Heartbeet Kitchen
How to Make Sourdough Focaccia: a Step-by-Step Tutorial
June 29, 2018 (last updated October 22, 2020) in Appetizer · Recipe Box · Refined Sugar-Free · Sourdough · 52 Comments
How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread - naturally leavened
How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread - naturally leavened

If you are just beginning your sourdough journey and need to acquire a starter, I’d be happy to share mine with you! You can ORDER Sourdough Starter HERE, cost is $12 and includes shipping.

Find more sourdough troubleshooting and tips weekly, here!


After starting my sourdough baking journey and feeling mostly confident in the vitality of my starter plus the resulting breads, it was time to experiment beyond the standard loaf. First it was bagels, then english muffins, and the latest – sourdough focaccia. Puffy and fluffy. Bubbly holes throughout. And a golden brown exterior that rose through the dimples left behind by pressing fingers into the dough, just before baking.

Experimenting with different techniques and water ratios, I settled on this recipe that encompasses a very high hydration dough, and a lengthy, hands off bulk fermentation. In all honesty, I wish I would have started my sourdough journey with focaccia, as I think it’s one of the easiest things to make because there is no folding, no shaping, and little timing that needs to be projected. In short, it looks like: stir, long rest & rise, a short rest & rise, dimple, then bake. Then devour.

sourdough starter in a mason jar

There have been a few relatively inexpensive, well-engineered OXO tools that I’ve added to my kitchen as I’ve dove head first into sourdough baking.

These tools make certain steps much easier, and ultimately reproducible and accurate. Certainly you don’t need all of them right away if you’re just getting started (I’ll reference and link to each in the tutorial to give you a better sense of their impact on the end result), but the one you MUST have is a digital scale.

Since sourdough baking is a game of ratios and percentages dictated by grams, you won’t be able to work without it.

So let’s get started! (It may also be helpful to read this post regarding 5 important tips for feeding and maintaining a sourdough starter.

How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread - naturally leavened

How To Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread

1. Two days (or more) before you want to start the process, feed your starter each day, 60 grams each of flour and water, discarding about 30 grams right before re-feeding. The goal is to build up the quantity of your starter. You’ll need 170 grams for baking.

I keep my starter in mason jars and find the OXO jar spatula to be perfect for getting around all the edges of the jar, scooping, and handling wet dough. It’s made of silicone, which is great because it doesn’t carry bacteria, which metal can (so don’t use regular spoons).

How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread - naturally leavened
How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread - naturally leavened

2. When your starter has risen on the day of baking and is ready to go (here are more tips on when to know it’s ready), get out a large bowl. I like to use this OXO 4.5 quart glass bowl because it is large enough to avoid flour getting everywhere when mixing, high sides give the dough plenty of room to rise, and you can also see through it to track progress.

Set bowl on digital scale, and zero out so that it equals 0 grams. This scale features a pull out display for easy reading so it won’t get covered up by the bowl – so helpful!

Mix the starter with the water, honey, salt, and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil (all measurements given below in recipe) in the bowl, pressing zero after each addition so that the measurement goes back to 0 and you can properly weigh/measure.

How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread - naturally leavened
How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread - naturally leavened
How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread - naturally leavened

3. Add flour, and incorporate using hands and the OXO jar spatula, as it’s sturdy yet flexible, and works great for this wet dough. Once you no longer see bits of dry flour, you can either add it to a stand mixer with the dough hook, and mix on low (speed 2) for 10 minutes, until the dough starts to pull away from the sides and hold itself. This is my preferred method.

Or you can knead by hand for 10 minutes, until you feel the dough tighten and acquire resistance, pulling away from the sides of the bowl as you work with it.

stretching sourdough

4. Now it’s time to rest! Known as bulk fermentation, cover the bowl with a very damp cloth and set in a place ideally around 75 degrees. Let rise for about 5-6 hours, until dough doubles in size and is puffy. You should see some small bubbles on the surface. Now stretch and fold four “corners” of the dough, basically on top of itself.

Cover again and let rest at room temperature until top of dough is puffy, glossy, and has some bubbles. It will have about doubled from original size of dough. It should have all of these things before moving onto step 6. You can also put it in the refrigerator to do this step.

5. At this point, brush 9×13 cake pan (I’ve found a cake pan works better) or a sheet pan with olive oil, distributing all the way to sides of pan.

6. Using lightly oiled hands, gently scrape dough out onto baking sheet. It will look like a big blob, and that’s okay! Using your hands pull the edges out to gently stretch them. Dough should be about 1 1/2 inches to 2 inches tall. Don’t stretch any further than that. Let rise in a warm spot, covered with another sheet pan that’s upside down (so it has room to rise) for 2-3 hours hours until it is puffy and very bubbly. You should see lots of bubbles.

