Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

There are two types of focaccia in the world. The first type is typically used for sandwiches. It’s usually the kind that’s so thick and dry you can barely scoff it down.

The other is the type that you get at your favorite Italian restaurant. It’s cut up in nice sized rectangles and served with a generous helping of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. You know, the stuff dreams are made of?

Yeah I like the second type a lot better too.

Focaccia can make or break a meal for me. When my husband and I go out to eat at an Italian restaurant, we like to start with an appetizer and some wine. We start the meal slow and savor it instead of rushing to the main course. Ideally, it’s a few hour ordeal. (Ideally it’s a zero calorie ordeal too, but hey, beggars can’t be choosers!)

Anyhow, if I end up with focaccia that tastes like a piece of kitchen sponge, I have to wonder how much attention the restaurant pays to the rest of their dishes. Not to mention eating kitchen sponge bread kills the mood!

Recently, I got a 2 pound bag of active dried yeast I got on a whim at Costco (as you do…), so I’ve been trying to find ways to use it. I ended up looking into what it would take to make a drool-worthy focaccia at home instead of at our favorite paycheck-eating Italian restaurants.

Just like with most things, there are a lot of quick and easy focaccia recipes out there. But don’t be fooled! I haven’t found one that was legitimately delicious. Sure, you can make due. You can sponge up a little more olive oil and balsamic for every bite to make up for the fact it’s dry and probably a little mediocre. But to me, it’s not really worth it. There were a 5 things I learned to making a delicious focaccia.

5 Tips for Delicious Focaccia

Handle the dough lightly

I’d tell you to handle your focaccia like a little baby bird, but that sounds silly. How about like you handle your brand new iPhone before you put the case on it? Now we’re talking.

Focaccia is meant to be a tender, wet dough. Over mixing or over handling the dough will develop too much gluten, which means the focaccia won’t rise or spread out as much. In the end, you have a dense, chewy bread that sucks the life moisture out of your mouth. As long as you follow the mixing time and speed in the recipe, you’ll be off to a good start.

Now, whenever you cut or transfer the dough, only handle it as much as you have to. When it comes time to split the dough in half, err on the side of cutting it in half “mostly” equally instead of fussing with it. Let the dough fall slightly off center in the pan if it happens to land that way. Your dough will thank you.

Olive oil, olive oil, and more olive oil

You may be tempted to cut back on the amount of olive oil you pour into the bottom of the pan, but don’t give in! A generous layer of olive oil gives the focaccia a nice golden crust. If you use too little, you’ll risk burning the bottom of the focaccia before the top gets golden brown. There’s nothing worse than burning something at the very last step of a long recipe. Unfortunately, yes, I am speaking from experience.

For an added boost, we used a garlic and rosemary infused olive oil. This gave us a chance to squeeze in extra flavor on the bottom half of the focaccia. That’s called a flavor sandwich!

Use good quality ingredients

A recipe using dried rosemary, mediocre olive oil or an olive oil blend, or even dried garlic powder won’t stand a chance against a recipe with fresh and good quality ingredients. Dry ingredients or olive oil blends simply don’t pack enough punch into this recipe. So don’t short yourself. Just wait until you have everything on hand to make it right.

The quality of your flour is really important for obvious reasons. If your flour smells a bit “off”, you’re never going to be able to fix it by throwing more rosemary on top. A lot of artisan bread makers prefer to use high quality flour that’s produced in small batches or organic farms. If you choose to use a different flour, look for one with a similar protein content to standard bread flour, or you have to adjust the amount of water you use.

Give it time

It’s also important not to rush and shorten the amount of time you let the dough rest in between steps. While your dough is sitting innocently on the counter, the yeast are hard at work chowing down on sugars in the flour and burping out carbon dioxide gas. This gas is trapped in the web of gluten you created in the mixer. The longer the dough rests, the more the dough can rise and aerate. This creates the light and fluffy texture that we’re looking for. If you rush it, the texture will be tough, chewy, and dense.

