Learn how to make focaccia bread, the classic Italian flat-bread. The process is simple and creates a high quality bread that can be flavored any variety of ways. This recipe is for rosemary focaccia with garlic and parmesan. The dough can also be used as a pizza crust.
I’ve been doing a lot of bread baking lately. A lot of baking and reading about bread baking. I am fascinated with it. It is so crazy to me what wonderful things can come from such simple ingredients.
Not only wonderful things, but such a variety of things. I feel like I could devote my life to learning everything possible about creating glorious bread from such humble ingredients and I would never run out of things to learn or grow tired of learning about it.
Today I want to teach you how to make a very simple and versatile bread: focaccia. I also want to talk to you about a technique I just learned that can greatly improve the flavor and texture of any bread you are making. It is called the autolyse method and it sounds complicated but is so disgustingly easy you might question its validity. But trust me.
Before we jump into the method of making this focaccia bread, let’s review the purpose of the autolyse method first. Check out this post about the method if you want all of the intricate geeky sciencey stuff behind it, but in short, to use the autolyse method you will mix together only the water and the flour in any bread recipe and let it sit for about 20-30 minutes before any of the other ingredients are added.
This one simple little step improves the flavor, texture, and increases the ease of handling the dough. Again, read this post to geek out about how this works. Or if you don’t care about all of that, just put your blind faith in me 🙂
STEP 1: AUTOLYSE THE FLOUR AND WATER
In the bowl of the stand mixer “autolyse” the flour and water. Basically mix the two together and let them sit for about 20 minutes. You can do this with the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, or use a spoon, or even your hands.
STEP 2: ADD THE REST OF THE INGREDIENTS AND KNEAD
Add the yeast, oil, honey, salt, and knead with the dough hook until very smooth, shiny and elastic. This will take about 8 minutes on medium speed. If you do not have a stand mixer, mix in the bowl by hand until the dough comes together well then knead on a clean work surface by hand.
Because we used the autolyse method this will not take quite as long and the dough will be easier to handle. (I also added chopped fresh rosemary into this dough.)
STEP 3: FERMENTATION/RISE OF DOUGH
Allow the dough to rise for 2 hours, punching down and turning the dough once after the first hour. This recipe makes 1 half sheet pan. I suggest oiling the sheet pan and letting the dough rise on the pan covered with plastic wrap. This make it easier to shape and pan once the fermentation is over.
STEP 4: SHAPING AND INITIAL PROOFING
Flip the dough over on the oiled pan so that both sides are coated, then pat the dough out to fit the sheet pan, making sure to get the dough into the corners.
Cover with plastic wrap and let the dough proof for about 30 minutes, until puffy, then dimple the dough all over with your fingertips. Cover with plastic wrap and let the proofing complete, until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
STEP 5: TOP DOUGH
Once the dough is finished proofing, add your toppings. If you want to keep it simple you can simple drizzle with olive oil and a light sprinkle of salt and be done.
For this batch I sprinkled fresh rosemary, a bit of grated parmesan, a sprinkle of garlic powder and sea salt, and I like to dot mine with pieces of butter because I like the flavor it brings.
STEP 6: BAKE
While the dough was in the last 20 minutes of proofer, preheat your oven to 425ºF. Place a metal pan (do not use glass) with sides (cake pan, sauce pan, baking dish) on the very bottom wrack of the oven to preheat.
After you put the focaccia in the oven pour 1 cup of hot water into the preheated metal pan and quickly shut the oven. This will help mimic the steam injector of a commercial oven. The steam helps promote “oven spring” (the amount the dough rises at the beginning of baking) and helps crisp the outside crust a bit.
OTHER WAYS TO FLAVOR AND TOP YOUR FOCACCIA
Focaccia can be topped with a whole variety of toppings. Anything from olives, to roasted garlic, to sausage and onions. This dough can easily be used as a pizza crust with any kind of pizza topping and cheese you want, or it could even be used for dessert focaccia with cinnamon/sugar topping or even roasted fruit or nuts.