No-knead, No-mixer Focaccia


What You'll Need:

  • 6.25 cups/800g/28.2 oz Bread or AP flour*
  • 2.5 cups/568g/20 oz Water (room temp)
  • 3 Tablespoons/52g/1.8 oz Olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon/18g/0.63 oz Salt*
  • 1 Tablespoon/9g/0.32 oz Instant Yeast*

*See notes below

Directions:

In a large mixing bowl, combine water, olive oil, and instant yeast and briefly stir to dissolve yeast. In a larger mixing bowl, whisk salt and flour together, then add water/oil/yeast mixture and stir with a large wooden spoon or rubber spatula until it forms a shaggy mass and flour is incorporated. Cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap and let rest for 15-20 minutes.

Stretch and fold technique – After the rest period has expired dip your hands in a small bowl of water and stretch the far end of the dough up and then fold it over the dough towards you. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Do this twice more until you have performed 4 stretches and folds. This will help to build and strengthen the gluten, while also making sure the bread will remain light and airy. Cover the dough and wait ten minutes and repeat another series of stretches and folds, using water to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. Do this twice more at 10-minute intervals for a total of 4 series of stretches and folds. Each successive time you should feel the dough strengthening, tightening, and smoothing out. At this point the dough will have been fermenting for about an hour. Cover the dough well and let it ferment at room temperature for another 30 minutes and then place in the fridge at least overnight, and up to 3 days.

On the day you will bake the focaccia, remove the dough from the refrigerator 3 hours before you plan to bake it. Pour 3 tablespoons of olive oil on an 18”x13” (half) sheet pan lined with parchment. Using a dough scraper or rubber spatula, lightly scrape the dough out of the bowl onto the center of the sheet pan. Pour another tablespoon of olive oil over the dough. This may seem like a lot of oil at this point, but it will be absorbed by the bread and is necessary to prevent the dough from sticking. Part of the beauty of focaccia is that it is essentially bread dough lightly fried in olive oil.

Using your fingertips, starting at the center of the dough, press down and slightly out towards the edge of the pan dimpling the dough at about 1” intervals. This will help the dough stretch out and fill the pan. Do this gently and don’t fight the dough, it will take a few attempts to get it to cover the entire pan. When the dough starts to fight back cover the pan with plastic wrap (there should be enough oil at this point that wrap won’t stick). Come back 15 minutes later and repeat. Continue to do this at 15 minutes intervals until the dough fills out the pan.  Once the dough has filled out the pan, cover and let proof until the dough has nearly doubled in size and does not spring back when poked. This should take about 3 hours from when you removed the dough from the refrigerator but may take a little longer.  For focaccia it’s better to err on the longer side.

About 2.5 hours after removing the dough from the refrigerator preheat your oven to 500° F. When the dough is ready to bake, sprinkle with flaky sea salt and place it on a rack in the lower third of your oven, close the door and lower the temperature to 450° F. Bake for about 20 minutes and then rotate the pan 180 degrees. Bake for 5-10 minutes more or until it’s golden brown on top.

Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack or trivet. Use a metal spatula to release any slightly stuck sides, the bottom should be free since the pan was lined with parchment. Let cool for about an hour if you can resist… Store any leftovers at room temp in the same sheet pan covered with plastic wrap. A brief reheat in the oven at about 400° F for 3-4 minutes will revive slices of the focaccia.


Notes

Flour type – The preferred flour for this recipe is bread flour, but some brands of AP flour, such as King Arthur, may be substituted. Avoid brands that are known for making good biscuits such as White Lily, Weisenberger, Gold Medal, etc. because these brands are typical made from soft wheat flour that does not have enough protein to make bread.  If you end up having to use AP flour, cut the olive oil in the dough in half to 1.5 tablespoons.

Salt – Not all salt is created equal. Many brands and grinds of salt have significantly different weights.  The volume amount above is for a fine grind table salt.  This is one of the ingredients where weighing is always better, but if you don’t have a scale and only have kosher salt use 1.5 tablespoons for Morton’s brand and 2 tablespoons for Diamond brand.

Yeast – Instant yeast is the gold standard in the bread baking world.  It does not have to be added to warm water to activate it and it can be refrigerated almost indefinitely.  When the pandemic first started yeast was scarce, but it is now widely available online again in 1 lb. packages.  Instaferm red and SAF red are great brands. If you do happen to have active dry yeast, you can use it for this recipe. You’ll have to activate it in warm water between 100-110° F and you’ll want to increase the amount to 1.5 tablespoons.

Recipe adapted from Samin Nosrat’s “Ligurian Focaccia” in Salt Fat Acid Heat and Peter Reinhart’s “Focaccia” in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice