Flavorful focaccia

QUESTION:

I’m interested in serving focacciabread as a starter; do you have arecipe you can share?

ANSWER:

Focaccia is similar to pizza in that bothare topped with various ingredients. Ascompared to pizza, focaccia is sparselytopped or accented with olive oil,

herbs, coarse sea salt, and thinly slicedonions, tomatoes or olives. The Latintranslation of focaccia bread (panisfocacius) means “baked in the ashesof the fireplace.” Focaccia in Romantimes were baked in the ashes on thehearth (floor) of the oven, whereasmodern-day focaccia is baked on a trayabove the fire (heat). In some cases, focacciawas referred to as “hearth cake”due to its very moist cakelike interior—and also to avoid having to pay breadtaxes on this product!This dough is very well-suited forthose occasions where a thick breadycrust is desired. The Parmesan cheeseand herb blend provides a flavorfulcrust that can be eaten plain as abreadstick; served as an appetizer withdipping sauces, or as an accompanimentto an entrée; or topped like apizza with assorted ingredients.

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

Dough: Add water. Add all dryingredients, including cheese andherbs, helping to seal in flavors. AddBiga from above. Mix 2 minutes atlow speed. Add oil; mix 1 to 2 moreminutes at low speed, then mix 3 to4 minutes at medium speed. Allow tobulk 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 454grams (1 lb.) for 10” deep-dish pan.

Using oiled hands, press the doughinto an oiled pan evenly, to the edge ofthe pan, and allow to rise, covered, for1 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 focacciabread: from your existing pizzadough—or, even better, from pizzadough that’s getting a little old so thatyou’re wondering, “What am I going todo with this?”

Coat the interior sides and bottomof a half sheet pan (13”-by-18”) wellwith olive oil. Working with well-oiledhands, press 5 lb. of fermented pizzadough (dough that has been mixedand allowed to rest at least two hours,or longer) into the pan. Let the doughproof/rise for 2 to 3 hours in a warmplace or at room temperature.