Herbed Focaccia from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

Piece of Focaccia

Ok, let me come right out and say this.  This focaccia was the best I’ve ever tasted in my life.  Period.  Like many of the formulas in the book, this one takes two days to make.  And although it’s more labor and time-intensive than other focaccia recipes I’ve tried, I’m pretty sure it’s the only one I will ever make again.

This is the 13th bread I’ve made for The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge (with 31 more to come) and it has moved up to the top of my favorites list.  Honestly, I didn’t think I could love any bread more than the salami and cheese-filled Casatiello.  But I was wrong.  Foccacia, I love you.

There are two different formulas for focaccia in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, both of which take two days to make.  So why does it take so much time to make a great focaccia?  As many of you have learned from following along with my bread baking, long, slow fermentation of the dough is key to developing maximum flavor.  This can be achieved by using a pre-ferment such as a poolish (like I used for the ciabatta), or by refrigerating the dough overnight (the bagels were a good example of overnight fermentation).

I chose to make the Poolish Focaccia, for no other reason than I just like to watch the bubbles form in the poolish.  Also, I like to say the word ‘poolish.’  A poolish is simply a combination of flour, water, and a small amount of yeast.  It gets mixed together to form a batter-like dough and is allowed to ferment at room temperature until it gets nice and bubbly.

Here is my poolish after mixing:

Focaccia Sponge

and then a few hours later:

Focaccia Sponge Fermented

As you can see, the poolish increases in size and starts bubbling away.  If you stand and watch for a minute, you can actually see bubbles form, grow, and burst.  It’s alive!  Now once it’s nice and bubbly you want to put the poolish in the refrigerator for a long, slow, overnight ferment.  You can let it hang out in the fridge for up to 3 days and continue with the focaccia whenever you are ready.

Ready?  Ok, take the poolish out of the fridge one hour before you want to make the dough so it can warm up a bit.  For the focaccia dough, you will be adding more flour, yeast, water, olive oil and salt to the poolish.

Adding Oil and Flour to Sponge

I stirred the dough up with a spoon until it formed a wet, sticky dough.

Stirring Focaccia Dough

Then I kneaded it for 7 or 8 minutes using the dough hook on my Kitchen Aid mixer.  Once I had a smooth, sticky dough, I stopped kneading and dumped it out onto a bed of flour.  Doesn’t this remind you of my ciabatta? It should, because I used too much flour on the board for the ciabatta and for some reason didn’t learn from my mistake!

Focaccia Dough on Bed of Flour

So the next step is to dust the dough liberally with flour and then pat it into a rectangle.  This was as close as I managed to get.  It’s almost a rectangle!

Focaccia Dough Rectangle

Now for the stretching and folding.  Again, this should seem familiar if you saw my ciabatta post. After letting the dough relax for a few minutes, I coated my hands with flour and stretched the rectangle out.  It’s supposed to be twice its original size.  This time I brushed most of the flour off the top of the dough before folding.

Stretching Focaccia Dough

Next, fold one side of the dough in towards the middle then brush the flour off again.

Folding Focaccia Dough

Then fold the other side over, letter style.  Now I’ve completed one “stretch and fold.”

Second Fold

I covered my dough and let it rest for 30 minutes and then repeated the stretch and fold process two more times, allowing the 30 minute rest each time.  As you can see, the dough grew during the process!  But now it’s time to let it grow even more.  I covered it and let it ferment at room temperature for one hour.

After Stretching and Folding Three Times

While the dough was fermenting, I made a garlic herb oil using fresh garlic, basil, rosemary and parsley.  I also added a bit of crushed red pepper.  Hold on, you’ll see what I do with the oil in a minute.

Garlic Herb Oil

After an hour, the dough had doubled in size and was ready to go in the pan.

Dough is Doubled

I lined my rimmed half sheet pan with parchment and spread olive oil (not the herb oil) all over the bottom.  I gently lifted the dough off the counter and spread it out on the parchment.  Not as easy as it sounds!  As you can see, the dough didn’t hold it’s rectangular shape very well.

