As soon as I saw this month’s Daring Bakers challenge, I knew exactly what I wanted to make: raisin focaccia. While not as well known as savoury, rosemary and salt topped focaccia, apparently this sweet version is a well-loved breakfast item in the Ligurian region of Italy. I’d had a recipe bookmarked for quite a while, and this seemed like the perfect chance to finally make it, so I did. However, I should have known better when the recipe only specified three minutes of kneading and no bulk fermentation. The resulting focaccia was pretty “meh” tasting, and it lacked so much in structure that it fell apart when I tried to take it out of the pan. Sadly, raisin focaccia round one was a big ol’ FAIL.
But I was still dreaming of what raisin focaccia could be like: crisp olive-oil rich edges with an airy, chewy center, dotted with sweet plump raisins and a caramelized-sugar-scattered top. And then I got it in my head to try making it with sourdough. So I turned to my tried and true focaccia recipe and converted in to sourdough (which was pretty easy, given that the recipe starts with an overnight biga that very closely resembles a 100% hydration sourdough starter). The recipe makes two ten-inch focaccias, so I did one with a savoury asiago cheese, sundried tomato, and thyme topping, and one with raisins mixed in and sugar on top.
Round two was a much better success, but, due to user error, still not a home run. I missed the step in the recipe where it said to turn down the oven by 50 degrees, so the toppings on my focaccias got rather burnt and the crusts were just a little overly crisp. But the flavour was spot on with a nice sourdough tang due to the long fermentation time, and OMG the airy crumb!!! This is probably the best crumb of any artisan bread I’ve ever made:
Thanks for a fun and challenging challenge, Sawsan and Rachael!
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine:
190 g 100% hydration active sourdough starter
313 g water
1 tbsp olive oil
Stir this together until the starter dissolves, then with the dough hook mix in:
425 g all purpose flour
20 g rye flour
Mix until you get a shaggy mass, then add 3/4 tbsp kosher salt. Continue kneading the dough until it is smooth and very elastic and stretchy. It should be too wet to really hold its shape, but will be starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl. Add a few more tbsp of flour if needed to get the dough to the right consistency.
At this point, I divided the dough in 2 parts (about 500 g each) and added 1 cup of raisins to half the dough. For a full recipe of raising focaccia, add 2 cups of raisins to the full amount of dough. For savoury focaccia, skip this step!
Scrape the dough into a bowl or container that has been lightly oiled with olive oil. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in volume. How long this takes will depend on the activity of your starter. Mine took about 6 hours.
Once the dough has doubled, stretch and fold it from all 4 corners, then cover it again and leave it until it doubles once more, either a few more hours at room temperature or overnight in the fridge (which is what I did).
Prepare two 10″ baking pans (either square or round) by pouring 1/4 cup olive oil in the bottom of each and swirling it around to cover the bottom evenly. Place half the dough in each pan, being careful not to deflate it when you transfer it from the bowl to the pan. Very gently try to coax it out towards the edges of the pan, then let it rest somewhere warm, covered with plastic wrap, until it relaxes enough to reach the edges of the pan (about 30 minutes).
Top the focaccia with goodies of your choice. Start by pressing the toppings into the center of the focaccia and moving outwards in concentric circles, pressing down and out on the dough. This will help coax it out towards the edge of the pan without deflating the dough unnecessarily. You want the toppings to be imbedded in the dough (I should have done a better job of this).
For the savoury version, I used:
60 g asiago cheese, cubed into pieces about the size of my pinky fingertip
4 sundried tomtoes, diced
a small handful of fresh thyme sprigs
fresh ground pepper
For the raisin version, I used about 2 tbsp raisins for one focaccia.
Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let then proof somewhere warm for about 30-60 minutes (or longer, if your dough was chilled overnight), until the dough is puffy and has risen up around the toppings. Preheat the oven to 450˚F (425˚F convection) while the dough proofs.
If the toppings have popped out of the dough, poke them back down again gently (I didn’t do this enough). Drizzle each focaccia with about 2 tbsp olive oil, then sprinkle the savoury version with a good pinch of coarse kosher or other flaky salt.
Sprinkle the raisin version with about 2 tbsp turbinado or other large-grained sugar.
Turn the preheated oven down to 400˚F (375˚F convection) and bake the focaccias in the center of the oven for 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Let cool in the pans for about 10 minutes, then remove to a rack and cool slightly. The focaccia is best served warm, but can be stored for a few days in an airtight container and re-heated in the oven (although I’ll admit to devouring the day-old, un-re-heated focaccia with as much gusto as when it was freshly baked!).