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Flavorful focaccia

Jeff Zeak takes you through a unique recipe for focaccia bread.



QUESTION:

I’m interested in serving focaccia bread as a starter; do you have a recipe you can share?

ANSWER:

Focaccia is similar to pizza in that both are topped with various ingredients. As compared to pizza, focaccia is sparsely topped or accented with olive oil,
herbs, coarse sea salt, and thinly sliced onions, tomatoes or olives. The Latin translation of focaccia bread (panis focacius) means “baked in the ashes of the fireplace.” Focaccia in Roman times were baked in the ashes on the hearth (floor) of the oven, whereas modern-day focaccia is baked on a tray above the fire (heat). In some cases, focaccia was referred to as “hearth cake” due to its very moist cakelike interior—and also to avoid having to pay bread taxes on this product! This dough is very well-suited for those occasions where a thick bready crust is desired. The Parmesan cheese and herb blend provides a flavorful crust that can be eaten plain as a breadstick; served as an appetizer with dipping sauces, or as an accompaniment to an entrée; or topped like a pizza with assorted ingredients.

Biga: Add water. Add all dry ingredients. Mix just until well-combined. Allow to ferment at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours.

Dough: Add water. Add all dry ingredients, including cheese and herbs, helping to seal in flavors. Add Biga from above. Mix 2 minutes at low speed. Add oil; mix 1 to 2 more minutes at low speed, then mix 3 to 4 minutes at medium speed. Allow to bulk ferment for 2 hours at room temperature; punch and fold every hour.

Scale the dough: Use 2724 grams (6 lb.) for a full sheet pan, 1362 grams (3 lb.) for a half sheet pan, and 454 grams (1 lb.) for 10” deep-dish pan. 

Using oiled hands, press the dough into an oiled pan evenly, to the edge of the pan, and allow to rise, covered, for 1 hour at room temperature. Top as desired. Bake at 425°F until golden on top (use a spatula to check bottom bake). 

Another way you can easily make focaccia bread: from your existing pizza dough—or, even better, from pizza dough that’s getting a little old so that you’re wondering, “What am I going to do with this?” 

Coat the interior sides and bottom of a half sheet pan (13”-by-18”) well with olive oil. Working with well-oiled hands, press 5 lb. of fermented pizza dough (dough that has been mixed and allowed to rest at least two hours, or longer) into the pan. Let the dough proof/rise for 2 to 3 hours in a warm place or at room temperature. 

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