7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. I can’t stress how helpful it is to use an oven thermometer at this point instead of the built-in reading your oven gives you. Mine runs 40 degrees high! Having an accurate thermometer ensures the same results every time, and with something like baking where temperature is so crucial, you want to be able to trust it.

How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread - naturally leavened
How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread - naturally leavened

8. Press your fingertips using your whole hand into the risen dough. Your fingertips should go all the way down through the dough, hitting the pan.

9. Drizzle melted butter mixture over the dough and lightly help distribute with a brush.

10. Put pan in oven on middle rack and bake for 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F and bake for another 10ish minutes, until crust is golden brown and bounces back slightly when you press down on it. Let cool for 15 minutes and eat.

And there you have it!  Garlic butter sourdough focaccia that will fill your house with the most tempting smells, and your mouth with bread heaven. Soft and chewy, the texture is undeniably a favorite, along with the sourdough flavor thanks to the lengthy bulk fermentation. And I just love the irregular holes throughout. I like to eat this focaccia as simple as it gets – dipped in olive oil, or spread with ricotta and sprinkled with salt and lemon zest.

If you make this sourdough focaccia recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram with hashtag #heartbeetkitchen, or @heartbeetkitchen!

Looking for More Sourdough Recipes?

Sourdough focaccia recipe
Sourdough focaccia recipe
How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread - naturally leavened

How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Bread

Yield: 1 large loaf
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Wait Time: 15 hours 25 minutes
Total Time: 18 hours

A delicious recipe for bubbly, sourdough focaccia bread that is naturally leavened.

Ingredients

  • 170 grams active starter at its peak - NOT discard
  • 305 grams room temp water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • olive oil
  • 460 grams all-purpose flour (preferably King Arthur brand)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano

Instructions

    1. In a large bowl, mix the starter with water, honey, salt, and 1 tablespoon olive oil.
    2. Add flour, and incorporate using hands and the OXO jar spatula, as it’s sturdy yet flexible, and works great for this wet dough. Once you no longer see bits of dry flour, you can either add it to a stand mixer with the dough hook, and mix on low (speed 2) for 10 minutes, until the dough starts to pull away from the sides and hold itself. This is my preferred method. Or you can knead by hand for 12-15 minutes, until you feel the dough tighten and acquire resistance, pulling away from the sides of the bowl as you work with it.
    3. Bulk fermentation: cover the bowl with a very damp cloth and set in a place ideally around 75 degrees. Let rise for about 5-6 hours, dough will have risen some and be puffy, showing a few bubbles on the surface.
    4. Now stretch and fold four “corners” of the dough, basically on top of itself. Cover again and let rest several hours at room temperature until dough has a few bubbles on top, has a glossy finish and has doubled. You should see all of these things to know it is ready for step 6. You can also put it in refrigerator and do this step overnight.
    5. At this point, brush a 9X13 cake pan or baking sheet liberally with olive oil, distributing all the way to sides of pan. I've found that using the cake pan works even better than the sheet pan. It holds the dough better.
    6. Using lightly oiled hands, gently scrape dough out into your cake pan or baking sheet It will look like a big blob, and that’s okay! Using your hands pull the edges out to gently stretch them. Leave dough alone when it's about 1 1/2 - 2 inches tall. Let rise in a warm spot, covered with another sheet pan that’s upside down (so it has room to rise) for 2-3 hours until it is puffy and super bubbly. This amount of time will depend on how warm your house. Warmer will rise faster.
    7. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. I can’t stress how helpful it is to use an oven thermometer at this point instead of the built-in reading your oven gives you.
    8. At this point the dough should have visible bubbles in it. If not, let it rise more. Drizzle 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (don't be shy) onto the bread, and press your fingertips using your whole hand into the risen dough. Your fingertips should go all the way down through the dough, hitting the pan.
    9. Then drizzle melted butter over the dough, brushing with a pastry brush, and then sprinkle 2 cloves minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano to top of bread.
    10. Put pan in oven on middle rack and bake for 15 minutes. Turn oven down to 375 degrees F and bake for another 10 minutes. Broil the top for 1-2 minutes to brown, watching carefully to see it turn golden brown. Let cool for 15 minutes and eat.

Notes

*This is a very WET DOUGH. And that's okay! Be patient, it will come together. :)
Adapted from the Artisan Sourdough Made Simple cookbook. 

52 thoughts on “How to Make Sourdough Focaccia: a Step-by-Step Tutorial

  1. Sarah @ Snixy Kitchen

    I’m so obsessed with these photos and I feel like I’m right there making focaccia with you! I’ve had learning how to make gluten-free focaccia on my to-do list for awhile now, so I think I’ll use this as a starting point in my experiments! I also have and love that scale for the pull-out screen feature too!