Spreading Out the Dough

I drizzled some of the herb oil over the top of the dough and started dimpling it with my fingers, gently spreading the dough out in the pan.

Adding Oil and Dimpling the Dough

The dough didn’t quite reach the edges of the pan, but I wasn’t worried because it still had some growing to do!

Ready for Proofing

I covered the pan and let it proof for about an hour and a half.  As you can see, the dough definitely filled the pan!

Dough has Risen

Next, I drizzled even more herb oil over the top.

Adding more oil

Then I dimpled the dough all over with my fingertips again.

More Dimpling

Close-up of Dough

Before putting the focaccia in the 5oo degree oven, I sprinkled the whole thing lightly with coarse salt.  The focaccia baked for about 20 minutes, and I rotated the pan halfway through baking.  Although the oven is preheated to 500 degrees, it gets turned down to 450 after putting the bread in the oven.

Here is the resulting bread:

Baked Focaccia

The crumb was beautiful!

Focaccia Crumb

And the flavor and texture were out of this world!

Focaccia Crumb Close

I can’t wait to make this focaccia again and try some different toppings.  I loved the herb oil, but can’t wait to try it with cheese and olives, among other things.  I might even make a thick crust pizza using this dough.  It is absolutely amazing!

The recipe for Poolish Focaccia can be found on page 164 of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

The next bread in the challenge is French Bread!  I can’t wait to tell you about the beautiful crusty baguettes that came out of my oven last weekend.  Yes, I have been baking bread faster than I’ve been able to write about it, but my blog posts will soon be caught up to my baking.

Want to Join The Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge?

There are several ways for you to join in the fun!  First of all, you need a copy of Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.  Read the first section of the book carefully, as this will prepare you for the bread recipes in the second section of the book.  Then just jump in and bake some Anadama Bread, which is the first recipe in the book.  But first, please visit The BBA Challenge Page for more details on how to participate in the group!

If you haven’t already, you might want to bookmark the BBA Challenge Page.  From there you can see which breads are coming up soon, find answers to Frequently Asked Questions, visit and/or add yourself to our World Map, see the BBA Challenge Blogroll, and check out the continually updated slideshow of BBA Bread photos from our ever-expanding group of bakers!

Focaccia from other BBA Challenge Members:

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58 Comments
  1. Paula - bell'alimento

    Nicole, I LOVED this bread. It didn’t last very long at my house at all! Your is beautiful as always. Here is my post: http://www.bellalimento.com/2009/08/07/foccacia/

    9:08 am  Aug 27th, 2009
  2. Jamie

    Wow and fantastic and my sons would look at this and say “Now THAT is real foccacia! Why can’t you make that for us?” and now I will have to. Fabulous!

    9:08 am  Aug 27th, 2009
  3. Jenn @ Pete Eatemall

    I loved this bread too! I make focaccia often but this will now be the go to recipe! It was fun to work with made a ton! My summer is filled with a love affair with bread. Thanks for the mention! As always – Thank you for a great challenge. The neighbors thank you too! Happy baking!

    9:30 am  Aug 27th, 2009
  4. Margaret

    O.M.W. That looks incredible.

    S and S will get there sooner or later. Thanks for the tutorial pics. Great help!!!

    9:37 am  Aug 27th, 2009
  5. Ryan G.

    This bread was soo good. Thanks for bringing it along when you came up for Depeche Mode!

    10:07 am  Aug 27th, 2009
  6. The Italian Dish

    We love focaccia and this looks like a winner.

    10:07 am  Aug 27th, 2009
  7. Dale

    This looks amazing, and the process sounds fun. Great step-by-step instructions and photos. I can’t wait to try it.

    10:52 am  Aug 27th, 2009
  8. Michelle

    That looks utterly perfect. And what a glowing recommendation too. Nice job!

    11:17 am  Aug 27th, 2009
  9. mags

    Nicole your focaccia looks outstanding. And it makes me want to bake it all over again. Thanks for including my post in your links!

