Earlier this week I posted about The Best Focaccia I’ve Every Made. It was a sourdough focaccia bread recipe from The Perfect Loaf . The texture and flavour reminded me of focaccia I used to get as a child. (By the way, I have now made two recipes from The Perfect Loaf and both were fantastic. If you’re into making sourdough, check out that site!) That recipe is so fantastic, that I will make it again regularly. But, I know that while sourdough has gained popularity recently, not everyone makes it. I wondered if I could modify the recipe to still make an amazing focaccia bread, but use commercial yeast instead of sourdough?
Figuring Out How to Modify the Recipe
First, I had to figure out how much yeast to use. It’s quite easy to find write-ups online about how to turn a yeast recipe into a sourdough recipe, but I couldn’t find anything about doing it the other way around! I wanted maximum flavour, and for that I needed to keep the long rising time. If I put too much yeast in, the bread might rise too quickly and lose the flavour that I was looking for.
I have a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated that uses a sponge that is fermented overnight to add flavour to the bread and that seemed like the way to go. For the sponge, I used equal parts flour and water to make the same weight as the Levain in the sourdough recipe. I added 1/4 tsp of yeast, and let it sit overnight to ferment. In the morning it was nice and bubbly.
I added the sponge to my dough mixture along with another 1/4 tsp of yeast and crossed fingers that it would rise in a similar amount of time as the sourdough version. I did the next steps exactly as I did with the sourdough focaccia. The resulting dough was as good as I had hoped for! The end rising time was a bit shorter, but I was able to do all the other steps with no problem.
The dough rose in the time frame that I was planning for. It had the same squishy texture as the sourdough version and had lots of wonderful fermentation bubbles. I was so happy!
I thought the bread should look different from the last loaf I made so that you could tell which was which in pictures. So this time I topped it with rosemary and grated Parmesan cheese. I should have also added some salt, but I was worried it would be too salty with the cheese on it.
The Taste Test
Although it didn’t have the sour flavour it would have if I had used sourdough starter, this focaccia still had fantastic flavour! The texture was spongy and airy like the sourdough version and it wasn’t at all dry. The salt on top was the one thing we missed from the the flavour of the final baked focaccia loaf.
In a side by side comparison, it’s hard to tell which loaf was made with sourdough and which was made with yeast!
This recipe does have a lot of proofing time, but it is well worth it for this bread. It has great flavour and an amazing texture!
Amazing Focaccia Bread Made with YeastFor those of you that want to make amazing homemade Focaccia but don’t have sourdough starter to make the sourdough version, here is a modified recipe that uses commercial yeast. This focaccia has great flavour and an airy, sponge-like crumb! To achieve maximum flavour, the recipe uses a sponge which is put together 8 – 24 hours before you make the dough. I recommend measuring by weight for best results but I have put volume measurements for your reference as well.
For the Sponge
- For the Dough
For the Sponge
- In a small bowl, stir together flour, water and yeast. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 8 hours and up to 24 hours. For the Dough
- 9:00 am - Add sponge, flour, water and salt to a mixing bowl. Do not add the olive oil at this time. Mix by hand until the dough forms a cohesive mass, then continue kneading the dough using the slap/fold technique until it becomes smooth and elastic.
- Add the extra virgin olive oil to the dough in the mixing bowl. Mix the dough and oil together until the oil is fully absorbed and the dough comes back together, 3-5 minutes. Transfer the dough to a covered container for bulk fermentation.
- 9:15 am - 1:15 pm - Give the dough 4 sets of stretch and folds, starting 30 minutes after mixing, and a set every 30 minutes thereafter. After 4 sets of stretch and folds, transfer the dough to an well olive-oiled, deep 9 x 13 inch rectangular pan.
- Ferment the dough for 2 more hours. During this time gently stretch the dough, with wet hands, toward the corners of the rectangular container. The dough will resist stretching and spring back (especially with the oil underneath), but don't force it — each time you stretch it'll relax a bit more and eventually fill the container.
- 1:15 - let the dough proof, untouched but covered, until it almost fills the pan (1- 2 hours). If you poke it with wet fingers it'll feel extremely soft and jiggly— like poking a marshmallow.This time period is flexible and dependent on the temperature: if it's cooler, it will take longer.
- 2:15 pm - Top and Bake - First, dimple the unadorned dough with wet fingers. Make sure the dimples are evenly spaced and go all the way down to the bottom of the pan. Then, drizzle on 1-2 tablespoons of your extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with herbs and coarse sea salt. If using other toppings, add them now as well and press them gently into the dough.
- Bake the focaccia in the oven at 450°F (230°C) until deeply colored on top, about 20-25 minutes. Rotate the pan front-to-back halfway through this time. Keep an eye on it during the last 5 minutes and pull it out if it's coloring too quickly, or leave it in longer if you'd like it a little darker. Let the focaccia cool a few minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack. It's fantastic warm from the oven, and best on the day of baking, but it'll keep well for a couple days loosely wrapped in foil (reheat before serving).