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 can be made with dried yeast or a natural sourdough starter.
- Skill Level: Intermediate
- Techniques Used: Autolyse
Focaccia is one of my most highly requested recipes from my readers. I make it frequently for my students to snack on during my Chicago Bread Workshops, and it always gets rave reviews. So today I want to show you exactly how I make it.
I use this same method for making the bread with dried yeast or with my natural sourdough starter, so you can use either in this recipe! I also make this as a no-knead focaccia. The method and ratios I use for the bread keep it very flavorful and moist, with extremely little effort.
What is Focccia?
Focaccia is a classic italian flatbread. It can be kept plain with just a bit of olive oil and salt sprinkled over the top before baking, or it can be topped with an endless variety of toppings. My favorite is Focaccia al rosmarino which just means it has fresh rosemary sprinkled over the top.
Some people also use this bread as the base for pizza, and that is also absolutely delicious. It really is a very flexible bread that can be adapted for many different situations.
Focaccia bread is made with very few ingredients. The five ingredients include: flour, water, salt, yeast, and olive oil. That’s it!
You can use either bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour for this recipe. And I recommend making it simple without a lot of toppings the first time you make it so you can really taste the flavor of the bread.
How to Make Focaccia
Like most all bread recipes, there is not one singular way to approach focaccia. I have developed this method as my favorite way to make it to maximize flavor and minimize hands on time.
I like to use a very high hydration dough, meaning there is a lot of water in this recipe. This allows the bread to get a more open hole structure and keeps the crumb very moist.
Step 1: Autolyse
To start the process, we are going to mix the flour and water together without any of the other ingredients. This step is called autolyse and it allows the flour to fully hydrate and for the gluten structure to start building all on its own.
You want the flour/water mixture to autolyse for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. You can see in the above pictures how different it looks before resting (left picture) compared to after resting (right picture). This is because the gluten structure has begun forming.
Step 2: Mix the Final Dough
Once the autolyse step is finished, you can mix in the rest of the ingredients by hand. I use this exact same process and formula if I am making this with dried yeast or if I am making sourdough focaccia.
So you’ll sprinkle either your dried yeast or your sourdough starter over the top of the flour/water mixture along with some olive oil. I like to give this a rough mix by hand before adding the salt.
Next, sprinkle the salt over the top and continue mixing by hand until everything is well combined. Use the pincer method which involves pinching the dough all over and then folding it over itself until well combined. This usually takes about 2 minutes of mixing.
Step 3: Shape & Rest
Once your dough is fully mixed, grease a 9×13″ pan with olive oil and pour the dough into the pan. Turn the dough to coat it in oil and then gently stretch it (being careful not to tear it) to fill the pan. It will likely fight you and won’t let you stretch it all the way at this point.
Cover the pan and let it rest 20-30 minutes to let the dough relax so it will be easier to work with.
Step 4: Ferment
After the dough has rested, you will be able to stretch it to fit the pan more easily. Now it is time to let it ferment.
Cover the pan with plastic wrap and then you have two options: you can let it ferment at room temperature for about 8 hours, or you can refrigerate it for at least 24 hours and up to 72 hours.
Slow fermentation allows the bread to develop a lot of flavor. If I plan ahead enough, I always opt for the long cold ferment because the flavor is amazing. But even 8 hours will produce a delicious bread.
Fermentation is done when the dough is filled with air and looks really puffy. If you pull your pan out of the refrigerator and it isn’t quite puffy yet, let it sit at room temperature for a bit before baking.
Step 5: Top and Dimple
Drizzle a bit more olive oil over the top of the dough and then add any toppings you like. At the very least sprinkle some coarse salt over the top. I also like to add some chopped fresh rosemary.
Before going into the oven, dimple the dough all over with your fingers. This creates little ridges for the olive oil and toppings to sink into and also gives it the classic focaccia look.
Step 6: Bake
Bake until golden brown. I like to bake focaccia at a high temperature to get it nice and crispy on top and bottom.
It should be airy in the center and the olive oil should have absorbed into the bread.
Focccia is one of my absolute favorite breads to make. Yes, it does take quite a bit of time, but it is almost all hands off. It is so easy to make and I’m telling you, people get VERY excited over this bread.
- 500 gr (4 cups + 2 TBSP) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
- 400 gr (1 3/4 cup) room temperature water
- 1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast, or 1/2 tsp of active dry yeast, or 50 gr fed and ripe sourdough starter
- 28 gr (2 TBSP) olive oil
- 10 gr (2 tsp) fine sea salt or kosher salt
- 28 gr (2 TBSP) extra olive oil, divided (for the pan and finishing the dough)
- fresh rosemary or other fresh herbs or toppings of choice
- coarse salt for sprinkling on top
- AUTOLYSE: In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and water until well combined. The mixture will be incredibly sticky and wet. Cover and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 hours. This will help the flour fully hydrate and will jump start the gluten formation.
- FINAL DOUGH MIX: Add in the dry yeast or the sourdough starter along with the olive oil. Begin pinching and folding the dough by hand until the yeast and oil are somewhat combined. Then sprinkle the salt over top and continue pinching and folding the dough until everything is evenly combined. This is a very wet dough and it will take about 2 minutes of mixing by hand to combine everything.
- SHAPE: Grease a 9x13" pan with about 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Transfer the dough into the pan and turn to coat it in oil. Start stretching the dough to fit the pan. It will likely not stretch completely and will want to fight you and snap back in place. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let it sit for 20-30 minutes to relax.
- FERMENT: After the dough has relaxed, stretch it again until it fits the pan completely. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let it ferment at room temperature for about 8 hours or in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours and up to 72 hours. The cold temperature will slow down the yeast activity and will allow the dough to develop more flavor.
- PREHEAT the oven to 450 F (230 C) for about 45 minutes before baking.
- TOP THE DOUGH: When ready to bake, the dough should be puffy and full of air. If you pull yours out of the refrigerator and it isn't quite full of air, you can let it sit in a warm spot for a while before baking. Sprinkle toppings over the dough as desired. I like to drizzle about 1 more tbsp of olive oil over, add some fresh rosemary, and a sprinkle of coarse salt.
- DIMPLE the dough by taking your fingers and pressing in all over the top. This gives the bread that iconic focaccia look.
- BAKE the focaccia at 450 F (230 C) for 18-23 minutes until golden brown.
- STORE uneaten focaccia at room temperature loosely covered by foil or plastic wrap for up to 48 hours. Then slice and freeze in an airtight container for up to a month.