However, at the same time the yeast are chowing down, the gluten network in the dough is relaxing. When the gluten relaxes, it can’t hold as much air in the dough. So, don’t let the dough rest too long because it could collapse under its own weight.

At the same time the yeast is producing gas, it’s also producing ethanol, glutamate, and a balance of acetic and lactic acids. These help give bread its characteristic aroma and slight hints of umami and sour flavors.

If you think about it, short of dipping the bread in even MORE balsamic and olive oil, taking your time to let the yeast ferment is really your only way of flavoring the middle of the focaccia. If you rush and try to make focaccia really quickly, you’ll be stuck with a flat flavor instead of the well rounded flavor of a properly fermented bread.

If an emergency comes up and you have to take a break mid-recipe, cover the top of the bowl tightly with plastic wrap then put the dough in the refrigerator. The cold temperatures will slow down fermentation. When you’re ready to start again, take the dough out, let it come to room temperature, then let it rise again as you would normally. However, yeast produce more acetic acid at lower temperatures. Too much acetic acid can give the focaccia a harsh and vinegary flavor, so keep the refrigeration time down to the bare minimum.

Keep an eye on the temperature

Yeast can ferment between 33 and 105 F, however, this focaccia is best made when the temperature in your kitchen is around 72-75 F. This is basically the sweet spot for making yeast-based artisan breads at home.

If the kitchen is too cold:

  • your dough won’t rise as much
  • the yeast won’t exhaust enough oxygen to get to the stage where they produce ethanol
  • the yeast will produce too much acetic acid, resulting in a harsh and vinegary taste

If the kitchen is too warm:

  • your dough will rise too fast and you’ll risk the dough collapsing (just like what happens if you let the dough sit too long at room temperature)
  • the yeast will exhaust their food supply a lot faster, which makes the timings less flexible

If you can, set your heater or air conditioning to make sure your kitchen is at the right temperature. Otherwise, find a cool area of the kitchen on a hot day or a warm area on a cold day.

Now without further ado, let’s get to the juicy details.

Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

Ingredients

  • 1/16 tsp + 1 3/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup water + 11 oz water
  • 1 T + 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, good quality, plus more for roasting garlic and garnishing
  • 3 oz + 15.5 oz bread flour
  • 1 T Kosher salt
  • 2 large heads of garlic
  • 4 T fresh rosemary, chopped

Steps

We start the focaccia by making a sponge. A sponge is a type of “pre-ferment” which is a way to jump start the fermentation process and basically “age” the bread. An aged bread has better flavor and texture.

1. To prepare the sponge, heat 1/2 cup water in a small microwaveable mixing bowl for 20 seconds or until warm, but not hot to the touch. Sprinkle 1/16 tsp of yeast and wait for 5 minutes for the yeast to absorb water and settle down from the surface of the water.

This step is called blooming the yeast. The mixture should appear milky. If it still appears grainy, you should consider trying a new package of yeast because the yeast may not be active anymore.

2. Add 3 oz bread flour and stir until fully mixed.
3. Cover the mixing bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Tear off another long piece of plastic wrap, form a rope, and stretch to wrap around the rim of the bowl and tie off. The yeast will release enough gas to unseal the plastic wrap, so this extra step helps seal the bowl.

Creating a tight seal is important because it controls the amount of oxygen available for the yeast to use up. This controls the fermentation process overnight.

4. Leave the sponge at room temperature until the sponge has doubled in size and air bubbles are visible, at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.

Sponge for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary FocacciaSponge for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

5. Add 11 oz water and 1 T extra virgin olive oil to a clean KitchenAid mixing bowl. Gently scrape the sponge out and add to the KitchenAid mixing bowl.

Mixing Dough for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia
6. Sprinkle the remaining 1 and 3/4 tsp active dry yeast into the water in the mixing bowl, then add 15.5 oz bread flour.

