Focaccia • 2023

First, the photos that inspired my search for a decent focaccia (unhappy as I was with the version that used to be on here).

We spent some time recently in Bologna, and most all the focaccia bread we ate was light, moist and spongey. The mortadella, tender and flavorful, was a perfect filling, and at one place, the maker spread fig jam on the sandwich. Divine!

So I’ve looked at roughly 15 different recipes, and the one that comes closest is the one from Cucina by Elena. She does a great job of explaining everything, and you’ll want to linger on her blog to taste all her other recipes.

But, as usual, I started tinkering with it, and now I have the one I want to make, inspired by, and a derivation of hers (which, in turn, was a derivation of another baker’s). This is how it works in focaccia land.

(our friend, Landon)

The timing is this is simple: Stir up the basic ingredients in the evening. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit all night in the fridge. In the morning, prepare the pan, plop the dough into it, let rise 2-4 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. You’ll be eating focaccia by lunch. Which I recommend.


625 grams all-purpose flour (approx 5 cups)
1 scant tablespoon sugar
1 package, or 2 1/4 teaspoons regular dry yeast
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
2 1/3 cups warm water (105- 110 degrees Fahrenheit; no hotter or you will kill the yeast)
6 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
a couple of pinches of flaky salt, about 3/4 teaspoon, for the top after baking


  1. In a medium sized bowl (blue one, shown above), measure out 625 grams of flour, using a scale (approximately 5 cups). Set aside.
  2. In a larger bowl (silver), add 1 scant tablespoon table sugar (12 grams), the 2 1/3 cups of water and 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (1 package or 7 grams). Give it a small stir. Then let yeast/water/sugar mixture take time to proof. The brew should bubble up, and look cloudy, as in the bowl on the left.
  3. When ready, add 1 Tablespoon kosher salt (if using table salt, no…just don’t) to the water/yeast mixture, then all of the flour. Mix until all the water is incorporated. If needed, add another tablespoon or two of water. Don’t overmix, but make sure there are no dry spots.
  4. In a separate large bowl, pour in about 4 tablespoons good-quality olive oil. I just swirl in four circles of olive oil, that look close to a tablespoon Scrape in your focaccia dough, turning to coat all sides. (This bowl needs to be at least double the size of your dough.)
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and put into refrigerator for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight. When you take out the dough, it looks lively and wet. This is a high hydration bread dough (about 77%); you want that. One focaccia maker that I read uses a folding technique in the early stages of her bread. I skipped that: I’m all about easy.
  6. In the morning (or many hours later), and using real butter, grease a metal 9 x 13 pan on the bottom and sides. (I peel back the paper on a stick of butter and use that to stroke the pan.) Then add about a tablespoon or two of good-quality olive oil to the pan and brush on the sides and bottom. (Set brush aside for use at the end.)
  7. Ease dough into prepared pan, and kind of poke and stretch it to fit, but not worrying if it doesn’t. Let rise, uncovered, for 2-4 hours. [I took mine out at 8 a.m. and by 11:00 a.m. it was ready to bake.] It will have nearly doubled in size, and the dough will fill the pan and corners. You might see some bubbles, too.
  8. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Farenheit. Pour a little olive oil onto clean fingers, and coat with the oil. Now with all fingers in action, poke the dough, leaving small divots. Cover surface evenly with pokes.
  9. Drizzle 2-3 Tablespoons good-quality olive oil over the top of this surface, but don’t drown it. You’ll see pools form in the divots; this is normal.

10. Bake for 15 minutes. Check. If not brown enough, bake 1-2 minutes more.

11. Pull from oven, and using the brush from an earlier step, brush olive oil over the surface. Sprinkle with flaky salt. After five minutes, loosen focaccia with a spatula, and transfer to rack for cooling.

12. Cut into 16 pieces (larger) or 20-25 (smaller).

This freezes very well: place in heavy-duty plastic zipper bag. To rejuvenate, we let sit out for a few minutes (or microwave *very* briefly) then cut in half and toast in a table-top oven for 2-3 minutes, or until warm.

Last Notes: It takes me about 6 minutes to mix it up at the beginning. Add in the 10 minutes the next morning, and you’ll find this is very easy. Just let it sleep overnight in the fridge.

These photos were taken from the very first batch I made, where it said to sprinkle the salt over the top before baking. They turned really dark so I changed the recipe to put the salt on afterwards.

I also cheat a little on the mixing: After getting the water incorporated into the dough, I scrape the dough into the small (blue) bowl where the flour was. Then I pour the 4 Tablespoons of oil into the large (silver) mixing bowl, dump the dough back into that, and turn to coat the bread with oil. This way, I only use two bowls for mixing. It doesn’t matter if there are bits on the bowl from the mixing. No stress.

The Second Best Sandwich in the World uses the focaccia bread, spread with a little fig jam (not fig butter), then thinly sliced turkey. A good-tasting tomato will put it over the top.

The Very Best Sandwich in the World, is made as above, but with high quality mortadella, and is eaten in Italy. (See the top of the post.)

