focaccia (WTSIM…#4)

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recipe: focaccia with onion, based on a recipe in “Piano, Piano, Pieno” by Susan McKenna Grant

Time flies! It seems like only yesterday that I was posting for WTSIM… EasterBasket! (I still haven’t made luciacats or hot cross buns as I had promised.) And here it is already past the deadline for

Waiter, there’s something in my… Bread!

focaccia This time I was going to be on time! Really I was! The post was three quarters typed. The bread was baked. The photos were in the camera. But after a leisurely wonderful dinner on the 25th, just as I was going to transfer the photographs from the camera to the computer and get this posted moments before midnight, I got called away from the computer and learned I had to go out of town for work very early the next morning. I didn’t get back home until very late last night. (excuses excuses…)

Of course, either luciacats or hot cross buns would be ideal for this event. But when the bread theme was announced, I got it in my head that I would make a triumphant posting about bread I had made with my own just-captured wild yeast. Ha. As anyone who has been here in the last few days knows that it isn’t going to happen. (Read about the wild yeast hunt.)

So… what is that in my bread?? It’s wild yeast!!

25 April 2007
I make sandwich bread often and today happens to be a sandwich bread day as well. There are three loaves rising in the oven with only the light turned on. And the other dough that is rising on another shelf of the oven is focaccia for tonight’s dinner of grilled pork chops, artichokes, and carrot & celery sticks with blue cheese mayonnaise.

focaccia ingredients These are all the ingredients for focaccia (all except the onion): water, active dry yeast, all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, seasalt, malt powder, fleur de sel, extra virgin olive oil. (click on image for larger view and more photos)

I’ve made focaccia many times before but the section on focaccia from Genoa in Piano Piano Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant was really intriguing and I really wanted to try it. It was the rise time as well as the addition of a tiny amount of malt powder that was so different!

The other ingredient that is there is instant yeast. I just can’t quite bring myself to use instant yeast. I have always used active dry (except for the one or two times I’ve used fresh yeast) and really like the ritual of warming cold water with just boiled water til it is baby bottle safe, adding it to the cold yeast that I keep in the fridge, whisking til the mixture is creamy, setting it aside as I mix the other ingredients for bread. It’s so thrilling to see the yeast start to bubble as I’m stirring flour into the other bowl. (I’ve also heard that instant yeast isn’t quite as good for the long cool rises that our bread generally gets. I have no idea if this is true or not but it’s convenient for me to use that excuse when others urge me to use instant yeast.)

Also, she calls for only unbleached flour. But ever since reading in Carol Field’s The Italian Baker about mimicking stone-ground flour by adding a small amount of wholewheat, I can’t stop myself from doing just that. Here is how I made tonight’s focaccia:

based on a recipe in Piano, Piano, Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant

  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • ¼ c warm water
  • 2½ Tbsp good quality olive oil
  • 1 c room temperature water
  • ¼ c whole wheat flour
  • 3¼ c unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 2½ tsp seasalt
  • pinch malt powder

after shaping

  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp water


  1. mixing: Do this on the morning of the day you are going to have focaccia. In a smallish bowl, mix yeast and warm water (do the baby’s bottle test on your wrist) and set aside on the counter in a warmish spot.
  2. Into the bottom of a large bowl, put the rest of the water, 2½ Tbsp olive oil and malt powder. Stir til malt powder is encorporated.
  3. Add all the flour and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is mostly smooth.
  4. Using the wooden spoon, stir in yeast mixture.
  5. Cover and allow to rest for about 30 minutes.
  6. Turn the dough out onto your clean kneading board. Wash and dry the mixing bowl.
  7. Use a dough scraper to knead the dough til it is smooth and elastic – about 10 minutes. Do not be tempted to add more flour! Put the dough into the clean bowl, cover with plastic and place it on the counter (away from breezes) to rise til the dough has doubled. McKenna Grant says the longer the rise, the better. Today it took from 10:00am to 4:00pm to double.
  8. pre-shaping: Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a large jelly-roll tray. Oil the parchment and place the dough in the center. Use your fingers to stretch it towards the edges of the pan. It will try to bounce back. This is to be expected. When it’s almost to the edges, cover with a clean tea towel and allow to rest on the counter for 30 minutes.
  9. shaping: Drizzle the top of the dough with half the olive oil and half the water. With wet hands, complete the stretching with your fingers. It will be very easy to pull the dough. Leave lots of indentations in the dough.
  10. Scatter the onion slices over top of the dough. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle fleur de sel (or coarse seasalt) over top. Splash the rest of the water on and use your fingers to spread it lightly and evenly over top. Leave uncovered and allow to rise on the counter for about 3 hours. (If it seems like it is drying out, spray a little room temperature water over it.)
  11. baking Preheat the oven to 450F.
  12. Place the focaccia tray on the top shelf of the oven and immediately turn the oven down to 400F. Bake for about 20 minutes til golden. It’s a good idea to turn the tray around half way through the baking time – to allow for uneven oven heat.
  13. Allow to cool completely on rack on the counter.

27 April 2007
The final analysis of the focaccia? We both think it is a little too “white bread”. It was pretty amazing though – beautifully crispy and airy. Next time we have focaccia, I’ll mix our usual recipe for focaccia but add a tiny bit of malt and use McKenna Grant’s shaping method. Then we can have our focaccia and eat it too!

WTSIM… Bread!

Entries for WTSIM… Bread are were due 25 April 2007. Just under the wire, this is This would have been my post for WTSIM… Bread! hosted by Andrew (Spittoon Extra).

For more details, please read:

Jeanne (Cook Sister!), Johanna The Passionate Cook and Andrew (Spittoon Extra) are the creators of this blogging event taking place each month in 2007. If you would like participate in the next WTSIM…, it will likely be announced in the WTSIM… Bread round up or soon after on Johanna’s, Jeanne’s and/or Andrew’s blogs.


This entry was posted in baking, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, bread recipe, crossblogging, food & drink, posts with recipes, WTSIM... on by .

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