When it comes to sourdough, it’s not all boules and basic loaves (despite what your 2020 Instagram feed looked like). In The Sweet Side of Sourdough, pastry chef Caroline Schiff is showing just how versatile a sourdough starter can be. With her recipe for salted honey focaccia, we might never go back to boring old sandwich bread.
“This focaccia is so simple, chewy and mouthwatering,” Schiff writes, “and you’ll probably eat the entire loaf in two days—maybe even less. It’s a perfect canvas for cheeses, jams, fruit, butter or olive oil, which helps it go so fast.”
While Schiff explains that the dough comes together without too much effort (making second and third batches all the more enticing), keep in mind that the dough needs an overnight rest before baking, and you’ll want to plan ahead so your sourdough starter is active and bubbly when you start.
Apple Focaccia with Blue Cheese and Herbs
2 cups plus 1 teaspoon (480 ml) water, at room temperature
Scant ¾ cup (150 g) active sourdough starter
4¾ cups (600g) all-purpose flour, divided
2 tablespoons (14g) kosher salt
¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 tablespoon (15ml) water
2 tablespoons (30ml) honey
Flaky sea salt, as needed
1. Make the Dough: In a large mixing bowl, combine the water and active starter, mixing well with your hands. Add half the flour (eyeballed is fine) and mix well; a few lumps are OK. It will be the consistency of pancake batter. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.
2. After 30 minutes, add the remaining flour and salt. Mix until uniform using your hands. The dough will be quite sticky at this stage; bring it together in the center of the bowl, using a bowl scraper. Cover and leave to rest for 1 hour at room temperature.
3. After the first hour, stretch and fold the dough for 1 minute in the bowl using a bowl scraper or your hands, turning the bowl as you go so it folds from a different direction each time. Cover and rest 1 hour. Repeat this stretching and resting process three more times, for a total of four sets of folds.
4. After the last set of folds, cover the dough in the bowl and transfer to the fridge to ferment overnight, at least 10 hours and up to 14 hours.
5. In the morning, generously oil a 2-inch-deep, 9-by-13-inch metal pan with ¼ cup of olive oil, spreading it evenly across the bottom and sides of the pan. Gently transfer the dough to the pan using a bowl scraper and fold it over itself once, then, using your fingers, gently press it into a rectangle shape, coming to about 2 inches from the edges of the pan. The oil should pool nicely in the corners and little divots on top of the dough. Cover and place in a warm spot for 1 hour.
6. After 1 hour, you should see some bubbles on top and the dough should have increased its volume by about half. Gently press the dough out further so it reaches the corners of the pan and, using your hands, dimple the surface of the dough. Finish it with a light drizzle of olive oil. Cover, place in a warm spot and proof for 1 hour, or until you see more bubbles forming on the surface.
7. With a rack in the center, preheat the oven to 450°F. When hot, transfer the focaccia to the oven. Bake until golden and bubbly, browning deeply in a few spots, 30 to 40 minutes.
8. Make the Syrup: Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine the water with the honey and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat and leave in the pot in a warm spot.
9. When the focaccia is done, carefully remove it from the pan using tongs or a spatula and transfer to a cooling rack to continue cooling. With a pastry brush, liberally paint the honey syrup all over the focaccia, giving it two coats. Sprinkle liberally with flaky salt. Cool another 20 minutes before slicing.