    11:45 am  Aug 27th, 2009
  10. Roger

    It looks wonderful. A nice variation on this (from my Italian mother in law) is to throw a couple handfuls of cherry tomatoes on the top (they end up in all the oil filled dimples), sprinkle heavily with cracked pepper and cut waaay back on the herbs.

    11:47 am  Aug 27th, 2009
  11. anushruti

    That looks awesome!

    11:49 am  Aug 27th, 2009
  12. Nicole

    that looks fantastic!
    I live in this apartment with the weakest oven… it only gets to 450, no broil, etc!
    But one day… I will have a right equipment to tackle these breads. I love hte work you are doing!

    12:00 pm  Aug 27th, 2009
  13. Sarah

    This looks fun! I can’t wait to try it!

    12:21 pm  Aug 27th, 2009
  14. Katarina Johansson

    Guess I’ll just have to buy that dang book! lol
    Am sittinghere salivating after reading your great post! Thanksssssssssss! :D

    12:35 pm  Aug 27th, 2009
  15. amanda

    oh my god this was sooooo good! good enough for me to actually want to make it myself since I can’t demand you make it for me on a weekly basis. ;-) i wish i had a focaccia fairy who delivered me this version of focaccia every day. just sayin’…

    1:05 pm  Aug 27th, 2009
  16. Charles G. Thompson

    Wow, Nicole — so very impressed that you are making your way through the Challenge! And this looks so good. And even something I, a true apprentice, might be able to attempt. Great post, beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing.

    1:15 pm  Aug 27th, 2009
  17. Frieda

    Beautiful…absolutely beautiful~ I love the idea of putting some crushed red peppers on it and sprinkling w/coarse salt. One idea I learned (I think from Yumarama) is to put the focaccia on the oiled pan right after the last fold. Definitely made it easier.
    Make it again and again…

    Here is my post: http://friedalovesbread.blogspot.com/2009/08/bba-focaccia.html

    1:31 pm  Aug 27th, 2009
  18. bergamot

    Wow this looks really good… I liked the idea of pouring herbed oil over the bread

    5:10 pm  Aug 27th, 2009
  19. Nella

    Oh My Heavenly Gosh! I am buying the book, I am making this bread. You are my bread hero. I love making yeast breads and this one will be soon. Thank you!

    6:27 pm  Aug 27th, 2009
  20. Rahim

    Wow, I can see why you say you’ll probably never make it again. That looked extremely tedious and complicated. From the look of the pics, you did an outstanding job though. Bread is my all time weakness so You’ve made a fan out of me.

    7:08 pm  Aug 27th, 2009
  21. Carla McGarvie

    This looks delicious! Just got back from Spain and Bread Baker’s Apprentice was waiting for me. Read it during jetlag hours in the middle of the night and am soaking cornmeal and water for anadama bread right now! WIll let you know how it turns out via twitter. Wish me luck!

    7:06 am  Aug 28th, 2009
  22. Georgia Pellegrini

    I used to think I was a bad baker. Until I went to France and cooked in a crazy kitchen and spent way too much time with the pastry chef. We made LOTS of foccacia which I learned to love. So now I bake too, not just cook. I recently made hazelnut bundt cakes which were oh so adorable! Here’s a pic: http://www.georgiapellegrini.com/blog/

    11:08 am  Aug 28th, 2009
  23. Kelly

    Wowsers, Nicole! That is gorgeous. Man, every time I see a beautiful post on one of the breads, I want to go back and make it again. Right. NOW. :) Also, thanks for linking to my post.

    12:58 pm  Aug 28th, 2009
  24. Andy

    That bread looks absolutely amazing! The thought of that bread with a good bit of extra virgin olive oil is making my mouth water!

    2:04 pm  Aug 28th, 2009
  25. pam

    Well, I already have a favorite focaccia recipe, but you’ve pretty much sold me on this one!

    6:34 pm  Aug 28th, 2009
  26. Valerie Reilly

    hi….I have been following your blog since you started, and i can taste it all through the internet. brava!!!
    do you have a photo of an almond croissant (i could link to the recipe) for my new blog?
    mille grazie!

