Yes! I’m alive! And back with August’s Bakealong Challenge: Golden Foccacia.
Ok, first off, I’d like to apologize for not posting anything for some time now. I’ve been busy (again) with work and kinda fell off the inspiration wagon along the way. I’ve been active in Instagram though, so you can follow me there @gobblethecook to see what I’ve been up to recently.
Now, moving on to the important stuff. The August Bakealong challenge was to make this classic Italian golden foccacias. I’ve never made foccacias before since I prefer to bake the softer Asian breads that I grew up with. Nevertheless, it was with great enthusiasm that I tackled this latest challenge.
The recipe called for making biga the day before. What’s a biga, you may ask. Well, biga is a common pre-ferment used in Italian breads. A pre-ferment is exactly what its name implies: a mixture of water, dough, and yeast that’s allowed to ferment way before the actual bread making happens.
Side note: I put a dash between the ‘pre’ and ‘ferment’ – else, it can also mean a promotion. But many sites do spell it out without the dash.
There are different types of pre-ferment which can range from being quite stiff to loose in texture. The composition of the mixture can also vary; some are made with salt, some have a different hydration ratio. Some common pre-ferments are poolish, sour dough, sponge (not the cake), and starters.
But why use pre-ferments (in this case, biga) in the first place? Due to the extended time that the yeast has spent fermenting, a pre-ferment improves the dough structure and enhances the taste of the bread.
Ok, so now that we have a quick overview of what pre-ferments are, let’s proceed to D-day. I prepped the pre-ferment the night before I was due to bake the golden foccacia. The recipe said to leave it out in room temperature for 14 hours, but I only managed to wait 12 hours as I was running on a tight schedule.
Foccacias, I quickly learned, were sticky and tricky to make. Ok, it might have to do with the fact hat I grabbed a different brand of flour from the pantry shelf. I know, I know, it’s supposed to be a King Arthur Flour Challenge but hey, I’m human and I mix up my flour bags sometimes. So, a word of advice to those using a different brand or kind of flour: it may not come out as expected in the recipe.
The lower protein percentage of the flour that I used may have greatly contributed to the sticky dough. I had a hard time forming it into a ball like in the King Arthur Flour’s bakealong page. It says that it should form into a soft, elastic dough after kneading for 5 minutes in a stand mixer. Well, I needed mine for way more than that and added a couple of tablespoons of flour and it still did not form into a ball.
I persevered with the sticky dough and let it rest for an hour until puffy (but still sticky! what gives?!). I was set to make a round and a square foccacia. So instead of the 18X13 half sheet pan listed, I oiled my 9-in round pan and my 8-in square pan.
Oh, this recipe calls for olive oil to be used in the dough, to prep the pans, and to top the dough before shoving these into the oven. You may want to stock up on the olive oil before making this.
After prepping the pans, I halved the dough and pressed and pulled it to fit the pans. The pans don’t need to be totally covered with the dough; it will fill those up after the 2nd rising. After leaving it to rise for half an hour, you gently press your finger onto the dough to create dimples on its surface. That’s where the olive oil will collect when we drizzle it later.
Here are the finished golden foccacias that I baked:
The round one was topped with rosemary, pitted olives, feta cheese (yum) and sprinkled liberally with ground pepper and salt.
Here’s the square one that I topped with sun dried tomatoes instead of olives. This one was mouthwatering when eaten with an olive oil-balsamic vinegar dip.
Enjoy this classic Italian bread with your own choice of toppings. Olives, feta cheese, rosemary, sun dried tomatoes – the choice is limitless for this versatile foccacia.
For the starter:
120 ml (1/2 cup) cool water
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast
120 grams (1 cup) all purpose flour
For the dough:
Starter (from above)
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
120 ml (1/2 cup) lukewarm water
240 grams (2 cups) all purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the topping:
2 tablespoons olive oil
sun dried tomatoes
dried rosemary, few sprigs
coarsely ground pepper
- To make the starter: Combine yeast and water, then add the flour while stirring until mixed. Starter will be paste like. Cover and set aside in room temperature for 14 hours. Starter will be bubbly.
- To make the dough: Combine the overnight starter with the other ingredients. Knead until dough is soft and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly greased pan and cover. Let it rest for an hour or until it is puffy.
- Prepare the pan(s) to be used for baking. Lightly grease the pan(s) and top with the olive oil. Set aside.
- Gently shape and pat the dough onto the pan all the way to the edges, about 1/2″ to 3/4″ thick. Cover and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Lightly press your finger onto the surface of the dough to make irregular dimples. Press firmly until you can reach the bottom of the pan without tearing the dough. Cover and let rest for another hour, or until puffy.
- Preheat your oven to 425F/220C towards the end of the rising time.
- Spritz the foccacia with warm water and drizzle with the olive oil. Arrange the olives, feta cheese, and sun dried tomatoes on top of the foccacia. Top with dried rosemary and sprinkle salt and pepper liberally.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until light golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately remove from the pan to cool.
- You can use your own choice of toppings for the foccacia.
- Serve with an olive oil-balsamic vinegar dip.
For more #Bakealong Challenge recipes, check out these posts:
- March Bakealong Challenge: Butterflake Herb Loaf
- April Bakealong Challenge: Chocolate Babka
- May Bakealong Challenge: Berry Blitz Torte