's selling it a little short. It's crisp on the outside, deliciously airy, and can carry almost any variety of toppings. So not just pizza dough... but it's the closest comparison I can make. And I think focaccia was just made to be made out of sourdough. Seriously, it is the perfect bread to make with your sourdough starter.

The dough is pretty simple. It starts with flour, water and, of course, sourdough starter.

Just dump 'em all in a bowl.

Then just mix it all together.

So far so good. The resulting "dough" is pretty wet and very loose, but as long as it's all incorporated, you're good, so take a little break. Because the dough needs to rest.

After about half an hour (or so... if you get caught up in a rousing game of Chutes and Ladders, that's okay, too), turn the dough out onto a (clean) counter, sprinkle on some salt and pour on some oil.

Yes, it will be messy.

Again, that's okay.  And then you knead.  This is a very wet dough. The best way to knead a high-hydration dough is the "slap and fold" method. Pick up the dough as best as you can, hit it down on the counter (careful of that oil-puddle - you don't want that splashing all over the place!), fold one end over the top, then repeat. Sound odd, I know, and it is messy at first, with wet dough sticking all over the place, and I promise, you will get to a point where you wonder why you are doing this. But then, something will happen.

As the gluten develops, the dough starts to smooth out. And look like real dough. And you also start to feel like you've gotten a good arm workout. Or maybe that's just me. Regardless, keep this up. It's a great stress reliever.  Once your dough is smooth (still sticky) and lovely, pop it into a bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest. I let mine rest all afternoon, then popped it into the fridge to continue its rest overnight.

Whenever you're ready to actually prepare the focaccia for baking, all you have to do is choose your topping. Now, you don't need toppings. All you need is oil and salt on top. But toppings make it fun. And you can choose anything. Seriously, google it or look on any of the food-photography sites - endless possibilities.

Me? I chose cherries.

Yup - cherries.

I cut the cherries in half, removed the pits, and pressed them into the dough. And then, of course, added my oil and salt.

Pink salt. Because... if you have it, why not??

I also sprinkled on a dash of thyme right before popping it into the oven because... again... why not??

And then we bake!

Holy rise! I guess my starter is pretty healthy, because man did this grow in the oven!

And even better? The inside.

Oh, the beautiful, airy holes.

This bread was so crunchy yet chewy, so airy yet delicions.

As I said - it is like this bread was just designed to be made out of sourdough.

Even little miss, who claims to hate sourdough, liked it. Even her friend who was over rainbow-looming with her liked it. Even little man liked it. I think I ate half the bread myself within the first hour.

I can't wait to make this again.

So what toppings did you choose? I can't wait to see all of the deliciousness! Link up and share!

Sourdough Focaccia

4 cups bread flour
1 cup sourdough starter
2 cups of water
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon olive oil (plus more for the top once bread is formed)
your choice of toppings – herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables - the choices are endless!

Mix flour, water and sourdough starter together in a large bowl until it comes together into a wet and sticky dough. 
Let this dough rest for 30 minutes.
Add salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the dough. Then slap and fold the dough on your counter (the slap and fold technique) until a thin opaque film can be stretched from the dough between fingers (the windowpane test). The hydration of this dough is roughly 80% so it will feel really wet and sloppy to start with, but give it time and it will become smooth (this took me about 20 minutes or so). (The dough will still be sticky.)
Cover the dough and let it ferment until it grows to more than double it’s original size. It should look a little bit bubbly on the top. This can take between six hours and a day, depending on the temperature in your kitchen. You can also refrigerate the dough overnight for a slow, cold fermentation.
Once the dough has risen, scrap down the sides and carefully turn it onto a baking tray lined with a baking sheet (or parchment). Press and spread the dough out evenly with wet hands to maybe an inch in thickness. Be as gentle as you can so the dough doesn’t deflate too much. Finally sink your finger tips into the dough to make deep dents (that's the fun part!).
Put on your toppings (I used sweet cherries) then drizzle a good coating of olive oil over the top. Don’t skimp on the olive oil – it’s part of what makes focaccia awesome! Sprinkle over any spices you want. I used fresh-ground pink sea salt and a bit of thyme.
Preheat your oven as hot as it can get, preferably between 450 and 500 degrees.
After the dough has rested about 30 minutes and the oven is nice and hot, put the focaccia into the oven and bake for 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick your focaccia is. Mine took about 22 minutes. 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.
Let it cool just a bit (so you don't burn your mouth) and enjoy!


  1. Amazing texture! I hadn't thought of using fruit as a topping - cherries on top sound mouthwatering!

  2. Cherries and thyme? I never would have paired them. I'm making a note of this. Your focaccia looks great.

  3. Sigh, I have a serious case of dough rise envy over this loaf. It looks beautiful!

  4. I have heard of grapes, but cherries! Wonderful! I must admit, I also have a bit of a dough rise envy:) Beautiful loaf~ Lynn @ Turnips 2 Tangerines

  5. Such an original topping, love it!
    Very well done, the crumb is gorgeous.
    Have a lovely day

  6. I LOVE the idea of cherries on top! I would never have thought of that but it sounds so good. I wish it was cherry season here so I could give that a try right away. The texture of your focaccia looks good too.

  7. I agree about sourdough and focaccia made for each other. But I would have never thought of cherries on top! How inspired! And how about those huge holes! I can just imagine that initial crunch and then the chewy centre. Yum!

  8. Oh WOW Shelley, this looks fantastic! I didn't get around to making focaccia this month so I'm definitely bookmarking this! Cherries and thyme... yum!

  9. The cherries are brilliant! And your holes... oh, how I love holey bread! Gorgeous :)

  10. Shelley I made this focaccia last week and gave half of the loaf to friends who raved about it! It is truly the best focaccia I have ever tasted!!
    Thank you for the inspiration


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