    - Valerie

    8:21 am  Aug 29th, 2009
  27. Daniel

    Blasphemy! Casatiello will always be number one in my book. At least until we get to Stollen, which I love.

    Your Focaccia looks amazing! Sometimes I think you make several versions of the same bread and only photograph the good one. You seem to have the magic touch for bread. In contrast to me: http://aehrelichgesagt.blogspot.com/2009/08/bba-challenge-13-and-12-foccacia.html

    I totally overbrowned it. But everyone who got a piece said it was amazing. I guess I eat with my eyes and stomach and others only with their stomach.

    11:47 am  Aug 29th, 2009
  28. Amanda

    That’s absolutely beautiful. It really looks so very good. I haven’t been very good about making my breads, I made the bagels and got swamped with work. I’m going to hit my BBA book again tomorrow and see what’s next :)

    6:22 pm  Aug 29th, 2009
  29. Di

    I had the same problem with using way too much flour on the counter for my ciabatta. =) Your focaccia looks so good (especially right now when I haven’t had any dinner yet).

    7:35 pm  Aug 29th, 2009
  30. cheffresco

    This is among the best looking focaccia I’ve ever seen. I don’t doubt it was absolutely delicious!

    5:51 am  Aug 30th, 2009
  31. Vanessa

    Oh my goodness. This focaccia is absolutely incredible. This is what focaccia is supposed to look like!!! I just wrote an entry in my own blog about focaccia. http://www.thedailyv.com/?p=333

    9:35 am  Aug 30th, 2009
  32. Tracy

    Wow, that looks gorgeous! I might have to try my hand at making some, but am intimidated because yours looks so good.

    3:36 pm  Aug 30th, 2009
  33. Focaccia « happygrub

    [...] I learnt a couple of things, including the stretch and fold method, illustrated very nicely here in step by step [...]

    2:12 am  Aug 31st, 2009
  34. Nancy/n.o.e

    Loved it more than casatiello? That must be one fabulous bread! It looks delicious and I love getting a preview of all the breads that are (way) ahead of me in the BBA Challenge.

    6:44 am  Aug 31st, 2009
  35. Husband

    Have to save that Breadmaker’s Apprentice is one of my absolute favorites. I pull it down more than any other book of late, and your foccia looks so perfect… I’m jealous now.

    2:10 pm  Aug 31st, 2009
  36. pity

    this focaccia looks absolutely divine! I can almost smell it! well done!

    cheers from london,

    pity

    3:51 pm  Aug 31st, 2009
  37. Ron Merlin

    Perfect, absolutely perfect. And beautiful photo’s.

    The Merlin Menu

    6:05 pm  Aug 31st, 2009
  38. CookingSchoolConfidential.com

    At culinary school we do very little baking. And that’s a shame. Because I never met a focaccia I didn’t like.

    Sigh. Maybe I should take the baking program, too!

    Cheers.

    10:36 pm  Aug 31st, 2009
  39. Ariana from Chicago

    This post was the kick in the butt I needed to get to the library and get this book. If only I could find that darn instant yeast somewhere! ;) I have been waiting for a good focaccia recipe, the ones you get from other Italian ladies aren’t the best written ones and they always leave out steps, measurements, etc. I will try this dough to make a Sicilian style “sfincione” pizza. Did you have those in Sicily? My mother in law made them when the kids were younger, and I would love to one up her and make a great one. Thanks!

    12:15 pm  Sep 1st, 2009
  40. Half Assed Kitchen

    Yum. I made focaccia recently too. Though it was a lot more half assed than yours.

    7:39 pm  Sep 1st, 2009
  41. Nancy

    I’ve never made anything that took this long except the Amish sour dough starter bread. You make it look easy so I guess I’ll give it a try!. Thanks

    1:55 pm  Sep 2nd, 2009
  42. Health Food Monster

    Simply amazing and it looks so so good! I would add some diced jalapenos and make some jalapeno bread too!

