Poolish Focaccia

Ingredients

Poolish
2 1/2 Cups (11.25 oz) Unbleached Bread Flour
1 1/2 Cup (12 oz) Water, room temperature
1/4 tsp Instant Yeast (Like RapidRise)
Poolish Focaccia
3 Cups (20 oz) Poolish
2 2/3 Cups (12 oz) Unbleached Bread Flour
2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 tsp Instant Yeast (RapidRise, for example)
6 Tbs (3 0z) Olive Oil
3/4 Cup (6 oz) Water, 90-100ļ F (lukewarm)
1/2 Cup Herb Oil
Herb Oil
1 Cup Olive Oil, warmed to 100ļ F (ish)
Any herbs, 1/2 Cup fresh chopped or 2-3 Tbs dried, or a combination

Instructions

The Night Before:

Make the poolish. With a wooden spoon, mix the ingredients together until all the flour is hydrated, and youíve got a smooth, sticky mass. Itíll look like very thick pancake batter. Cover with plastic wrap. You can leave it out on the counter for four hours and then refrigerate, or leave it out all night. I left mine outside overnight where it was warmer than the fridge, but cooler than the house, so the poolish would have a nice, steady but slow ferment. Either way, it should be nice and bubbly after fermenting, like the photo on the left. It will have a super cool springy/stringy/sticky consistency, too.

(You can also make the herb oil this same night: Mix the herbs with the warmed oil. Turn off the heat and let the herbs infuse the oil at room temperature. The oil can also be made the next day, and this is noted later on in the directions.)

Make the Dough:

If you refrigerated your poolish, take it out and let it sit for an hour to warm up. Once warm, itís time to make the dough.

Mix the flour, salt and yeast together in a large bowl (or in the work bowl of a stand mixer). Add the poolish, water, and oil.

If mixing by hand, mix to combine all the ingredients and then get in there and beat the hell out of it for 10 minutes. The book suggests 3-5 minutes, but it took me longer. Itís done when the dough is smooth, crazy sticky, willing to pull off the sides of the bowl but not the bottom, and your arm aches.

If mixing by machine, start with the paddle attachment to combine at low speed for 2-3 minutes, then switch to the dough hook. Beat at medium speed for 5-7 minutes. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom. Add more flour or water if needed to achieve this.

Stretch and Fold:

Prepare a bed a flour on your work surface. Scrape the dough out of the bowl onto your flour bed. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour.

Pat the dough into a roughly rectangular shape. The patting serves three purposes: it pushes the dough out into a rectangle, distributes the flour over the top, and removes excess flour. There should be enough flour that the surface of the dough is no longer sticky, but just enough to accomplish that. Patting removes the excess. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.

Now youíll be folding the dough like a letter. Pick up one side of the dough. As you do this (itíll be hard to hold on to, do the best you can), stretch the dough out and fold it over towards the middle. The quicker the movement, the easier it will be. If the dough is sticking to the table, no worries. Use a dough scraper to lift up the edges of the dough to put more flour underneath.

Repeat with the other side, again, just like youíre folding up a letter.

The dough, having been folded in thirds, looks like this. The dough should stay about the same dimensions after each fold. Youíre not folding it into smaller and smaller rectangles, but stretching the dough out and then folding it back in on itself to make similarly sized rectangle.

Brush or spray the dough with oil, cover in plastic wrap, and let sit for 30 minutes. Youíll the fold it again, oil, cover, let sit for 30 minutes, then fold it a third time. Each time you fold, the dough will be easier to work with, a little firmer, a little neater. Fold in the opposite direction then the last. For example, if you folded left to right, the next fold will be top to bottom.

Rising and Shaping:

After the third fold, let the dough sit covered on the counter for 1 hour. The dough will rise, but not necessarily double in size. If you didnít make it the night before, you can prepare the herb oil during this rise. Mix the herbs with the warmed oil. Turn off the heat and let the herbs infuse the oil.

Prepare a 17 x 12″ baking sheet (with sides, like a jelly roll pan) by placing a layer of parchment paper down across the bottom. Oil the parchment.

As best you can, move the dough from the counter to the baking sheet, trying to maintain the rectangle shape. Donít worry if you canít get a clean move, the dough is soft and unwieldy, so just move it the best you can.

Pour about 1/4 Cup of Herb Oil over the top.

Using only your fingertips, begin to press into the dough to distribute the oil and flatten the dough out. The dough will gradually spread out in the pan, but donít worry if it doesnít fill the pan, itíll get there after rising again. Just remember that youíre only allowed to use your fingertips, pressing down. You want to keep the majority of the air bubbles that have been forming in the dough all this time, so kneading or pressing the dough flat with your hands would destroy all your hard work.

Make sure the dough is completely covered in oil, then cover and let it rise for two hours. It will be very puffy, and if it hasnít completely filled the pan, itíll be close to doing so. Nearing the end of this rise, preheat the oven to 500ļ F, making sure the rack is in the middle.

Add another 1/4 cup, or more, of the herb oil.

Spread the dough out to its final size using the same fingertip technique as above. Youíll see all sorts of fun bubbles! You want an even distribution of bubbles and fingertip dimples. You might want to break any huge bubbles since theyíll just explode in the oven anyway. Sprinkle the top with salt as desired.

Baking:

Let the dough rest for another 10-15 minutes. Place the dough in the oven, and turn the temperature down to 450ļ F. Bake for 10 minutes, rotate the sheet for even baking, then bake for an additional 10-15 minutes until golden brown. If you have an instant read thermometer, the dough should be 200ļ F in the center of the pan.

Cooling:

When the focaccia comes out of the oven, remove it from the pan and place it on a cooling rack. Let the focaccia cool for at least 20 minutes before gorging yourself.

Notes: Much easier than it sounds, trust me, and the results are great.
Course: Bread
Cuisine: Italian
Uploaded by: Kelly Fowler
Added on: 2008-06-23 11:08:36