    Reply
  2. Casey L.

    Really easy and delicious recipe for sourdough focaccia!! Amanda’s detailed instructions are super helpful. I opted for the overnight rest after bulk fermentation, and the finished bread was SO flavorful. This is my new go-to sourdough recipe!

    Reply
    1. amandapaa Post author

      I’m so glad you liked the recipe! And thank you for sharing the photo on Instagram – so fun to see the joy in your son’s eyes while eating the focaccia!

      Reply
  3. Natalie

    Hi Amanda!! I tried this recipe, but my dough seems REALLY wet. How cool must the water be, I used room temperature water. As such when I reach step #3, it gets stuck to the bowl even though I’ve used the hook for 10 mins. Any tips??

    Reply
    1. amandapaa Post author

      Hi Natalie! This is a very high hydration, 90%, so it will be very sticky throughout the process. The water should be cool, as in 75ish degrees. It could also be stickier if it is humid today in your area. Try adding 25 grams flour, and mix for 4 more minutes, then continue with directions. It should be okay. Also, are you certain you measured the flour/water ratio correctly? I know I’ve made mistakes before. Hope that helps! xo

      Reply
  4. Jessica

    LOVE this recipe! I made it this week & the texture was just perfect. I decorated mine with za’atar, oregano, chilli flakes & garlic. It was a huge hit!

    Reply
  5. Helisa

    Hi. So my question is if I leave it in the fridge, do you need to let it proof 2 1/2 hours to get it to room temperature?

    Reply
    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      hello!
      i’m guessing you’re referring to these steps:
      Let rise for about 6 hours, until dough doubles in size and is puffy. You should see some small bubbles on the surface.
      Now stretch and fold four “corners” of the dough, basically on top of itself. Cover again and let rest for 2 1/2 hours at room temperature, or overnight in the refrigerator. You can keep it in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours if you’d like. — At this point, after you remove it from the refrigerator you would continue to follow the instructions, not waiting for it to come to room temp.
      Your next step would be: Using lightly oiled hands, gently scrape dough out onto baking sheet. It will look like a big blob, and that’s okay! Using your hands pull the edges out to gently stretch them, and work into any shape you’d like. Dough should be about 1 to 1 1/2 inches tall. Let rise in a warm spot, covered with another sheet pan that’s upside down (so it has room to rise) for 1-2 hours until it is puffy and bubbly.

      Yours will probably take at least 2 hours to get puffy and bubbly because it is coming out of the refrigerator.

      Reply
  6. Sara

    Mine didnt rise quite as well as i was hoping, but i probably rushed it. But the top of mine just isn’t getting the pretty browning that yours has, is there a secret? I left it in a few extra minutes trying to brown, but i didnt want to dry it out or over bake it. It still looks ok, just not as pretty.

    Reply
    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      Hi Sara!

      This dough takes quite a bit of time to rise for the bulk, so if rushing that, you probably didn’t get the rise you wanted. And needs to be really bubbly at the 2nd rise. Then use your fingers to press in. You could try broiling for just a few minutes to help with the browning.

      Reply
  7. Sara

    I over did the first rise, under did the bulk, and rushed the final. I’m new to bread baking and still figuring out how to time things in around my schedule.

    Reply
  8. Mika

    A bit confused at the baking step instructions – the long text says 20 min at 400, the short instructions say 10. I’m trying 15 to come in between, but which one did you mean?

    A. Put pan in oven on middle rack and bake for 20 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F and bake for another 15 minutes

    B. Put pan in oven on middle rack and bake for 10 minutes. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F and bake for another 15 minutes,

    Reply
  9. Anne Shedddan

    My very first focaccia made with my first sourdough starter. Your step by step instructions were great. The bread turned our beautifully. Wish I could include photo. No yeast in shops so had to get creative. Now have 3 lots of starter on the go.
    I’m hooked. Thank you.
    Anne
    Brisbane, Australia

    Reply
  10. Angela

    Thanks so much for the detailed instructions and beautiful photos. I did the overnight proof and the focaccia turned out amazingly chewy, soft and delicious! I used garlic infused olive oil and it smells absolutely devine :D

    Reply
      1. Mica

        Hi, thanks for the recipe – I can’t wait to try it! is it possible to leave out the honey, or is it crucial for the sourdough to work properly? (My husband can’t stand honey..) Thanks!

        Reply
        1. Amanda Paa Post author

          Hi!
          You won’t taste the honey, it’s just the little bit of sugar that helps the fermentation. You could use maple syrup instead if you wanted, in equal grams.