    9:51 pm  Sep 2nd, 2009
  43. Tanis P

    Wow – that looks DELICIOUS!!!

    8:12 am  Sep 3rd, 2009
  44. Christine

    Gorgeous! I have a delicious foccacia recipe I’ve been using for years, but these pix make me want to try out another one.

    11:11 am  Sep 4th, 2009
  45. Diane

    May I ask what brand of sheet pan you use? I’m having a terrible time with my Calphalon and Wilton pans warping at 375, so I know I’d hear that dreaded sound at 400. I’d love to make this as soon as I can get a pan that won’t warp and slide the whole loaf to one side.

    Thanks!

    Diane

    4:45 am  Sep 5th, 2009
  46. Madam Chow

    I’m drooling over those pictures! This bread is the next one up for me, and I can hardly wait. I’m going to do the herb oil, like you did, for my first one.

    11:01 am  Sep 7th, 2009
  47. Ricardo

    Yummy delicious and well presented, really is fantastic and looks so nice ,Rico xxxx

    5:06 am  Sep 26th, 2009
  48. Katie

    I totally agree. This was awesome. Next time I will try the poolish one, but it really doesn’t seem like there’s much room for improvement. I made the mistake of leaving it out on the counter, and it was gone within a few hours. I posted about it here:
    http://adelaidelemonade.typepad.com/adelaide-lemonade/2009/09/catching-up.html

    5:16 pm  Sep 28th, 2009
  49. Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge: French Bread — Pinch My Salt

    [...] #14 in the book is French Bread.  After the huge success of the focaccia, I was a little worried that my baguettes would disappoint.  I’ve never made a basic French [...]

    11:19 am  Oct 3rd, 2009
  50. Dianne

    I, too, will make this focaccia over and over again. In fact, two nights after I made it for the blog, I found myself making another one, by special request, for a lunch gathering at Mom’s office. I drizzled mine with olive oil mixed with fresh rosemary, flat-leaf parsley, sage, garlic, sea salt and black pepper. Divine!

    Here’s my post:

    http://stoveria.blogspot.com/2009/10/bread-bakers-apprentice-1343-focaccia.html

    It’s good to be back on the #BBA wagon!

    1:26 pm  Oct 15th, 2009
  51. Sylvia

    I LOVE this focaccia. The fresh herb indulged olive oil makes this bread heavenly yummy.

    3:04 am  Oct 21st, 2009
  52. Abby

    Wow. Yum. I will definitely make this one again! Here’s my post: http://mixitbakeit.blogspot.com/2009/10/um-yum-focacia-13.html

    7:17 pm  Oct 27th, 2009
  53. Abby

    (even though I did spell it wrong in my initial title of my post…..)

    7:19 pm  Oct 27th, 2009
  54. Miss Rachel

    Um… what if you don’t have the book you mentioned? Though I would love to have it and use it, I don’t. Is there somewhere I can find the recipe? Or perhaps you could give it to me? I would love to try it, as your bread looks totally AWESOME. That is so yummy.

    Thanks so much.

    10:55 pm  Nov 19th, 2009
  55. AP269

    As always, your BBA result looks awesome!!!! Here’s the post about my pizza-style focaccia http://ap269.wordpress.com/2009/12/12/bba-challenge-13-focaccia/. Next time I’ll try the plain herb oil focaccia, though. The flavor of the oil was so yummy!

    2:33 pm  Dec 12th, 2009
  56. Ravenlynne

    This bread was amazing! I’ll make it time and again too! http://ravenwolflodge.blogspot.com/2010/02/bba-challenge-focaccia-or-best-thing.html

    9:26 am  Feb 11th, 2010
  57. Marker

    I’ve got the same problem as you,

    3:24 am  May 13th, 2010
  58. Baking Focaccia at Home « Time for Dinner

    [...] are numerous wonderful picture tutorials for the Focaccia recipe, thanks to Pinch My Salt and many of BBA Challengers.  I really recommend that you check out other blogs for more detailed [...]

    1:31 pm  Jun 4th, 2011
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