Christopher Gillett’s Sourdough Focaccia
It was surprisingly difficult to find a recipe for sourdough focaccia that made any sense to me, so I figured out this one.
1 cup or so of newly-refreshed white wheat sourdough starter
2 1/4 cups of lukewarm water
4 cups of strong flour
2.5 tsps fine sea salt
Toppings - salt flakes, rosemary sprigs, olives...
In your electric mixer (or in a bowl) with a dough hook, mix all the ingredients together, bar the olive oil, at a medium speed until you have a soft, elastic dough. You may have to adjust the hydration, depending on your flour etc, but make sure the dough is not stiff. It should be really quite loose, much softer than a normal bread dough, but just able to hold its shape for a few seconds. This will take about 6 minutes. If doing the mixing by hand, mix the ingredients together, leave for 15 minutes or so, then turn onto a surface to stretch and mix for another 10 minutes. The dough will be too wet to knead conventionally.
If you’ve used a machine, turn the dough on to a surface and stretch and fold for a couple of minutes until you can persuade the dough to form a soft, smooth ball. This will take some skills, many of which can be learned from YouTube. Pour a very good glug of olive oil onto the ball of dough and massage it gently into the surface. It will run down the sides onto the work surface. Keep Calm. Get a clean bowl and scoop the dough into it, gathering as much of the oil as you can. Here’s where a plastic scraper becomes almost essential. In the bowl, fold the dough gently onto itself, then gently reshape the dough into a ball, leaving any seam on the bottom. It will be oily and smooth and lovely. Cover (a shower cap is perfect) and put in the fridge for 12 hours or so until blisters are appearing on the dough. If they aren’t forming after 12 hours, take the bowl out of the fridge - a warmer environment should bring them on.
Prepare a 9 x 13 inch baking pan, bigger if you want a shallow focaccia. If you can, line the bottom with some baking paper. Not necessary if the pan is non-stick. Drizzle a good amount of oil into the pan and make sure every surface is well-oiled. Empty your dough into the pan, then stretch and nudge it until it fills the bottom of the pan. You might have to let the dough rest for a few minutes between stretches. Cover the pan loosely with clingfilm and leave in a warm place to prove for two hours or more. When you can see good blisters all over the dough and/or it has doubled in size, it’s ready for the next stage.
Preheat the oven to 230c - it should preheat for about 30 minutes before baking. 10 minutes before the oven is ready, drizzle a good splurge of olive oil onto the surface of the dough, and with a wet hand, gently spread the oil over the entire surface. Now, with your wet, oily fingers, prod deep into the dough. Don’t be timid - the prodding action should create more blisters on the surface. Scatter salt on the top, and lightly press any other toppings you fancy into the surface.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, turning halfway through if your oven doesn’t bake evenly. The surface should be golden brown. Don’t underbake! Carefully remove the focaccia from the pan (removing the paper if used) and cool on a rack. If you fancy, you can drizzle even more oil on top when it comes out of the oven.