Mary’s Bread • from the Beachside Quilting Retreat

Marysbread_9At our recent Beachside Quilting Retreat, Mary — our hostess — brought a loaf of bread to serve us that first night and we all raved over it, asking her lots of questions, jotting down the recipe.  Two days later, when we went to Summerland’s antique store, where we found two pumpkin-shaped Le Creuset pots: I bought one and she bought the other, and that afternoon, we had a bread-making lesson in between all the sewing and quilting.  While the ingredients are simple and easily whipped into a ragged-looking dough, it’s her cooking method that sets this bread apart.  The heavy enameled cast-iron pot is set into a cold oven, which is then preheated for a long period of time.  This is what she calls the “brick-oven” method of baking as heat and moisture surrounds the baking dough, ensuring a nice crust.  This recipe makes three loaves.Marysbread_1
Measure out 3 cups lukewarm water.  Add 1 and 1/2 T. yeast (2 packages of regular yeast) and 1 T. kosher salt (table salt is okay); let it sit for a few minutes to “bloom.”  Stir in 32 oz. flour, roughly 6 to 7 cups.  Stir with big spoon and cover with plastic wrap, letting it rise in a corner of the kitchen. While it will rise for a total of 2 hours, after it’s risen for roughly 1 hour set the cast iron pot with its lid into a cold oven and preheat the oven for 45 minutes to a temperature of 475 degrees F.

Marysbread_3When the dough has risen for two hours, divide into thirds by grabbing about one-third of the dough. Mary says it’s ragged looking, but keep going. Using lots of flour that’s been spread onto either a pastry cloth or a cutting board, shape it into a ball. Cut an “X” into the top of the dough using a sharp knife or razor blade.

Marysbread_4 Marysbread_5Set ball into hot pan, being careful not to burn yourself. Cover with the preheated lid and cook for 20 minutes.

Marysbread_8Uncover, and cook for 10 more minutes or until it is a nice golden brown. Either tip out the bread — or grab from the pot — onto a counter and/or rack; let cool.

Cook’s Notes:
On the second and third loaf (since the dough has been in the fridge), put the dough out onto the floured surface to come to room temp while the oven heats up. Mary says she has left the dough in the fridge for as long as 12 days. The only noticeable effect has been that the dough gets more sour-tasting.


After rising, I divided the loaves into three, shaped the first one (lower left) and started it baking.  I did cut an X into this one.

To the second blob, I added 1/3 cup sunflower seeds, massaging it through the mass.  After shaping, I then pressed onto the top: pepitas (sunflower seeds), a shake of poppy seeds, a shake of sunflower seeds, a shake of kosher salt; no cutting of an X in the top.  After the first loaf came out of the oven (I only have one pan), I baked that.

To the third blob, now quite sticky as it’s been rising a little more, I added 1/3 cup chopped high quality baking chocolate and 1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans. (Don’t use white chocolate chips as you want the chocolate to melt into the bread, not remain intact; look for the bar type of white chocolate that has cocoa butter in it.) It’s a lot to mush into the bread dough, I admit, but when it was time to shape it, I concentrated on poking the bits back into the loaf, keeping them from emerging from the top.  When it bakes, as I also didn’t cut an X in the top.  The dark blobs (above) are the melted, baked chocolate that did emerge through while baking, but it tasted fine.

I did this loaf last in case there was residue of chocolate in the pan: there was, but it brushed right out.  That would be something to check for if you are making all three loaves with the white chocolate.

I would like to try mixing the chocolate/pecans with the flour and incorporating it that way, but this time, I wanted three different loaves.

Pear-Persimmon Bread

This recipe was prompted by buying four gorgeous persimmons from a neighbor’s table, set up on the sidewalk with a box (with a slot) where I could put my dollar.

First step to the bread: thinking the persimmons were the Fuyu variety and trying to serve them for a side dish.  Oh, pucker-up-city! But they were gorgeous.

Next step to the bread: letting them sit out on the counter until they were, as one cook said, the texture of a wobbly water balloon.  Yes, that means the Hachiya (a kind of a wedge-shaped persimmon) is ready.  It also helped that I had two pears that were mush, and didn’t want to let them go to waste.  After hunting for a pear-persimmon combination, I used James Beard’s Persimmon bread recipe as a starting point, but had to make a few changes.  Like no cognac because I don’t do alcohol.  And monkeying with the recipe to accommodate the pears.  But here’s mine, which makes two 9-inch loaves of bread.

2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
2 cups sugar
1 cup melted butter and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2 cups persimmon/pear puree (from about 2 squishy-soft Hachiya persimmons and 2 very ripe pears)
2 cups walnuts, chopped
1 cup cranberries

Oven 350 degrees F.

Grease and flour 2 loaf pans, tapping out excess flour.

Measure the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl, mixing them together with the blade attachment.

Prepare the fruit puree: rinse the persimmons, then cut the thick flowery stem out of the top.  Place in a food processor. I don’t peel mine at all. [One of my persimmons turned out to be rather hard on one side, so I put it in a small bowl and microwaved it until it was soft and cooked and matched the softness of the other persimmon (desperation measure).]  Peel, core and add the pears to the food processor, then puree the fruits together.

Melt the butter in a small microwave proof bowl (about a 4 cup bowl), add the eggs to this and whisk, then add the pear-persimmon puree and whisk.  Add this mixture to the dry ingredients in the mixing bowl and blend on a low speed for about 1 minute.  Scrape all around the bowl to make sure the dry ingredients are being incorporated, then blend for about another minute.  Add nuts and cranberries.  (The original recipe says you could also add raisins, apricots, dates, or a mixture of these fruits.)

Bake 1 hour or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. (Mine was done at 55 minutes–it is a darker bread, but you don’t want to get it too done.)  Turn out of pans and let cool on wire rack.

It must be good because Dave gave it his Second-Helping-Stamp-of-Approval.

It’s pictured here on my Grandmother’s china, which I got from my mother this year. The very first recipe I ever tried for persimmon bread was my grandmother’s, written out on a 3 x 5 index card. I still have it in my recipe file.  It has canned persimmons and shortening in it, which is why I decided to create a new one.