Homemade Focaccia

Homemade Focaccia

Foccaccia is one of those breads that I never thought much about. I had come across many bland, boring versions that seemed to be overloaded with toppings, more like a thick crust pizza. But recently, I've come across a few restaurants whose focaccia was served plain, maybe with herbs, and I realized what potential this bread had, when you focused on the bread. I am not against toppings, but the truth of the matter is that no topping can make a boring focaccia great, and a great focaccia needs nothing but itself to be delicious.

Boozy Epicure's Homemade Focaccia
Adapted from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

5 cups Italian Type 00 Flour, plus additional bread flour (you can use all bread flour if you prefer)
1 tblsp kosher salt
2 tsp yeast
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups water (room temp)
Olive oil (for oiling paper)
Olive oil (or herb oil*, for oiling the top of the bread)
Other toppings optional (cheese, olives, thin sliced veggies are all common toppings)

*Note - I added dried Italian seasoning, garlic powder, salt and pepper to regular olive oil for topping the bread, you can do the same or keep it plain

Start by stirring together the flour, salt, and yeast together in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the oil and water and mix with the paddle attachment until the ingredients are combined, then swap to the dough hook and continue mixing on medium speed for about 7 minutes. You want to create a smooth dough that sticks to the bottom of the bowl but clears the sides. I started with the 00 flour, then added bread flour a tblsp at a time until the dough came together how I liked. It's pretty sticky, so don't be scared.

Generously flour your work surface then move the dough to the counter and dust the top liberally with flour and pat the dough into a rectangle. Let the dough rest for about 5 minutes, then, gently, stretch the dough with your hands to make the rectangle twice as long. Fold it over itself, tri-fold letter style, spray the top with spray oil and cover it (leaving it on the counter) with plastic wrap. Wait 30 minutes, then do the stretch and fold again, repeating the spray oil and covering with the plastic wrap. Wait another 30 minutes, then do the process once more. Make sure you add bench flour as necessary to the counter or your dough will stick. Once you are done with all the folds, spray the inside of a large ziplock bag with oil and place the dough inside. Leave it out at room temperature for one hour, then refrigerate overnight, or up to 3 days. If you wish, you can cut the dough in 2 portions and after each has rested at room temperature for an hour, place one in the fridge and the other in the freezer. That is exactly what I do.

Dough on the counter, ready for stretching and folding.
The next day, three hours before you are ready to bake, take out a sheet pan and line it with parchment paper. Oil the paper generously with olive oil (not extra virgin) then remove the dough gently from the bag and place on the oiled parchment. You want to deflate the dough as little as possible during this transfer, so I like to cut the ziplock open. Cover the surface of the bread with oil (or herb oil, if using) then use your fingertips to gently spread the dough, dimpling and stretching it gently. You want the entire surface coated with oil.

Let the dough rest/rise, covered loosely with plastic wrap, at room temperature for about 3 hours. After 2 hours, preheat your oven to 500 F.

When you are ready to bake, place the pan in the oven, turn the heat down to 450 F and bake for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan, then continue baking for 5-10 minutes (until the bread turns light golden brown). At this point, I add grated parmesan cheese and let the bread bake another 5 minutes.The internal temperature should reach at least 200 F. Remove the pan from the oven and transfer the focaccia to a cooling rack. The paper should peel off easily. Allow the focaccia to cool before slicing and eating (I prefer just barely warm).

**If you are using other toppings, be mindful when you add them. Nuts, olives, high-moisture cheeses, etc can be added before baking, dry cheeses or cured meats can be added near the end or at the very end.

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