Italian focaccia is one of the easiest, and tastiest may I add, breads to make at home. Learn how to make focaccia using yeast and adding your sourdough discard to add a lovely tangy flavour and avoid food waste.
I love pizza and make it regularly for our family dinners, but until recently I had never attempted making focaccia. Now that I have found a simple and delicious recipe that I love, I am going to make it often.
Focaccia is a classic Italian flat, oven-baked bread. You will find different recipes for focaccia depending on the region of Italy they are from, but the main ingredients are always flour, water, yeast, salt, and good extra virgin olive oil. For the flour, I used Italian flour “tipo 00” which gives a soft crumb, but you can use plain or strong bread flour.
Focaccia bread can be topped with herbs (rosemary being the most popular one), vegetables (like sun-dried tomatoes, courgettes, peppers), olives, or cheese (stracchino, crescenza, mozzarella).
Adding sourdough discard to focaccia bread
I am now baking sourdough bread on a weekly basis, so I have to come up with new ideas for using up sourdough discard all the time. I already wrote about this topic in my sourdough discard crackers recipe post a few weeks ago. As I wrote in that post, one simple way to use sourdough discard is adding it to pizza dough or focaccia dough. The yeast (fresh or dried) is the leavening agent here, so the sourdough discard is used to add flavours: a slight tang and richness.
Sourdough discard is nothing but a fermented flour and water mixture, so if you don’t have any, simply increase the flour and water in this recipe (500g flour + 300ml water).
How to eat focaccia bread
Focaccia can be eaten as a side and substitute to bread at lunch and dinner time.
In Italy, focaccia is used to make sandwiches, filled with cheese and/or cured meat and vegetables. For a vegetarian option, I recommend the Caprese Focaccia Sandwich with green pesto, fresh mozzarella slices, juicy tomatoes and basil leaves.
You can serve focaccia slices on a board with your favourite cheeses, fruits, and crackers. I love a good cheeseboard for an aperitivo at home, with a nice glass of wine of course.
Stay Home Cooking charity ebook
This focaccia recipe is adapted from a recipe I found in the Stay Home Cooking ebook. The 67-page recipe book was created to raise money for Fondo di Mutuo Soccorso di Milano (Italy) during the coronavirus crisis. It contains 12 Italian recipes donated by Milanese chefs and restaurateurs. The “focaccia with crescenza” recipe is by Le Polveri, a bakery located on the outskirts of Milan. The photos in the book were taken by Fusillo Lab‘s founder Michael Gardenia in his Milan home-studio during the isolation period. The book is available in both Italian and English and you can purchase it with a donation of 10 euros.
Before making the focaccia with my own tweaks to the recipe, I also consulted Baking School: The Bread Ahead Cookbook, which is a fantastic introduction to bread making and the book I use all the time to make sourdough bread. I highly recommend getting a copy if you want to learn more about baking! They also have loads of great tutorials on their IGTV.
Focaccia bread recipe with yeast and sourdough discard
- 400g farina 00 or strong white bread flour
- 10g salt
- 200ml lukewarm water
- 200g rye sourdough discard
- 6g fresh yeast
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more for greasing the tin)
- polenta flour, for dusting the tin
- handful fresh sprigs of rosemary
- coarse sea salt
Place the flour and salt into a large bowl, and make a well in the middle. Add the yeast to the water in another bowl, and mix with a fork until dissolved. Leave this for a few minutes, then pour the liquid into the well.
Using your hand, gently bring the mixture together until just combined. Transfer the dough on a work surface (if you are kneading by hand) or in the bowl of a stand mixer with hook attachment. Knead the dough for about 6-8 minutes, until it is smooth, soft, and springy.
Transfer the dough to a large container with an airtight lid and let it rise at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours. Then, transfer the container to the fridge for 18 to 24 hours. The dough will double in size, so make sure the container is big enough.
The next day, take the dough out of the fridge and let it come back to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 220°C fan. Lightly oil a deep rectangle tin (about 30 x 20 cm) and dust it with polenta flour. Tip the dough onto the tin, then stretch it to spread out. Cover with a tea towel and leave to prove for 30 minutes. Gently press the dough with your fingers to make dimples, then drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Top with fresh rosemary and coarse sea salt.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the focaccia is golden brown around the edges.
Focaccia is best eaten straight away, though you can store it in the fridge for up to 3 days, wrapped in foil. Warm it up again in the oven or toaster before serving.