This is another one of Peter Reinhart’s two-day whole grain bread recipes; this one for whole wheat focaccia bread. I’ve been tinkering with this recipe for a while – it appears that you need the right volume of dough, as well as the right hydration, in order to get a good rise and a nice, airy structure. I think I’ve finally got it right; this one was nicely browned, chock full o’ holes, and had fabulous flavor. I’ll spare you the image of me doing a happy dance around the kitchen, but there were several “BLAM!”s and a couple of “I rock!”s once this one came out of the oven. Yes, I am quite modest, thank you very much.
Seriously, this is damn good bread (not unlike damn fine cherry pie.) Although the overnight ferment and subsequent rise do take a long time, the active time is really less than an hour; the most difficult thing about this recipe is finding space for a jelly roll pan in the fridge. But it is so, so worth it!
Adapted from Whole Wheat Foccacia in Whole Grain Breads by Peter Reinhart.
Whole Wheat Rosemary Focaccia
- 3 cups (10 and 3/4 oz) whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 and 1/4 cups (5 and 5/8 oz) whole wheat bread flour (hard red spring wheat)
- 1 and 1/4 cups (5 and 5/8 oz) white wheat all-purpose flour (soft white winter wheat)
- 1 and 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 tsp honey (optional)
- about 2 cups filtered water, at room temperature
- 1 and 1/2 tsp sea salt
- about 1/4 to 1/2 cup olive oil
- Kosher salt
- fresh rosemary, chopped
- Mix flours and instant yeast in a large bowl. Add water, honey and salt. Mix vigorously with a wooden spoon for 2 to 3 minutes, until all of the flour is hydrated and the mixture forms a sticky, soft and uniform dough. (Dip the spoon in a bowl of water to prevent sticking). Add 2 tsp (1 oz) of olive oil. Mix just enough to coat the dough (less than a minute). Let the dough rest, uncovered, in the bowl for 5 minutes, then mix again for 1 minute. The dough will be smoother and stronger, but will still be sticky. If the dough is too wet (feels like batter and will not hold a shape) add more flour, 1 tbsp at a time, until a cohesive dough forms. If the dough is too dry (floury patches or not very sticky), add more water, 1 tbsp at a time, to achieve a sticky, soft, yet cohesive dough. You want to leave it as wet as possible, while still holding a cohesive shape, in order to have the lightest, airiest bread. Tip: If you can mix it without your hands, or the spoon, becoming totally covered in sticky dough, or without using wet hands/spoon, then it isn’t wet enough.
- Line a 17 X 13-inch rimmed baking pan (jelly roll pan) with parchment or a silicone mat. Drizzle approximately 1 tbsp of olive on the mat and oil the mat/pan, including the sides, by spreading the oil about with your fingers.
- Transfer the ball of dough to the pan and rub the top of the dough with oil. Press the dough ball down with the palms of your hands to flatten it. It will only cover about half of the pan.
- You can see how wet the dough is:
- Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (or for up to 3 days).
- When you are ready to bake the focaccia, remove the dough from the refrigerator 3-4 hours prior to baking. Remove plastic wrap and drizzle about 1 tbsp of olive oil over the surface of the dough. Dimple the dough by using your fingertips to press out the dough, starting from the center of the pan and moving out towards the corners. Do not force the dough to spread, but simply press down into the dough and allow it to spread naturally. The dough will likely spread out to cover about 3/4 of the pan before the gluten tightens up and it resists spreading. Cover lightly with plastic wrap and let rest, at room temperature, for 20 minutes.
- Repeat the dimpling procedure every 20 minutes until the dough is spread out to the edges of the pan (if it does not go completely, do not worry, it will spread as it rises). Drizzle more olive oil if necessary to keep your fingers from sticking to the dough, or dip your fingers in a small bowl of oil. Three dimplings (over 1 hour) will likely complete the spreading of the dough.
- Allow the bread to rise, at warm room temperature, until it reaches the top of the pan, about 2 to 3 hours.
- Pre-heat the oven to 500 degrees F for at least 30 minutes.
- Chop rosemary and/or any other desired toppings. Sprinkle about 1-2 tsp Kosher salt along with about 1 tbsp rosemary (or your favorite toppings) over the focaccia (reserve any cheeses for the last 3 to 4 minutes of cooking) and put it in the oven. Lower the temperature to 450 degrees F and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the pan 180 degrees, then bake for another 12 to 15 minutes until the bread is a light golden brown, top & bottom. Remove from the oven.
- Allow to cool in the pan for 3 to 4 minutes. For a crisp bottom crust, carefully remove the focaccia from the pan and parchment or mat and transfer to wire cooling racks to cool. Drizzle any olive oil remaining in the pan over the top of the focaccia; the bread will absorb this flavorful oil as it cools. (You can allow the bread to cool in the pan, but the bottom crust may become soggy). Let focaccia cool for at least 10 minutes prior to cutting and serving.
Yields one large loaf; enough to serve 6 focaccia-lovin’ folk.
- This recipe was developed specifically with Wild Hive flours, which are grown in the Poughkeepsie, NY area. I’ve found that in many recipes I have to add considerably less water than called for, even when making quite wet dough. Whether this is a characteristic of Northeastern grain in general, freshly-milled flour, or this grain in particular, I do not know. If you are using a different type of flour, pay close attention to the description of how the dough should look and feel. Reinhart’s original recipe calls for 2 cups + 2 tbsp (17 oz) of water, along with 4 cups (18 oz) of fine-grind whole wheat flour.
- To use active dry yeast instead of instant yeast, increase the amount of yeast by 25% (1 and 7/8 tsp, or a scant 2 tsp) and sprinkle over 1.5 cups of warmed (115 degrees F), filtered water. Mix well with a fork until the mixture is cloudy and uniform. Proof the yeast for 5-10 minutes, until you see foam and bubbles rising to the top; then add this mixture to the flour and proceed with the recipe, adding additional water as necessary. If desired, you can add honey to the proofing water, which feeds the yeast and may speed up proofing.
- Focaccia is the original pizza dough and the toppings can be just as varied. While rosemary & sea salt is a classic, olives, carmelized onions and roasted garlic are common, as are parmesean or cheddar and sun-dried tomatoes. You could also use it as a pizza dough by brushing your favorite sauce over the top, before proofing, and then adding pizza toppings just before baking.
The olive oil keeps this bread fresh for a couple of days, but it is best on the day it is made. I doubt it will last very long! The unbaked dough can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking the bread.