Sourdough Focaccia Herb Bread

Sourdough Focaccia Herb Bread

As summer draws near for us, my meal plan (or should I say my stomach) just SCREAMS for Italian food. Maybe it’s because tomatoes are ripe and in season, and homemade marinara simmering on the stovetop is nostalgic for me (my dad was the king of homemade red sauce growing up!). Or maybe it’s because of late night pizza. Who doesn’t love late night pizza? Regardless, italian food has been a vibe lately. So, get ready for one of my favorite Italian snacks, to go with just about any Italian dinner or to be eaten by itself for breakfast or whenever you please: Sourdough Focaccia! 

Focaccia is typically made with traditional yeast, not sourdough. But why NOT make it sourdough? It only adds to the flavor in my opinion. 

This recipe is also a whole wheat recipe. That’s right, I used 100% home-milled whole wheat flour. That being said, if you want to make this an all-purpose recipe, you can follow it exactly but just remove 2 Tbsp of water from the recipe. If the dough seems too dry/dense, add 1 Tbsp of water at a time before the autolyse step mentioned below. 

Another note: focaccia is a very hydrated bread! It should be quite wet, so don’t be alarmed by that. 

For this recipe, you don’t need much except the following: 

-sourdough starter

-mixing bowl & spoon 

-tea towel

-9×11” cake pan 

Now let’s talk about the process. It’s warmer in my house these days, so that means that all things sourdough can happen in a much shorter window of time. I started and finished this bread in 8-10 hours, including bulk ferment and a second rise! It’s all about how the dough behaves with sourdough, not the exact time prescribed in a recipe. 

If I were to make this same recipe in the winter/colder months, it could take twice as long for the dough to ferment & rise the way it should. So that’s why it’s important that you look for the right signs so that your bread doesn’t overproof, which will result in a dense/heavy focaccia instead of a crispy outside, with a soft and fluffy interior. 

Here’s a little breakdown on how your starter & dough should behave from start to finish: 

  1. I fed my sourdough starter with rye flour and water, allowed it time to peak (double or triple in size) then put it straight into the fridge before it deflated again. By doing this you slow the eating process and you can actually use your starter straight from the fridge without re-feeding! 
    1. Note: Only do this method if your starter was at peak when you put it in the fridge. If you put your starter in the fridge while it was “hungry” or if a black liquid called hooch has formed on the top of your starter, you’ll need to feed it again before you use it. 
  2. Mix your active starter and the ingredients in the recipe below, then let it stand for 30 minutes to an hour. This is the Autolyse which helps the bread come together. You’ll notice a different texture of dough after letting it stand for this time! 
  3. Stretch & folds – 2x on each side (8 total). The dough should be nice and wet, if it doesn’t feel so to you then just get your hands nice and wet before handling it, and allow the extra water from your hands to be worked into the dough while stretch out each side and fold it in to the middle. 
  4. Allow the dough to sit, covered, in a warm place such as under the microwave or oven light. The dough should rise to double its original size, bubbling up and retain its wetness. This is the bulk ferment, and lasts for about 6-8 hrs. 
  5. Once the dough has risen you’ll do another round of stretch and folds before you pour it out into the cake pan for a second rise. Keep getting your hands wet while you work with the dough, this will help make sure the dough has ample moisture and also prevent it from sticking to your fingers! 
  6. Let it rise again for 1-2 hrs. It should double again! Then coat generously with oil, dimple with your fingers and add the salt, pepper and herbs. 
  7. Bake as instructed below! 
Prep Time30 Min
Cook Time30 Min
Total Time10 Hr 30 Min

INGREDIENTS: 

  • 3 cups whole wheat flour 
  • 1/2 cup active sourdough starter 
  • 1 1/4 cups water 
  • 1 Tsp salt plus more on top 
  • 2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves 
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 Tsp pepper on top 
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2 Tbsp butter (**optional)

INSTRUCTIONS:

1. Mix together the flour, sourdough starter, water and salt until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. 

2. Autolyse for 30 minutes (this just means to let the bread stand, untouched). This helps the bread to come together and absorb some of the water, as well as gluten development. 

3. Knead in an electric mixer, or stretch and fold the dough in to the middle using your hands. If using the stretch & fold method, do this 8 times (twice around each side).

4. Next, cover with a wet tea towel and let the sit ferment in a warm place for 6-8 hrs. The dough should double in size.

5. Once done, do another two rounds of stretch & folds (twice around each side). 

6. Oil a 9”x11” or a 9×13” cake pan generously. Pour the dough into the pan, using your fingers to spread it out and make dimples using your hands. 

7. **pro tip: dip your hands in water so the dough doesn’t stick to you! 

8. Cover again, and let the dough rise for 1-2 hours in a warm place. It should double again in size. 

9. Pour a generous bit of olive oil on top of the dough. Re-dimple the bread with your fingers, and sprinkle with coarse salt & pepper.

10. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minute, then turn the temp down to 400 degrees. Take the bread out, and add the minced garlic, butter and the fresh herbs (I used oregano) and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the top of the bread is lightly browned and fragrant. 

11. Serve immediately and enjoy! If you have extra, store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

12. Don’t forget to tag @thewellsourcedlife if you try this recipe!

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