First Attempt: Sourdough Focaccia! 79% Hydration


For years I have wanted to try making focaccia, but since I am a bit obsessive about researching new things before I try them, I kept putting it off. Finally, my wife forced my hand… she made focaccia, and halfway through her bake (After bulk ferment) wanted me to step in and finish off the bake. Well, that bake went terrible, the dough had already way over-proofed and the focaccia came out quite dense. My wife likes to follow recipes as close to exact as possible and this often gets her in trouble with bread recipes because we live in Texas and our house is usually hotter than average (76dF to 80dF), so our dough typically rises faster than what most recipes suggest.

I was determined to recover from the previous focaccia disaster. I think I watched 5 youtube videos and read 10 websites with focaccia recipes. Finally went with bwraith’s sourdough focaccia recipe here, as a base recipe, but made lots of changes:

http://www.thefreshloaf.com//node/5025/two-sourdough-focaccias-raisin-and-savory

Changes

  • 100% sourdough leavening, no commercial yeast
  • Cooked on pizza stone, no pans
  • Molasses instead of malt syrup (I don’t own any malt syrup)
  • Zero folding after initial mixing and kneading
  • Added toppings to focaccia right before loading into oven vs. adding toppings and allowing to proof more.
  • Other small changes

Highlights from the Bake

  • My sourdough is a beast! The dough rose 2.5x and was still going strong in bulk. Kept rising during proofing. For years, I was a terrible sourdough maintainer, now I have it figured out!
  • There are sooooo many different ways people make focaccia… (Pour water brine on top before baking, add toppings before proofing, no-knead, knead, zero folding, folding, in a pan, not in a pan, lots of dimples, a few dimples, stretch out the dough, let the dough stretch itself, etc., etc., etc.)
  • I watched an episode of “The Chef Show” on netflix titled “Tartine”, where Jon Favreau goes to the Tartine bakery and they bake focaccia pizzas. After seeing that, I said, I want my focaccia to look like that. I think I got pretty close for my first try, except that I didn’t make pizzas with the focaccia.
  • I really wanted to push the proofing… I overproofed the dough a bit, but the loaves that had more dimpling don’t show the overproofing because the heavy dimpling acted like a “punchdown and rerise”.
  • I want to try less proofing next time to see if I would have been rewarded with an even more open crumb.
  • I think the recipe needs a bit more oil in the dough to get that silky smooth dough texture that many people talk about with focaccia dough.
  • I put too much effort into my kneading… I could have stopped after 5 minutes, but I kept going for 15 minutes thinking the dough would develop further, it never did. I don’t think this had any negative side effects other than just wasting my time.

Biga/Leaven/Poolish

  • 14g Sourdough Starter (50:50 water, hard red wheat)
  • 196g Water
  • 215g Bread Flour (HEB Brand)

Dough

  • Poolish
  • 1008g Bread Flour (HEB Brand)
  • 200g Hard Red Wheat (Home Milled)
  • 24g Salt
  • 13g Dark Molasses
  • 73g Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1021g Water

Process

  • 10p night before: mix poolish and put in fridge for 1 hour. My house is 76dF and I didn’t want the poolish to overproof during the night. So I stick it in the fridge for an hour to slow things down just a tad.
  • 11p night before: pull poolish out of fridge and put on counter.
  • 7a (Autolyse): mix all dough ingredients EXCEPT for the poolish into shaggy ball, let sit for 20 min.
  • 7:20a: Spread poolish over the top of the dough, then start kneading. I knead by folding and stretching inside the bowl. Similar to what this guy does: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DEKlBYimlQ
  • After Knead: Add 1/8 cup of olive oil to clear tub and spread it around. Transfer dough to tub for bulk ferment and mark dough level.
  • At this point, I went outside and working on installing some cross fencing on my farm with the plan to come back in at noon and shape then final proof. Unfortunately, I ran into some snags with my fencing work and didn’t get back into the house until 2pm. When I finally got back inside, the dough had risen 2.5x above the initial dough mark.
  • 2pm: Pour dough onto counter (I floured the counter, but that turned out to be unnecessary). Using dough scraper, split dough into 7 semi-evenly sized loaves. Cut 7 sheets of parchment that fit nicely on my pizza peel. Gently pick up each of the 7 loaves and without very much manipulation try to center them on the sheets of parchment in a squarish shape.
  • 4pm: Preheat oven with pizza stone (I tried out a few different temps while I worked through baking all 7 loaves, until I finally found one that worked best)
  • 5pm: Dimple dough, add olive oil, add flakey sea salt, oregano, cracked rosemary, add more oil
  • 5pm: Bake

Bake

  • Ideal baking: 500dF (non-convection) for 10 min, 450dF (non-convection) for last 10 min.
  • First Loaf: 550dF convection for 10 min. Too dark on the outside and not dry enough on the inside.
  • Second Loaf: 500dF convection for 10 min, 500dF non-convection for 4 min, A little less dark, better but not best
  • Rest of loaves: 500dF for 10 min, 450dF for last 10 min, dough got dark and crust was dry and chewy, this was just right.

Right After Shaping:

First loaf, after seasoning and dimpling, about to load into oven

First Loaf, a bit dark

First Loaf Crumb, large bubbles at top indicate overproofing

The Rest of the Loaves



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