Twice as Tasty

Herb-and-Salt Sourdough Focaccia

Most sourdough loaves need to cool to bake completely, making it a treat to enjoy focaccia hot from the oven

By Julie Laing
Photo by Julie Laing.

You might not think of sourdough when you envision focaccia, but the fermented tang offsets olive oil’s fruitiness. Yet the timing draws me most to this bread: it can be eaten within minutes of baking without risking an uncooked center.

My version begins with sourdough starter. You can request it in the Sharing fermented starters Facebook group if you don’t yet have an active jar in your kitchen – or to share your starter through that group if you do.

From there, focaccia varies each time I make it. Fresh herbs can replace dried, and a sprinkling of minced garlic, thinly sliced and sautéed onion or bell pepper, paper-thin lemon quarters, capers, anchovies or grated Parmesan makes a delicious addition. Stick to a couple of toppings and use a light hand to let the dough rise.

Herb-and-Salt Sourdough Focaccia

Makes 1 loaf

120 grams (about 1/2 cup) water

260 grams (about 14 tablespoons) sourdough starter (100% hydration)

36 grams (about 3 tablespoons) olive oil, plus more for coating and brushing

320 grams (about 2-2/3 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour

8 grams (about 1-1/2 teaspoons) sea salt

2 teaspoons dried lemon thyme or DIY Herb Blend

1 teaspoon flaky salt

Set a large bowl on a kitchen scale. Measure in the starter, water, oil and flour, stirring after each until just combined. Cover with a damp tea towel for 10 minutes. Feed your starter.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, sprinkle on sea salt and knead for about 10 seconds. Oil the bowl lightly, add the dough and cover with the damp towel; let rest for about 30 minutes.

Double letter fold the dough: Return it to the floured surface and gently stretch it in four directions without tearing, forming a rectangle. Fold one-third up the rectangle and then the other third over the top, like folding a letter. Rotate 90 degrees and repeat; return the dough to the bowl and cover for about one hour. Repeat the fold-and-rest cycle, letting the dough rest for a second hour.

Lightly coat a rimmed 9-by-13 inch baking sheet with oil. Turn the dough onto it and let it rest for about five minutes, until the gluten relaxes. Use your fingertips to press it gently into a rectangle that fills most of the pan, but avoid flattening any air bubbles and blisters. Cover with waxed paper and proof for about one hour at room temperature. Move the pan to the fridge to chill for at least an hour or overnight.

When ready to bake, remove the pan from the fridge, gently lift and replace the waxed paper over the dough and let it sit for about one hour, until it reaches room temperature and begins to rise again. Use a fingertip to make indentations across the surface. Gently brush on oil and sprinkle with herbs and flaky salt.

Bake at 450°F for about 20 minutes, until golden. Slide the bread onto a wire rack to cool for 10 minutes before cutting and serving squares.

Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.

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