Focaccia

Focaccia is my favorite kind of bread, crisp and crunchy on the outside, and soft and pillowy on the inside. This recipe combines several different techniques from focaccia recipes I’ve found online. The base is an overnight minimal-knead recipe that is baked in a cast-iron skillet. The dough uses a "tangzhong" component, which is a water-flour roux that keeps the bread softer for a longer period of time. Some time before baking, a brine solution is poured over the dough to keep it moist (a technique borrowed from Ligurian focaccia).

This recipe is extremely versatile, accepting any number of topping combinations, and can even be made into pizza. I have added two of my favorite toppings to the below recipe: a balsamic reduction and a garlic confit.

Focaccia

Ingredients

  • Tangzhong

    • 25g bread flour

    • 125g water

  • Dough

    • 475g bread flour

    • 10g salt

    • 4g yeast (active dry or instant)

    • 275g water

    • 20g and 28g and 20g extra virgin olive oil

  • Brine

    • 3g salt

    • 50g water

  • Toppings before baking (optional)

    • Garlic confit (see below)

    • Herbs (e.g. rosemary, sage, thyme, basil, etc.)

    • Halved cherry tomatoes

  • Toppings after baking (optional)

    • Balsamic reduction (see below)

    • Creme fraiche

    • Smoked salmon

Garlic Confit Cloves

  • Whole peeled garlic cloves from 1-2 garlic heads, root ends trimmed

  • Extra virgin olive oil

Balsamic Reduction

  • Balsamic vinegar

  • Extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Mix 25g bread flour with 125g water in a small sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it turns into a thick slurry to create the tangzhong. Alternatively, mix the flour and water in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave in 30 second increments until it turns into a thick slurry, stirring well after each increment. Let the tangzhong cool in the refrigerator until its temperature is under 100 degrees F. While cooling, proof yeast if needed by mixing 4g active dry yeast in 275g warm water (under 100 degrees F). You can also prepare the dry ingredients in a large bowl during this time.

  2. Mix tangzhong with the rest of the dough ingredients (475g flour, 10g salt, 4g yeast, 275g water) in a large bowl and combine thoroughly (dough will look a bit dry and scraggly). Add 20g olive oil and knead into the dough.

  3. Proof covered (e.g. with plastic wrap, dish, or silicone lid) at room temperature for 1 hour.

  4. Take one end of the dough and fold over itself, then rotate bowl 90 degrees and repeat, performing 6 folds around dough in total. Let the dough rest for 15 minutes, then repeat the 6 folds again.

  5. Proof covered in refrigerator for at least 18 hours.

  6. Remove dough from refrigerator. Decide whether to bake whole or split the dough in halves or thirds to bake separately. A half of the dough roughly fits a 9 inch cast iron or 8x8 baking pan, yielding a thickness of around half an inch unbaked. A third of the dough results in a thinner thickness that is good for a pizza in a 9 inch cast iron. Split the dough accordingly and knead each part into a round ball. Return any dough that won’t be baked today to the fridge. The rest of the instructions assume the dough is not split. Divide the measurements by 2 or 3 if splitting.

  7. Add 28g olive oil to a cast iron pan or baking pan and coat up to the rim, then add dough and coat all around with oil. Stretch the dough to the edges of pan (it will probably spring back, which is okay).

  8. Proof covered at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.

  9. Spread 20g olive oil over top of the dough, then stretch the dough to the edges of the pan. Dimple the dough by using the first three fingers of each hand to press firmly into the dough. If the dough immediately bounces back and doesn’t retain any dimples, let it proof longer and try again. Pour brine consisting of 3g sea salt dissolved in 45g water evenly over top of the dough (they will pool in the dimples, but avoid large pools by spreading the water elsewhere with your fingers).

  10. Proof covered at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour. Towards the latter half of this time, place a pizza stone or inverted baking sheet into the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F for at least half an hour.

  11. Add desired toppings. For garlic cloves, push them into the dough to avoid burning them while baking.

  12. Lower the oven temperature to 450 dgrees and bake the dough for 15-25 minutes on top of the pizza stone or baking sheet. Start checking around the 15 minute mark. The top crust should be brown but not burnt, and the bottom crust should be golden. The internal temperature should be at least 200 degrees F. Let the bread cool for 5 minutes and then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

    • If it is not at that temperature but the crusts are done, lower the oven to 400 degrees F and let it bake longer, checking every few minutes.

    • If the bottom is not done but the top is, and the bread is in a cast iron pan, move the pan to the stovetop and cook over medium heat for a few minutes until the bottom is golden.

Garlic Confit Cloves

  1. Place garlic cloves in a small sauce pan and cover with enough olive oil to submerge. Simmer at low heat (there should only be a gentle silent bubbling around cloves) for 35-45 minutes, or until cloves are very soft and golden.

  2. Garlic cloves can be used as a topping for the focaccia.

  3. Garlic oil can be used in place of the olive oil in the topping for the focaccia.

  4. Additional garlic oil and a clove can be mashed and mixed with the balsamic glaze to make a dipping sauce for the focaccia.

  5. Immediately refrigerate unused garlic cloves and oil in a covered container and use within a few days.

Balsamic Reduction

  1. Simmer balsamic vinegar over medium heat until thickened and reduced by about half. It should coat the back of a spoon.

  2. Mix three parts olive oil with one part balsamic reduction to make a vinaigrette for dipping.

Pizza Variation

  1. Follow steps 1-5 above.

  2. Remove dough from refrigerator and divide into 3 equal parts. A third of the dough roughly fits a 9 inch cast iron. Take one of the thirds and knead a few times into a round ball. Return the rest to the refrigerator.

  3. Add 20g olive oil to cast iron pan and coat up to rim, then add dough and coat all around with oil. Stretch the dough to the edges of pan (it may spring back, this is okay).

  4. Proof covered at room temperature for 2 hours. Prepare pizza toppings as needed. Towards the latter half of this time, place an inverted baking sheet into the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees F for at least half an hour.

  5. Stretch the dough to the edges of the pan and press down on any large bubbles. Add desired toppings.

  6. Bake at 500 degrees for 15-20 minutes on top of the baking sheet. The internal temperature should be at least 200 degrees F. If it is not at that temperature, lower the oven to 400 degrees F and let it bake longer, checking every few minutes. If the bottom is not sufficiently golden, cook on the stovetop over medium heat for a few minutes. Let the pizza cool for 5 minutes and then move to a wire rack to cool completely. Slice and serve.

Notes