Mixing Dough for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia
7. Using the dough hook attachment, mix for 6 minutes on low speed. At the 5 minute mark, if there is still flour around the edge of the bowl, stop the mixer, scrape the flour down, and continue mixing for 1 more minute. The dough should stick to the sides of the bowl. It should not pull away and form a ball.

If your dough has formed a ball, you’re mixed it too long. At this point, consider re-doing the previous steps. If you don’t, the dough could be too dense and chewy. If you don’t want to redo these steps or you’re in a pinch, add an extra 30 minutes to the next resting period to allow the gluten in the dough to relax.

Scraping Down Dough in Mixing Bowl for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia
8. Brush a large mixing bowl with extra virgin olive oil. The bowl should be big enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size.
9. Gently scrape the dough into the greased mixing bowl. Cover the mixing bowl tightly with plastic wrap then tie around the edge of the bowl with a plastic wrap rope.

Dough for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia in KitchenAidDough in Mixing Bowl for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia with Plastic Wrap
10. Leave the mixing bowl out at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 and 1/2 hours. This is called the Bulk Fermentation step.

Dough in Mixing Bowl for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia with Plastic WrapFermented Dough in Mixing Bowl for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia
11. Lightly dust a clean counter top with bread flour, then gently scrape the dough out onto the counter top using a bench scraper.
12. Fold the top edge of the dough down to the middle. Repeat with the right edge, bottom edge, and left edge.

This is the Turning step, which helps develop gluten structure. A well developed gluten structure prevents the dough from collapsing. It also helps redistribute the gas that has collected in the dough, resulting in a more even texture.

Turning Focaccia Dough for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary FocacciaTurning Focaccia Dough for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

13. Carefully move the dough back to the bowl, folded side down, then cover again with plastic wrap.

Turned Focaccia Dough for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

14. Leave the mixing bowl at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size again, about 1 hour. At this point, the dough should have enough structure to not collapse when you disturb it (though I don’t recommend disturbing it just to check!)

Proofed Focaccia Dough for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

15. While you’re waiting for the dough to rise, preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the top 1/4 off of both heads of garlic. Pull off 3-4 cloves, remove the skin, and crush the cloves with the side of your knife.

16. In a medium sized microwaveable bowl, add the garlic cloves, a little more than 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil, and 1 T chopped fresh rosemary. Microwave for 30 seconds, remove, cover to keep warm, and set aside to infuse.

Rosemary And Garlic Infused Olive Oil For Roasted Garlic And Rosemary Focaccia

17. Place the garlic heads cut sides up in a large square of aluminum foil, then drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Seal the aluminum foil, then bake for 30 minutes or until the garlic cloves are soft and light golden brown.

Cut Garlic Heads for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary FocacciaRoasted Garlic in Aluminum Foil for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

18. Open the aluminum foil pouch and let the garlic cool enough to handle. Squeeze the head of garlic from the bottom up. The garlic cloves should out very easily. Chop roughly then set aside.

Squeezing Roasted Garlic Cloves for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

19. Strain the infused olive oil and pour 1/4 cup olive oil into each foccacia pan. Tilt the pan to distribute the olive oil evenly over the bottom.
20. Using the rounded end of a plastic bench scraper, cut the dough in half. Gently scoop and place half of the dough into the middle of each cake pan.
21. Spray two pieces of plastic wrap with pan spray and lightly cover the surface of the dough.

The pan spray prevents the plastic wrap from sticking to the dough.

22. Leave the dough at room temperature for 30 minutes. During this time, the dough should relax, spread out more in the pan, and rise slightly more.
23. Remove the plastic wrap and lightly brush the surface of the dough with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle the chopped rosemary and roasted garlic cloves over the top, then use your fingertips to push the garlic and rosemary into the dough making deep indentations. Sprinkle generously with Kosher salt. This step accomplishes two things: punching excess gas out of the dough and flavoring it at the same time.

