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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.
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
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).
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, and salt in the bowl, pressing zero after each addition so that the measurement goes back to 0 and you can properly weigh/measure.
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 add it to a stand mixer with the dough hook, and mix on low (speed 3) 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.
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 4 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.
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 bubbles emerge to the surface.
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.
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 olive oil over the dough.
10. Put pan in oven on middle rack and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and brush with melted butter, garlic, and oregano. Turn oven down to 375 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.
If you make this sourdough focaccia recipe, be sure to tag me on Instagram with hashtag #heartbeetkitchen, or @heartbeetkitchen!
Looking for More Sourdough Recipes?
- 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 tablespoons melted butter
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- In a large bowl, use a fork to whisk the starter with water, honey, and salt until incorporated.
- Add flour, and incorporate using hands and spatula. Once you no longer see bits of dry flour, add it to a stand mixer with the dough hook, and mix on low (speed 3 of my Kitchenaid) 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. Dough will be quite wet and that is how it is supposed to be.
- Cover the bowl with a very damp cloth and set in a place ideally around 75 degrees. Let rise for about 4 hours, dough will have risen some and be puffy, showing a few bubbles on the surface.
- 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 doubled from original size, has a few bubbles on top, has a glossy finish and is jiggly if you nudge the bowl. This usually takes another 4-5 hours if the temperature is around 75 degrees F in your house. But how the dough looks is truly how you should tell when its done with bulk fermentation, rather than time.
- Drizzle the top of dough with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Brush a 9X13 cake pan liberally with olive oil, distributing all the way to sides of pan. I've found that using the cake pan works even better than a sheet pan. It holds the dough better. But if you need to use a sheet pan, you can.
- 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 gently stretch the edges of the dough to mostly fill the pan, leaving dough alone when it's about 1 1/2 - 2 inches tall. You don't want it to be thin. 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, cooler it will rise slower.
- 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.
- At this point the dough should have visible bubbles in it. If not, let it rise more. Drizzle 2 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.
- Put pan in oven on middle rack and bake for 15 minutes. Remove and brush dough with melted butter, oregano, and chopped garlic. 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.
*This is a very WET DOUGH. And that's okay! Be patient, it will come together. :)
Adapted from the Artisan Sourdough Made Simple cookbook.