Circle B Kitchen
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup of lukewarm water (95°F to 100°F)
½ cup warm water (105°F to 115°F)
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
5 teaspoons coarse sea salt or kosher salt, divided
3 tablespoons milk
3 1/3 cups bread flour
2 tsp herbs d’ provence
Make starter: Mix flour and yeast Using wooden spoon, stir in the water; beat until smooth soft dough forms, about 3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl. Cover with plastic and leave out for 24 hours before making focaccia.
Make dough: Mix warm water and yeast in large bowl. Let stand 5 minutes. Add starter and the ½ cup water and mix 1 minute (mixture will look milky and foamy). Add in the oil, 4 teaspoons of the salt, the herbs d' provence and the milk. Add the flour, about 1 cup at a time, mixing until very soft sticky dough forms. Knead by machine for a few minutes. Remove from bowl. Knead gently on floured surface for a couple more minutes, sprinkling with just enough flour to make it manageable. I use a dough scraper to gather the dough before each knead and try to use as little flour as I can in the process.
Oil a large bowl. Add the dough; turn to coat and cover with plastic wrap. Let dough rise for 2 hours. Punch down gently, cover; let rise another hour. Alternately, the dough can rise overnight in the refrigerator.
Knead dough gently on floured surface until supple and elastic, sprinkling with flour to prevent sticking, about 5 minutes. Let rest for 15 to 20 minutes, covered with towel. Push dough out to 12-inch square or rectangle.
Position rack in bottom third of oven; preheat to 425°F. Lightly spray sheet pan and place dough on pan. Without deflating dough, gently stretch and push dough to desired size. Cover and let rise for 15-20 minutes and then indent dough with fingertips in several places. Drizzle with olive oil, dried herbs d’provence and remaining salt. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until puffed and nicely browned. Let cool briefly before cutting.
Alternately, I like to heat a baking stone for 45 minutes to an hour in the oven before baking. Then I place a piece of parchment paper on a pizza peel, stretch the dough to a rectangle and transfer to the parchment-covered peel. Cut off the excess parchment paper and then continue with the above instructions, sliding the focaccia onto the baking stone to cook. This creates a really nice crust on the bread.
Note: if making ahead, take the dough when it is finished rising the second time, and divide it in half. Spray with cooking oil and wrap in plastic wrap. Place your wrapped dough in a ziploc bag and freeze. When ready to bake it off, bring to room temperature, stretch to desired size and let rise briefly before continuing with recipe.