Fluffy Focaccia Bread
Well, its COVID and we, at Sugar Spice, are stuck at home most weekends, like most responsible people. With all this time in our hands, its the best opportunity to work on bread that takes up to 24 hours to make. Last year, if someone told me that I would be making a bread that requires so much time and attention, I would have been like ‘You have such high expectations of me’. Little did we all know the impending doom called COVID that was headed our way and how that would reshape us to push our limits. So if you guys have some time at hand, patience and obviously the ingredients as well (haha). You need extremely soft touch for this recipe. If you are picturing a lot of kneading, flipping the dough up in the air and wrestling with it, then you are not going to find any of that.
A little bit about focaccia
Its not odd that people do think of focaccia to be a precursor to what we all call ‘pizza’, considering that focaccia seems like a fluffier version of the pizza crust but with less toppings. Believed to be originally from Ancient Greece and later seeped into Italy, where it did undergo a bit of change to adapt to Italy’s tastes. Much of the original focaccia recipe still survived throughout history. It used to be baked on a heated tile or earthenware disk. Now we use conventional ovens. Technique has changed too, though to make things easier. I mean, where am I going to get a tile to bake a bread on!
One of the most important ingredient of focaccia is olive oil. In the recipe below, you will notice we do use quite a bit of it. Olive oil is supposed to help form a coat and retain the moisture in the bread during the time of cooking.
The other important ingredient is the yeast, and the amount of time you give for the ‘rise’. For me personally, I like breads like sourdough, which has a slight sour (duh!) taste to it. So I like to give my focaccia more time to rise, to a point where it has a slight acidic kick from the fermentation. You don’t want to overdo this though.
When you look at the basic ingredients, its very similar to a pizza dough. The main difference is again, in the amount of yeast and the fermentation or ‘rise’ time you give for the dough. Pizzas usually use less yeast and lower rise time compared to focaccia. For the same reason, pizzas as you know already, are not too fluffy. Focaccias, as I mentioned before, use waaaaay less toppings compared to pizzas. Reason for this is that if you add more toppings, the weight of the toppings might cause the focaccia to weigh down and lose its shape and fluff.
Fluffy Focaccia Bread
- 4 cups (512 g) – All-purpose flour
- 2-3 tsp (10 g) – Salt
- 2 tsp (8 g) – Instant yeast (Quick rise yeast)
- 2 cups (455 g) warm water at 120 F
- 4 – 5 tbsp – Olive oil
- Garlic powder – to sprinkle
- Oregano – to sprinkle
- In a large bowl, add in the flour, salt and yeast.
- Add the warm water.
- Gently fold in the dough from the sides to the center as shown in the video. I followed a pinch method to ensure the dry and wet ingredients are mixed well. To do, simply grab part of dough and pinch. Repeat.
- Add in 2 tbsp of olive oil. Spread it around the dough and in the bowl so that the dough does not stick to the inside of the bowl.
- Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 12 to 18 hours for the yeast to do its magic. The dough should have almost doubled after fermenting.
- Rub some olive oil on your hands before you start working on the dough and gently release the dough from the sides of the bowl.
- Gently release the dough from the sides of the bowl. Then fold the dough into the center by pulling from the side and folding them to the center.
- Take a 9 x 13 inch baking tray and line it with parchment paper. Add 2 tbsp on olive oil to it to prevent the dough from sticking to it later.
- Place the dough on the pan and turn it around till the oil coats the dough evenly. Fold the dough in just like you did before on all sides.
- Now, leave it to rise for another 2 hours on the counter.
- Preheat an oven to 425 F.
- Rub oil on your fingers and spread the dough around to the sides of the pan. If it resists, don’t push it. It might just cause the dough to deflate. Just leave it free for 10 minutes and try again.
- Dip your fingers in water, and press down on the dough to create dimples.
- Add your favorite toppings! But make sure not to add too many as that would deflate the dough. I added few bell peppers, shallots, cherry tomatoes, lot of garlic powder and sprinkle of oregano, poppy seeds and salt.
- Bake for 25 to 30 minutes till the top and bottom are golden brown.
- Take it off the pan and place on a cooling rack for around 10 to 15 minutes. If you plan on making sandwiches, you can let it cool completely down to room temperature.
- The temperature of water used is very important since yeast has an optimum working temperature. For instant yeast, this falls around 120 F to 130 F. If you go hotter, the yeast dies. You go colder, yeast does not do its best work.
- While creating dimples on the dough,make sure that you keep dipping your fingers in water so that the dough doesn’t stick to your fingers.