          Reply
  11. Tanya Wilson

    This was amazing!! I did the overnight proof after the proof and fold. For the topping I finely chopped 2 whole BULBS of garlic (Never enough/too much garlic), and sautéed with fresh rosemary, 1 TBS of a onion/chili paste/oil that I have in the olive oil and butter on medium/low heat until the garlic was semi soft, maybe 10 minutes. I poked the dough well then topped and brushed out the cooked garlic mixture and then I topped the dough with 1/4 c Romano Pecorino. I then re-poked the focaccia so all the goodies went in really well. Then I followed your baking instructions and except I covered during the hotter portion of cooking and uncovered during lower temperature cooking so the cheese and garlic (there is a lot) don’t over brown. It turned out EXCEPTIONAL. Everyone is raving and I will be expected to make this frequently now. Thank you! I have been searching for a good focaccia recipe and have been practicing and I think I have found the winner! I think the WET dough is the trick. :)

    Reply
  12. Aleksandra

    Excellent recipe, thanks! We added some dried tomatoes and it was amazing, next time we shall add a few black olives too!

    Reply
    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      Hi Sharlene! For sourdough recipes, grams are the standard measurement used across the world. So for ease of making recipes, I’d suggest adding one to your kitchen. They are rather affordable. This one is under $20.

      Reply
  13. Reggie Carroccia

    Wow!!! This recipe simply amazing!!! It was definitely worth the wait!!! It was light, airy, chewy and I topped it off with Pizza Sauce , black olives , sun dried tomatoes. Once it was baked I added shredded mozzarella cheese and turned the oven on broiler for 5 more minutes!!! Fabulous!!!!

    Reply
  14. Anna

    Hi there! I am wondering for this recipe, do you have to feed your starter and then wait until it peaks or can I use a starter that has been fed a bit longer ago

    Reply
  15. Myrna

    I had a wonderful success with this today! I used my discard, but mine is quite active and bubbly, even in the fridge discard. When I looked at it this morning after resting overnight, it was huge! I followed your instructions. I put it in the pan with lots of olive oil on the bottom and it rose for about 2 hours. In that time I melted the butter and sauteed the garlic in it slightly. I drizzled a bit more olive oil on top, sprinkled an herb de Provence mix on top and the garlic butter, pushing my fingers into it all over. I also checked my oven temperature, am low by about 40 degrees F! Good to know. Also need to heat up to temperature more than when my oven thinks it’s hot enough! The house smelled like an Italian restaurant, we enjoyed the focaccia dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, just tremendous. This will be a do over, quite simple. Thanks so much!!

    Reply
  16. Amar

    This was absolutely amazing! After step 6, I cold proofed dough in the fridge overnight as it was too late at night to bake. It turned out perfect with great rise and a very nice tang. I can see making again and again at family gatherings!
    Thank you so much!!!

    Reply
  17. mari

    Do you think I can leave it in the fridge for 24 hours? so one full night, one full day and bake next day?

    Thanks

    Reply
  18. Aida

    If i only have 30g of starter, do i still feed it with 60g flour and 60g water? on the day of baking, how do i know that it is ready for use?

    Reply
    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      Hi Aida! You’ll need to build your start up to 170 grams for this recipe. You should mix the dough when it’s at its peak and is puffy at the top, has at least doubled, and has active bubbles.

      Reply
  19. Annette

    I really want to try this! I’m confused about the starter though! When I bake a sourdough rye bread I take 250 g of the refrigerated rye starter then add 200g rye flour and 200g water and combine these. The next day I remove 250g from this active starter and put it into a jar in the fridge for the next time I’m baking it. I didn’t notice anything mentioned like this in your recipe. If I use up all of my starter I won’t have anything left for next time,is this correct? As you can tell I’m new to this sourdough starter made from white flour. Please help! Thanks so much! Annette.

    Reply
    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      Hi Annette! You’ll just build up your starter so that you have some leftover when you remove 170 grams for the recipe. For instance, if you had 25 grams of starter in your jar, you’d feed it 90 grams flour and 90 grams water. Then let it rise to its peak and mix the dough using 170 grams. That would leave you with extra starter to continue feeding and use as your mother.

      Reply
  20. Monica

    Hi Annette,
    My family are focaccia mad after tasting your recipe. I am making two focaccias. I will double the recipe but when do you recommend l separate the dough into two portions? 
    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    1. Amanda Paa Post author

      hello! if you’d like to make a double batch, you’d separate the dough equally after the bulk fermentation is complete. let them do their final rise in separate pans.

      Reply
  21. Matthew

    Hi,

    I currently have a firm sourdough starter to use – one made with 100:60 ratio flour to water. – I.e 60% hydration. What is the hydration ratio of your starter? Is it 100%? I need to adjust the proportions of the main recipient, flour/water take into account my drier starter and could do with help!

    Matthew

    Reply

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