Prep time: 1 ½ hours
Total time: 18 hours
for the poolish:
½ cup|118 grams water (70°F to 75°F)
1/16 teaspoon|0.15 gram instant yeast
1 cup|120 grams bread flour
for the dough:
1 ⅓ cups|315 ml water (70°F to 75°F)
3 ¾ cups|1 pound 1 ⅓ ounces|490 grams all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon|3 grams instant yeast
2 teaspoons|12 grams fine sea salt
5 to 6 tablespoons|75 grams extra-virgin olive oil
for the topping:
anything you like! (this is a great way to use up leftovers, such as steamed broccoli, greens, cheeses, herbs, or bacon)
- Make the poolish: The evening before you plan to make the focaccia (12 hours before you plan to mix the dough), pour the water into a quart-size container (ideally one with a lid). Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water and sprinkle the bread flour on top of that. Mix with a spoon until no flour is visible, cover with the lid (or plastic wrap), and set the poolish aside at room temperature to ferment for 12 to 18 hours. (To check that the poolish has fermented sufficiently, fill a small bowl with water. Wet the fingers of one hand and gently use your fingers to lift a small portion of the poolish out of the container and drop it in the water. If the poolish floats, it is ready. If not, let it ferment until it is ready, as long as 6 additional hours. If you find that it is taking too long, set it in a warmer place, such as near the stove.) If your poolish is ready before you are ready to use it, place it in the refrigerator. If your poolish is cold when you use it, bring your water to 80°F instead of 70°F when mixing your focaccia dough.
- Mix and ferment the dough: Place the water in the bowl of a stand mixer and add the poolish and all-purpose flour. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and mix on low speed for 2 to 3 minutes, until no flour is visible and very few lumps remain. Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl from the mixer stand; you can leave the dough hook in the bowl.
- Place the yeast and fine sea salt in separate piles on the top of the dough. Set the dough aside in a warm place to rest, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
- Return the bowl to the stand and mix with the dough hook for about 2 minutes on low speed. Increase the speed to medium and mix for 3 minutes to develop the gluten. Turn off the mixer and remove the bowl from the stand. Remove the dough hook and wipe it clean with a wet hand. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set the dough in a warm place to ferment for 2 hours, turning the dough once halfway through that time. To turn the dough, uncover the bowl and use a wet hand to fold the top edge down two-thirds and fold the bottom edge to meet the top edge, so the dough is folded like a letter. Fold the sides inward in the same way to form a sort of ball, then re-cover the bowl.
- Shape the focaccia: Uncover the bowl. Pour the olive oil onto a baking sheet and spread it around with your fingers to completely coat the bottom and sides. Use a plastic bowl scraper to scrape the dough in a big lump onto the baking sheet. Dip your fingers in the olive oil on the baking sheet and use the oil to coat the top of the dough. Let the dough rest for about 20 minutes without disturbing it. (It does not need to be covered because the oil provides a protective barrier to prevent the surface of the dough from drying out.) Dip your fingers in the oil on the baking sheet. Slide your fingers under the lump of dough and gently stretch it out toward the sides of the baking sheet. Press your fingertips into the surface of the dough to dimple it and stretch it evenly toward the sides of the baking sheet. When the dough starts to spring back, stop dimpling and stretching and let it rest for 20 minutes, then resume, dimpling and stretching the dough until it reaches the edges of the baking sheet. Set the dough aside in a warm place to proof for 45 minutes.
- Top and bake the focaccia: Arrange the oven racks so one is in the center position. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Top the focaccia with anything you like. Suggestions include leftovers from your fridge, such as steamed broccoli or sliced onions, or seasonal vegetables from your garden.
- Place the focaccia on the center rack of the oven to bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the surface and underside of the focaccia are golden brown (use an offset spatula to lift up and peek at the underside), rotating the baking sheet from front to back halfway through the baking time. Remove the focaccia from the oven. Using a large offset spatula, carefully slide the focaccia out of the baking sheet and onto a cooling rack.
- Finish the focaccia: When the focaccia has cooled, use scissors to cut the focaccia into pieces.
Excerpted from A Good Bake: The Art and Science of Making Perfect Pastries, Cakes, Cookies, Pies, and Breads at Home: A Cookbook by Melissa Weller with Carolynn Carreño. Copyright © 2020 by Melissa Weller. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.