Focaccia by Sam Fromartz
Samuel Fromartz, author of In Search of the Perfect Loaf - a Home Baker's Odyssey provided us with this recipe, and writes:
Focaccia is a delicious pillowy bread that's perfect for cheese or cured meats, or for wiping up tomato sauce once you've eaten your plate of pasta. Plus, it's very easy to make. This recipe is a one-day process, taking advantage of a long, slow rise to build flavor. If you begin at 9 or 10 in the morning, you'll have it ready by dinner. I don't use sourdough in this recipe, because I think focaccia should have a milder taste. In this example, I used Janie's Mill Artisan Blend and Italian Style Pizza Flour
- Dough scraper
- Bowl or container
- Half-sized rimmed sheet pan 9x13
- 500 grams Janie's Mill Artisan Blend flour or Janie’s Mill Italian Style Pizza flour
- 400 grams water 80°F*
- ½ teaspoon instant yeast mixed with 2 teaspoons warm water
- 11 grams sea salt
- Coarse sea salt (optional)
- 3 tablespoons chopped rosemary (optional)
- 5-6 tablespoons good quality olive oil, plus oil for pan.
*I found that the Artisan Blend needed slightly more water (15 grams or 1-1/2 tablespoons).
Combine the yeast with the 2 teaspoons of warm water and set aside. Combine the flour, salt and the water together in a large bowl, mixing with a spatula, dough scraper or your hand moistened with water for about 1 minute. After the ingredients are combined, make a small indentation on the top of the dough. Add the yeast slurry to the small well you’ve just made in the dough, but don’t mix it in yet. Cover the bowl and let the dough sit for 15 minutes. This allows the water to hydrate the flour. You will have a shaggy mass that looks like this:
Use the dough scraper to loosen the dough from the bowl. Rather than knead the dough, you’re going to stretch and fold it—a technique I use in nearly all my doughs. Working from the edges of the dough, pull the dough out to stretch it and then fold it over toward the center. If your hands begin to stick to the dough, moisten them again with water. Work around the dough and stretch and fold it about 20-30 times. This action should take about 1 to 2 minutes in total. Flip the dough over so the folds are underneath. Cover the bowl and let the dough sit for another 15 minutes.
Do the stretch-and-fold action for one more round. By now you’ll notice that the gluten offers noticeable tension. After folding about 12 times, turn the dough over again, cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 15 minutes.
Do the stretch-and-fold action one more time. In the final round, the dough should feel very elastic and should be glistening. If it isn’t, add a few more stretch-and-fold actions but be careful not to rip the dough. Turn the dough over so the smooth side is face up.
Cover the bowl and let it sit for 6 hours ideally at 75°F. If your kitchen is below 70°F, add at least another hour. The dough should more than double. By the end of the rise, you should see air bubbles on the top of the dough.
Preheat the oven with to 475°F. I use a baking steel for focaccia which takes about 30 minutes to preheat. A stone will take longer. Or if don't have a steel or stone, you can just use the sheet plan on an oven rack. Oil the sheet pan with olive oil, making sure to wipe the rims too to prevent sticking.
Flour your work surface and dust the top of your dough. Gently remove the dough by pouring it out onto the floured counter, using a dough scraper to help remove it. Be gentle – you don't want to deflate all those air bubbles from the long fermentation. Gently shape it into a small rectangle shape smaller than the sheet pan but don't fuss too much. Flour your hands and slip you fingers under the dough and in one motion transfer it to the sheet pan. Gently stretch out the dough but if it doesn't fill the whole pan, that’s OK, we're letting it relax. Put the pan in a plastic bag, inflating it so it doesn’t touch the dough. Let it sit for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, remove the pan from the bag and spread about 3-4 tablespoons of oil on the dough (I just drizzle it on). Oil the tips of your fingers and starting at one end of the sheet pan press your fingers into the dough then lift, continuing to press and lift as you move down the entire pan. During this process, you can also move the dough into the corners of the pan. You should see indents with pools of oil, and also some bubbles formed by the action. Sprinkle the dough with coarse sea salt and/or rosemary. Your dough is now ready to bake.
Bake for 22-25 minutes, until chestnut colored. Remove the pan from the oven and lightly bushing the crust with 2 more tablespoons of olive oil.
Let the bread cool on the counter for a minute or two, then use a spatula to remove the focaccia and let it rest on a baking rack. These loaves are best eaten within four hours. Store them in a plastic bag. They can be frozen in a plastic bag. When you’re ready to eat a loaf, remove it from the freezer until it defrosts and bake it for 5 minutes in a 400°F (205°C) oven to crisp up the crust.
Samuel Fortmartz is the author of In Search of the Perfect Loaf, a wonderful book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. It really is a journey, a book about bread (our favourite subject) with a big helping of delicious travel. And today Sam has very kindly shared his focaccia recipe with us. When I tried his recipe (and I am never going back to my old recipe) I used the Janie’s Mill Italian Blend Pizza Flour. It was WONDERFUL. Every meal is made better with a slice of focaccia.
'“An irresistible account of bread, bread baking, and one home baker’s journey to master his craft”
Several years ago, journalist Samuel Fromartz was offered the assignment of a lifetime: to travel to France to work in a boulangerie. So began his quest to hone not just his homemade baguette—which later beat out professional bakeries to win the “Best Baguette of D.C.”—but his knowledge of bread, from seed to table. For the next four years, Fromartz traveled across the United States and Europe, perfecting his sourdough in California, his whole grain rye in Berlin, and his country wheat in the South of France. Along the way, he met historians, millers, farmers, wheat geneticists, sourdough biochemists, and everyone in between, learning about the history of breadmaking, the science of fermentation, and more. The result is an informative yet personal account of bread and breadbaking, complete with detailed recipes, essential tips, and beautiful photographs. The book won the Literary Food Writing award from IACP and was shortlisted for the Art of Eating book prize.
Fromartz — who is still a journalist —watched the sourdough movement blossom over the past few years and then explode during the pandemic, renewing interest in his unique book. You can see his breads on Instagram @fromartz.
Posted on December 21 2020