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.
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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 basic sourdough recipe. We love this sourdough pizza crust, 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 high hydration dough, and a lengthy, hands off bulk fermentation. In short, it looks like: stir dough, long rest & rise, a shorter rest & rise, dimple. Bake. DEVOUR.
There have been a few relatively inexpensive, well-engineered tools that I’ve added to my kitchen as I’ve dove head first into sourdough baking, beginning with my Everyday Sourdough Bread recipe. My Rye Sourdough is another favorite! These tools make certain steps much easier, and ultimately reproducible and accurate. You don’t need all of them right away if you’re just getting started, but the one you MUST have is a digital scale.
The reason why using a scale is so important in sourdough is because volume doe not equal weight. For visualization purposes, 1 cup of water does not weigh the same as 1 cup of flour. The water would weigh a lot more than the flour, so when we’re looking to make recipes work, we want to make sure everyone is using the same measurement. Grams don’t lie! :)
Since sourdough baking is a game of ratios and percentages dictated by grams, you won’t be able to work without it. Using a digital scale is one of my top tips in my 5 Sourdough Starter Tips for Beginners.
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 145 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.
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, and honey 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 spatula. Put the bowl on your stand mixer and mix for about 1 minute on low speed, just so there are no dry bits of flour left. Add salt to top. Let dough rest for 30 minutes.
Mix on speed 4 of your Kitchenaid stand mixer (medium) for 8 minutes, until the dough starts to pull away from the sides. It will be loose and wet, that’s okay. This is my preferred method. Let dough rest again for 30 minutes. Now stretch and fold four “corners” of the dough, basically on top of itself. Do this a few times around the bowl.
If you don’t have a stand mixer, you could also knead by hand for 12 minutes, but I don’t recommend this option unless you are an experienced baker. Eventually, you should 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! Cover the bowl with a very damp cloth and set in a place ideally around 70 to 75 degrees. Let rise until dough doubles in size and is puffy, jiggly, and a bit glossy. You should see some small bubbles on the surface.
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 so that dough is about 1 to 1/12 inches tall. You don’t want to spread it out too thin.
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 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 425 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. Drizzle top of dough with olive oil 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. 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 400 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.
The dough should be at least an inch thick in your cake pan, before the final rise. After the final rise and the dough has doubled, this will give you sufficient dough to press your fingertips in, resulting in bubbly focaccia.
Not doing the stretch and folds could cause your focaccia to be flat and dense when you bake it. This kneading process develops the gluten structure. It will make the dough more soft and elastic. This elastic structure will help trap any air that is released by during the fermentation process.
Finally, if you overproof the dough, your focaccia will not rise, and turn out dense.