A simple focaccia for a Day Of The Dead Party-
The topping is olive oil, zaatar, and Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.
The hydration is 75%, which is not on the high end for a focaccia — the dough is sticky but can be handled with wet or oiled hands.
- 800 grams King Arthur Bread Flour, 600 grams cold water, 16 grams kosher salt, 2 teaspoons Instant (not rapid-rise) yeast.
- Mix the dough for 8 minutes on low speed, then cover and move to the refrigerator for 2-3 days. The refrigerator step can be skipped if crunched for time, though the focaccia will taste better after an extended cold fermentation.
- Remove from the refrigerator at least 4-5 hours before you intend to serve the bread.
- As the dough returns to room temperature: About every 30 minutes to one hour work around the bowl, lift the dough from the sides and push/drop the dough back towards the center, taking care not to pull so hard that the dough tears.
- When the dough is near room temperature remove it from the bowl and place it on a baking sheet lined with oil-coated parchment paper. 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil should be plenty to coat the parchment. Spread out the dough without tearing it into a round/oval shape towards the edges of the sheet tray. If the dough fights back wait five minutes and try again.
- Cover (I use another inverted sheet tray) and let rise one hour. If using zaatar mix 4 tablespoons with 4 tablespoons olive oil and let it rest and hydrate.
- Preheat the oven to 425F. Using the tips of your fingers, dimple the dough all over, pushing down to the sheet tray. Spread a liberal amount of olive oil over the top, then top with the zaatar and a “healthy” sprinkle of flake salt. Cover and let rise one hour.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes at 425F, then remove to a cooling rack, taking care not to spill any residual oil on yourself or other things you’re attached to. If during baking the bottom of the dough is getting too dark add a second sheet tray underneath the first. For this bake I used two sheet trays for the entire time.
The focaccia was served at a friend’s house with a Day of the Dead menu and beer theme and the bread was a big hit — the zaatar “face” motif didn’t last very long. This focaccia would also be good if substituting other herbs or cheese for the zaatar — I was targeting a sort of scary pumpkin face sort of thing, and zaatar tastes good and stands up to other strong flavors which made it a good choice for this event.
I’ve made many focaccias and I’ve come the the conclusion that the most important element is patience. The bread will be fine without the long refrigerator rise or extra folds and multiple rises, but I think the end result is better when it isn’t rushed. Because this was a weeknight bread I brought the dough to work and stored it in the refrigerator there, then removed it around to my desk at 2:30pm to start warming up for a 7:00 dinner. Many recipes will call for “one hour out of the refrigerator then proceed…” , but that never seems like enough time for the dough to warm up to room temperature and the later rises don’t wind up very satisfactory. Give it time.