Focaccia - Apr 29, 2020

Between 2010 and 2017 or 2018, I participated in at least four bread baking classes at Zingerman's in Ann Arbor. My current sourdough bread starter began in an all-day, sourdough bread baking class at Zingerman's that I attended on Jan 30, 2010. My starter began with all-purpose flour, but after about a year, switched to feeding my starter with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour, and I still do that today.

The last class that I attended two or three years ago focused on baking bread, using pre-ferments. One of my half-day classes focused on baking Italian-style breads with pre-ferments. That half-day class included instruction for making focaccia.

On Mon, Apr 27, 2020, I started my poolish with:

The Zingerman's instructions said to use "Instant Yeast." I need to revisit the differences if any between active dry yeast and instant yeast.

Anyway, I mixed the above ingredients and placed them in a small plastic container with a lid for overnight fermenting.

I planned to bake on Tue, Apr 28, but CP wanted me to watch her kids while she could work on painting the inside of her house. I placed the poolish in the refrigerator.

According to my notes, the poolish can ferment at room temp for max of 15 hours, and then the poolish needs to be used in the bread recipe, or it needs to be placed in the refrigerator. I don't know why 15 hours is the max.

If the plan is to refrigerate the poolish, then the poolish needs to ferment at room temp for at least 8 hours. Probably 8 to 12 hours, depending upon the time of the year. Our house temp can be 75 to 80 degrees in the summer and 60 to 62 degrees, during the cooler half of the year.

If the poolish is refrigerated, it's good for 3 days, max. According to my notes.

My notes also state the the refrigerated poolish does not need to warm up before using in the bread recipe, but on baking day, which was Wed, Apr 29, 2020, I removed the poolish from the frig, and I allowed it to warm for at least an hour before assembling the recipe.

For the focaccia bread recipe, I used the following:

Procedure:

  1. In a bowl, I mixed the water, poolish, olive oil, and yeast.
  2. Added half of the flour to the above mixture and stirred with my whisk thingy.
  3. Added the salt and the remaining flour and mixed.
  4. Continued to mix until dough became a shaggy, wet, very sticky blob. Seemed too wet.
  5. I dumped the wet blob of dough on the counter, and I tried to knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes, but it was too wet for kneading. I stretched and folded it and twisted and worked it however I could. I wound up working the wet dough for 10 to 12 minutes. (According to my notes: maybe 10 min will change from sticky to tacky and firmish.)
  6. I lightly oiled a Pyrex bowl, and I placed the dough blob into the bowl and covered it with plastic.
  7. After 30 minutes, I dumped the dough and conducted a stretch and fold. Then I placed it back into the bowl. This step is NOT included in the Zingerman's instructions, which simply say to ferment for 75 minutes after the kneading.
  8. After another 30 minutes, I conducted a second stretch and fold and returned the dough to the bowl.
  9. I fermented the dough for another hour for a total of two hours. The house temp was cool, under 65 degrees.
  10. I dumped dough onto a lightly oiled counter, and I divided the dough into two pieces, but I failed to divide the dough evenly.
  11. I shaped each dough piece into a round by pulling in the edges into the center and turning over and cupping and tightening the dough.
  12. Then I pushed or shaped the dough pieces into round disks, approximately 8 inches in diameter, except they were uneven due to my weak dividing above. Using the palm of my hand is a good way to shape the round ball of dough into a disk.
  13. I used two baking pans. I scattered some flour on each pan, and then I placed the dough rounds on their separate pans or trays, and I then I covered each tray with plastic.
  14. The instructions say to let the dough rounds rest or proof for 45 to 50 minutes, but I let them proof for at least 60 minutes.
  15. I preheated the oven at 450 degrees for at least 20 minutes with the pizza stone in the oven, resting on the 4th or 5th rack level from the top.
  16. For baking each disk of dough, I moved the dough onto a lightly floured wooden peel.
  17. I poured olive oil into a small cup. I dipped my finger tips into the olive oil. Then I pressed my finger tips into the dough disk, making dimples into the dough. I used my fingers to add more olive oil to the disk. The oil pooled in the dimples. I added more olive oil. Then I sprinkled coarse sea salt over the oily dough disk.
  18. I placed the focaccia dough onto the stone and baked for 20 minutes.
  19. I removed the focaccia from the oven and placed it on a cooling rack.
  20. I brushed more olive oil over the baked focaccia.
  21. I repeated the above few steps for the second proofed dough disk.

After the focaccia cooled for 5 or 10 minutes, I cut into it, and Deb and I started devouring it. It was damn good. Olive oil, coarse sea salt, and bread. Simple but delicious. I liked eating it plain versus dipping it into Deb's canned pizza/pasta sauce that she made last fall. Her sauce is great, but the focaccia was good enough as it was.

I did not place any herbs on the focaccia.

I'm unsure what the difference is between pizza bianca and focaccia. Usually, focaccia is baked on trays, but this was how Zingerman's instructed us to make it. I don't care what it's called. It tasted good. I might try making it with a little whole grain flour.

I did not photograph the entire process. Maybe next time. I wanted to see how this worked first. I only took photos after baking and cutting.

In different light, the salt sparkled more.

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