Social media is awash with image after image of artisanal loaves and whilst they are undoubtedly beautiful, they can be a little intimidating for the home baker a most rely on sourdough techniques to produce them. I’ve spoken before about my inability to commit to sour, and really without that commitment to regular bake with a starter, that you can’t get practised enough to get reproducible results at home.
My way of combating this is to use a poolish – and all that means is I mix a portion of my flour and water together with a pinch of yeast the day before I want to bake, and allow it to slowly ferment overnight. Hence it’s other name of pre-ferment. Using it gives this Slow Proved Focaccia both beautiful texture and a terrific full-flavoured taste.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Slow your baking down and make this delicious focaccia using a poolish!” quote=”Slow your baking down and make this delicious focaccia using a poolish!”]
The benefits of using a poolish are that you get a little hit of that sourdough flavour without having to maintain a starter and also, you trap a lot more moisture into the bread, which is really important in focaccia. Focaccia is a flat Italian bread which is a celebration of the most simple ingredients, as all Italian cooking it.
Use the best bread flour you can find and certainly crack open that expensive bottle of single estate, extra-virgin olive oil if you have one hiding in your cupboard. Focaccia recipes traditionally work off a 3:5 ratio of water to flour, so it is a very wet dough to work with and I chose to use my stand mixer, but with a bench scraper, it’s not hard to knead by hand if you prefer that.
Once the poolish is combined with the remainder of the flour, salt and yeast, you need to leave it to prove again and during this time, it will spread out to fill the shape of its bowl and should have large air bubbles formed under the surface before you shape it.
Forget everything you have ever heard about “knocking back” doughs to get all of that precious air out of them – you want those bubbles to convey the irregular, air pocket crumb structure which is the hallmark of a great focaccia. As a slight aside, I imagine the cut surface of a focaccia must look like the internal structure of a memory-foam mattress lol.
Readers who have been with me from the beginning with know Hungry Hubby adores lasagne and I love making it for him. I admit it is a bit of a carb overdose but he really loves it if I make this focaccia to serve alongside lasagne so every now and again, my Friday evenings will be spent making up a poolish and fresh pasta so that I can make his favourite meal on a Saturday.
Both are perfect lazy weekend recipes to make at home as there is very little hands-on time and I promise, once you go poolish, you won’t go back. This Slow Proved Focaccia will make an artisanal bread baker overnight, quite literally!
Slow down your bread making by using a poolish to deepen the flavour and add more moisture. A weekend bake worth investing the time in.
- 175 g strong bread flour
- 175 g water
- 1/4 tsp dried active yeast
- 100 g water
- 20 ml extra virgin olive oil
- 200 g strong bread flour
- 7 g sea salt
- 3/4 tsp dried active yeast
- 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
The day before you want the focaccia, mix the flour, water and yeast together until well blended then leave covered with clingfilm on the worktop for 12-24 hours. I do this in my stand mixer bowl so it's ready to go tomorrow.
When the poolish has risen and is very bubbly, 12-24 hours later, fit the bowl to your stand mixer and using the whisk attachment, whisk the water and oil into the poolish. When well combined, switch to the flat beater attachment (the dough hook is no use for such wet doughs) and sprinkle over the flour, salt and yeast then turn the mixer onto low and beat for 10 minutes until it is elastic and starting to leave the sides of the bowl.
Drizzle a little more oil over the top of the dough and scoop it up into a ball, placing the oiled side of the dough down before covering. Allow to prove until doubled in size - this may take 2 hours in a cold kitchen so leave it somewhere snug.
When proved, take a baking tin lined with baking parchment and oil it lightly. Using a dough scraper or spatula, coax the soft and bubbly dough onto the baking parchment without deflating it. With oiled hands underneath the dough, slowly and carefully stretch it out to an even thickness of about 1 inch. Cover with oiled clingfilm - try to seal the edges but leave space for expansion underneath the cling. Allow to rest for 40-60 minutes somewhere warm whilst the oven is preheating to 220˚C.
The dough is ready to bake when it is starting to show a few big bubbles under the surface and has risen in size by about 50%. Drizzle the remaining 1 tbsp of oil and dimple the surface lightly with your fingers. Sprinkle with the sea salt and rosemary and bake for 25 minutes until well browned and risen. It should sound hollow when tapped in the centre. Cool for 5 minutes on the tin before transferring to a rack until cool enough to slice and eat.
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