Focaccia is a relatively easy bread to make. It doesn’t need much kneading, or a number of proofs, two is good enough. Most focaccia at least. I tried the poolish method recently. This method requires multiple proofing and takes a minimum of 3 days to make. It’s true what they say, hard work always pays off.
Poolish is a wet yeast sponge which is like a starter for the focaccia. The hydration is very high, it almost looks like you’ve done something wrong. Typically, the weight of the flour is the same as the weight of the water. You make this a day in advance, or 12-16 hours in advance. And then you add it to the rest of the focaccia mix. The focaccia dough then takes up to a day in the refrigerator. The poolish adds to the flavour and gives a better crumb to the final baked bread.
This method is only for the patient. The poolish takes almost an entire day. It is refrigerated, Then brought back to room temperature. After which the focaccia work starts. And then that is refrigerated and brought back to room temperature before the final rise. You cannot work with a cool dough. It doesn’t work. You cannot work with a dough that’s too warm, it’ll rise too fast which is also undesirable.
I haven’t tried many recipes from justonebiteplease.com. But when I googled poolish focaccia, this was the first link and I found it very detailed. I also read a lot of other links to understand the method, but I decided to use the quantities and proportions in that website. My result was slightly different from the website, although I used the same quantities and followed the exact recipe. But I think that has a lot to do with the flour I used. I used all-purpose flour, regular active dry yeast, regular boiled water, and sugar.
For the poolish, you mix the flour, yeast, sugar and water. Keep it at room temperature for an hour. Set it in the refrigerator overnight. It’s preferable you do this in the evening or night. It does not need more than overnight in the refrigerator. The next day, you’ll see a small amount of rising but a lot of bubbles and it’ll smell like yeast. Fermented and ready to use.
To make the bread dough, the poolish is mixed with some water, yeast, olive oil and some of the flour first. Once the batter comes together, the rest of the flour is added along with salt. It is kneaded for 10 minutes until everything comes together into a sticky ball. It will be slightly sticky to tough but strong enough to hold shape. It is fermented for an hour. (Ferment 1)
Once that is done, it is degassed, stretched, kneaded and fermented for another 1 hour. (I did not punch it to degas, only pressed it softly and then kneaded it lightly.) (Ferment 2)
After 1 hour, it is transferred to a parchment paper sprinkled generously with semolina. Let it ferment for another 1 hour. Finally, after 1 hour, dimple the dough, by making dents with your fingers. It is then topped with herbs, onions, sun-dried tomatoes etc, brushed with olive oil and baked. (I divided the dough into two because I did not want to make big focaccias. One I made rectangular focaccia and the other one I flattened a little more and made it into a rustic mushroom and caramelized onion tart with a focaccia base.) (Ferment 3)
The only thing different I did was that I mixed some salt and water to make a brine and poured it generously over the dimples right before baking it. (Yes, just like Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat) It made such a huge difference in the final result. Soon after it came out of the oven, I brushed it with more olive oil. (Yes, again from Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat).
I will put up the recipe here and the way I did it. Recipe source: Justonebiteplease. com
Water- 1 Cup
Flour- 1.5 Cups
Yeast- 1/4 Teaspoon
Sugar- 1 Teaspoon ( Optional addition)
Mix Sugar, 1/4th cup of water and yeast. Wait till it activates for 5- 10 minutes. Mix the rest of the water and the flour. Beat with a spatula for a few minutes till you get a thick batter. Refrigerate overnight.
Poolish- From above
Water- 1/2 Cup
Yeast- 1/2 Teaspoon
Olive oil- 1/3 Cup
Flour- 2 1/2 Cups
Salt- 1/2 Teaspoon
Salt- 2.5 Teaspoons
Water- 1/2 Cup
Olive oil (Optional)- 2 Teaspoons
Toppings- (One or combinations)
- First combine the poolish, yeast and the water.
- Once they become a homogeneous mixture, add in the olive oil, salt, and half the flour. Knead for a minute.
- Ferment 1: Then add the rest of the flour. Knead for 10 minutes. Set it in an oiled bowl in a warm spot for 1 hour.
- Ferment 2: After 1 hour, degas the dough by lightly pressing and stretching it and kneading it. Place it back in the oiled bowl and let it ferment for 1 hour.
- Prepare a parchment paper, roughly rectangle in shape, sprinkled with cornmeal, generously.
- Ferment 3: Degas the dough again, very delicately. Place the dough on the parchment paper. Form a rectangle roughly the shape and size of the parchment paper. Pinch the edges of the dough and cover it and let it ferment again for 1 hour.
- After 1 hour, dimple the dough with your fingertips, Placed the fillings in the dimples and brush the surface with olive oil.
- Mix the salt, water and olive oil in a small bowl and pour it over the top of the dough.
- Bake it at 230 Degrees C for 40 Minutes.
- After it comes out of the oven, immediately brush more olive oil generously. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Slice and serve.
- Do not over handle the dough at any point. The dough is very delicate.
- Be patient at all times. It takes a long time for the entire process. But there is nothing too technical about this and it will all be worth it in the end.
- You don’t need to add any toppings. Just the brine will do.