Focaccia is the wonderful pillowy olive oil bread you all know and love. You probably already know also that it's pretty easy to do: if you have ever tried making bread, making Focaccia is pretty much the same!
But what makes a really good fluffy Focaccia?
According to my own experience, I always get a more airy, light and even tastier Focaccia when I let the dough rise in the fridge overnight. The slow rise allows for more bubbles to develop more consistently through the dough, rather than having them large and concentrated at the top. Also, the slower fermentation allows the gluten to relax, so you end up with a light cakey crumb, rather than a dense pizza dough type. And finally, the taste is just right, the yeast had had the time to work its magic so by the time you cook it, you will have less of that yeasty taste and if you leave it up to 2 or 3 days in the fridge, it will even start developing a tang, like sourdough! We don't even need to add sugar, since we are leaving time for the yeast to work slowly (adding sugar to instant yeast is really only necessary if you want a rapid rise).
I never wait that long though, because when I want Focaccia, I don't have the patience to wait that long, but yes, you could leave it up to 3 days in the fridge.
Now, that cold resting time is right after you mix your dough. Before you bake, you want to bring the dough to room temperature in the dish where it's going to bake, and make sure that your dough is spread to fill the pan.
Don't skip a good amount of olive oil at the bottom of you pan for a crispy bottom and edges!
After shaping the dough to fill the pan, I will leave it in the oven on the "bread proof" setting (if your oven doesn't have it, just turn on the oven light, it will diffuse a bit of warmth) and I add a big bowl of boiling water at the bottom of my oven. This way, you create a warm and humid environment, that helps your dough rising faster without drying or having to cover it with plastic wrap. Trust me, your dough will end up even more fluffy!
When the dough has doubled in size, now pre-heat your oven. Meanwhile, you prepare your focaccia, creating the recognizable dimples, just by pressing with your finger tips. Go easy, deflating the dough while doing so is normal, but you don't want to kill all the bubbles. Add another generous amount of a good quality olive oil on top, crunchy salt, and you favorite toppings.
Then bake, try to let is rest for 30 min for best texture, and dig in!
Yum, getting hungry just while typing this....
I truly hope you try this techniques and report here how you liked it!
In a large bowl or the bowl of your standing mixer, whisk the warm water and yeast. Add the flour and salt and mix by hand or using the dough hook, for 5 minutes. Without a standing mixer, start by blending the liquid and flour until getting a ball then continue kneading on the countertop for 5 min. Dough will be sticky, don't add more flour!
Place the dough in a bowl with olive oil. Rub the surface of the dough lightly with olive oil too. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator immediately for at least 12 hours or for as long as three days.
Prepare the dish you will use for baking your focaccia, add a good amount of olive oil at the bottom and rub the sides. To prevent sticking, you can also line your dish with parchment paper (I use parchment in glass or ceramic pans, but on not on my baking trays)
Deflate the dough by kneading it lightly. Place the dough in that dish and try to shape it to fill it as best as possible. If the dough is too elastic, just let it rest for 5 min and try again. Use your fingertips to poke the dough (this is relax the gluten) and expand it to the size of your dish.
Cover with a plastic warp and let rise to double it size at room temperature (2 to 4 hours). Or place it in your oven using the "bread proof" setting and a bowl of boiling water to create a warm environment (should take 1 to 2 hours this way).
Remove the dish from the oven and preheat at 375 F.
Create dimples in your dough by lightly poking it with your fingertips. Add a generous amount of olive oil and crunchy salt on top. Add your chosen toppings.
Bake for 15 to 20 min, depending on the thickness of your Focaccia. To be sure it's baked, a thermometer should read at least 200 F in the center of your bread.
Let rest for 30 minutes before slicing. Enjoy!