Poolish Focaccia
 
 
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Poolish (On DAY1)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: -
Makes: About 2-
2 ½ cups of Poolish

Ingredients:
2 ½ Cups Unbleached Bread Flour
1½ Cups Water, at room temperature
¼ tsp Instant Yeast (I cheated and used good ½ tsp yeast ;)
Method:
Take wide mixing bowl and add all the ingredients. With a help of a wooden spoon combine them to form a sticky and smooth mass which looked like a pancake batter. Cover it with a cling film or plastic wrapper tightly and leave it for the yeast to kick in.
Now either you can leave it out all night or store it in refrigerator after 4 hours. Since I had no plan of waking up at 2 in the night, I left it outside all night. This way my poolish was nicely and steadily fermented and it was bubbly, sticky and little stinky too ;)

Poolish Focaccia (On DAY2)
Prep Time: 15 mins- 5 hours (Including Resting & Rising time)
Baking Time: 20-25 mins
Serves: 6-10
Recipe Source: Vegan Yum Yum

Ingredients:
3 Cups Poolish
2 2/3 Cups Unbleached Bread Flour
1½ tsp Instant Yeast
6 tbsp Olive Oil (I used good extra virgin Olive oil)
¾ Cup lukewarm Water
½ Cup Herb Oil (recipe follows)
2 tsp Salt or to taste

For Herb Oil:
1 Cup Olive Oil, little warmed (I used good extra virgin Olive Oil)
½ Cup freshly chopped or 2-3 tbsp Dried Herbs of your choice or combination of fresh and dried ( I used fresh mint and basil and dried mixed herbs and rosemary)  
Method:
If you have refrigerated your poolish, make sure that it is kept outside for at least one hour to come down to room temperature. Once it is warmed enough, proceed to make the dough.
Take a large mixing bowl and mix in the flour, salt and yeast. Now add the poolish along with water and oil given in ingredient list.
If you are using all those muscle power like me, then be prepared for good 10-15 minutes of mixing and kneading. You need to get smooth and sticky dough. So start mixing and beating the dough till your arm aches and mind goes bonkers! The dough will be very sticky and it will stick to the mixing bowl like clinging baby to his/her mother. Since I don’t have machine I can’t really tell you how to do it. So please head over to Lolo’s website for further instruction on using machine to make the dough.
Next thing is to stretch and fold the dough. Use your work surface for this step by dusting it well with flour. Please be little generous with the flour (not too much also) if you don’t want to end up scraping your work surface for next one hour. Now scrape the dough from mixing bowl and dump it on the bed of flour. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour.
Start patting the dough to get a rectangle shape. Lolo says patting the dough serves three purposes: one it pushes the dough into a rectangle shape, distributes the flour and also removes the excess flour. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes (and you too, but remember just 5 mins OK?)
After 5 minutes, you’ll need to fold the dough like letter. That is in equal 3 parts. First pick up one side of the dough (it will stretch a lot and make you wonder how many strong words you know ;) Be quick when you fold the sides of the rectangle because the quicker the movement, the easier it will be. Repeat with the other side of the dough. You will end up having small rectangle with folds that looks like folded letter. This is your first fold and remember, we have 2 more folds to come after this. Every time you fold, the dimension of the dough should remain equal. Did you just ask how? Well, after the first fold, you will be stretching the dough out and then folding it back again. Hence, you are not folding the dough into smaller rectangles, but stretching it out and folding it back to make equal sized rectangles. Confused? Don’t worry. You will understand it as we proceed.
Next, brush or spray the dough with oil, cover it in plastic warp and let it sit for half an hour. And then you’ll fold the dough again, brush it with oil, cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest for 30 minutes and then fold it again for the third and final time. Each time you fold, it becomes easier to handle the dough. And every time you fold, make sure that you are folding it in the opposite direction than the last. For example, for the first time if you have folded it from left to right, the next time you will fold it from top to bottom.
After the third fold, let the dough rest, covered with plastic warp, for one hour. The dough will rise at this time, but not necessarily double in size.
While the dough rests, we can proceed to make Herb Oil. It’s very simple and straight forward. Warm the olive oil and mix in all fresh or dried herbs or combination of both. Turn off the heat and let these aromatic herbs infuse the oil.
Now it’s the time to prepare your baking tray for baking Focaccia. Take 17” x 12” baking pan with sides and place a layer of parchment sheet. Spray oil on the baking sheet. Carefully transfer the dough from the counter to the baking sheet, try to maintain the rectangle shape. Don’t worry if the dough stretches little bit as the dough is quite soft and unwieldy.
Pour about ¼ cup of Herb Oil that you had prepared earlier on the top of dough. Now it’s the time for some fun. Using only your finger tips begin to press the dough to distribute the oil and flatten the dough out. The dough will begin to spread out in the pan. The aim is to spread the dough evenly, so that it fills the pan. But don’t worry too much if it doesn’t happen as the dough will gradually spread out in the pan after final rise. And important thing to remember is to use just your fingertips to spread the dough and not your fingers or palm. And also you want to keep the majority of air bubbles that forms on the dough which otherwise will not happen if you use your palm and knead it and destroy all your hard work.
Please make sure that the dough is completely covered in oil. Next cover and let the dough rise for two hours. I promise you, this is the final rise. By the end of two hours, the dough will be very puffy with bubbles and have had filled the pan. Close to the end of this final rise, preheat the oven to 500 deg F. make sure that the rack is placed in the centre.
While the oven is getting heated, add another 1/4 cup, or more, of the herb oil. Spread the dough out to its final size using the same fingertip technique that we had used. It’s a pretty sight to see all those bubbles but restrain your self from pinching them. You want a uniform distribution of bubbles and fingertip dimples. Pinch off any huge bubbles since they’ll just explode in the oven while baking. Sprinkle the top with salt as desired.
Tada… It’s baking time now. Oops, I forgot about another rest time. Promise, promise! This is the last and very final one. Let the dough rest for another 10-15 minutes. And then place the dough in the oven, turning down the temperature to 450 deg F. Bake it for 10 mins, rotate the sheet for even baking and then bake for another 10-15 mins until its golden brown. By then your whole house will smell of freshly baked bread with heavenly aroma of herbed oil. Just imagine that!!!
Now it’s the time to take Focaccia out of the oven and let it cool. Remember to remove it from baking pan and place it on cooking rack. Please be patient and let it cool for at least 20 minutes before you attack it. I served mine with hot bowl of Tomato soup.
 
Notes:
This one was ridiculously huge loaf of Focaccia for just 2 people. So I cut them into desired shapes and stored them in a zip lock bag and popped them in my freezer. When required, I just defrost them for few minutes and then heat them in oven. Voila, they taste as good as they tasted for the first time!
As Lolo suggests, next time I am planning to bake Focaccia with different toppings. For example, some olives, red onions, fresh herbs and may be some garlic too. Or how about some sweet Focaccia? Topped with apples or grapes tossed in little sugar and sprinkled with some aromatic spices like cinnamon or nutmeg? Yum, yum… and yeah, depending on your choice of toppings make sure that you add them just before 5 minutes you take it out from the oven. Thanks, Lolo for helping me get over with the phobia of baking my own bread with this delicious recipe.