Don’t be afraid of being too forceful making indentations. This allows the gluten strands to relax, which makes the dough tender. It also redistributes the yeast. If you didn’t redistribute the yeast, they will run out of resources to continue fermentation and collapse before you ever finish baking it.

A collapsed dough has a wrinkled top. If this happens, kneed the dough until it regains its shape, and let it rise again. If the dough collapses during baking, you’re out of luck because the gluten strands have basically broken beyond repair.

The rule of thumb for how much salt to use seems to be twice what you’d expect. You have to make up for the fact the middle and bottom of the dough aren’t seasoned.

Proofing Focaccia Dough for Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

24. Leave the dough out at room temperature for 30 minutes or until the dough has risen up and over the garlic cloves. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 F.

This may seem too hot, but a high temperature is crucial to developing a rich golden crust. A high temperature like this is common for artisan breads like focaccia.

25. Bake on the center rack of the oven until the top is golden brown, about 20 minutes.

If you want the foccacia to rise even more during the baking process, add steam for the first 15 minutes. You can do this by occasionally quickly tossing a couple ice cubes on the bottom of the oven or by leaving an oven-proof container of hot steaming water on the bottom rack. Keep the oven door closed as much as possible so the oven temperature doesn’t drop.

Freshly Baked Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

26. Remove the focaccia from the oven. Use an offset spatula to move the focaccia to a wire rack. Brush the top of the focaccia again with extra virgin olive oil, then let the focaccia cool to room temperature.

Freshly Baked Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia

27. Once you’re ready to serve, cut the focaccia into wedges. Otherwise, keep the loaf intact. Serve with a small dipping plate of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil sprinkled with Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia
 
Serves: 2 10" loaves
Ingredients
  • 1/16 tsp + 1¾ tsp active dry yeast
  • ½ cup water + 11 oz water
  • 1 T + ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, good quality, plus more for roasting garlic and garnishing
  • 3 oz + 15.5 oz bread flour
  • 1 T Kosher salt, plus more for seasoning to taste
  • 2 large heads of garlic
  • 4 T fresh rosemary, chopped
Steps
  1. We start the focaccia by making a sponge. A sponge is a type of "pre-ferment" which is a way to jump start the fermentation process and basically "age" the bread. An aged bread has better flavor and texture. To prepare the sponge, heat ½ cup water in a small microwaveable mixing bowl for 20 seconds or until warm, but not hot to the touch. Sprinkle 1/16 tsp of yeast and wait for 5 minutes for the yeast to absorb water and settle down from the surface of the water. This step is called blooming the yeast. The mixture should appear milky. If it still appears grainy, you should consider trying a new package of yeast because the yeast may not be active anymore.
  2. Add 3 oz bread flour and stir until fully mixed.
  3. Cover the mixing bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Tear off another long piece of plastic wrap, form a rope, and stretch to wrap around the rim of the bowl and tie off. The yeast will release enough gas to unseal the plastic wrap, so this extra step helps seal the bowl. Creating a tight seal is important because it controls the amount of oxygen available for the yeast to use up. This will control the fermentation process overnight.
  4. Leave the sponge at room temperature until the sponge has doubled in size and air bubbles are visible, at least 12 hours or up to 24 hours.
  5. Add 11 oz water and 1 T extra virgin olive oil to a clean KitchenAid mixing bowl. Gently scrape the sponge out and add to the KitchenAid mixing bowl.
  6. Sprinkle the remaining 1 and ¾ tsp active dry yeast into the water in the mixing bowl, then add 15.5 oz bread flour.
  7. Using the dough hook attachment, mix for 6 minutes on low speed. At the 5 minute mark, if there is still flour around the edge of the bowl, stop the mixer, scrape the flour down, and continue mixing for 1 more minute. The dough should stick to the sides of the bowl. It should not pull away and form a ball. If your dough has formed a ball, you're mixed it too long. At this point, consider re-doing the previous steps. If you don't, the dough could be too dense and chewy. If you don't want to redo these steps or you're in a pinch, add an extra 30 minutes to the next resting period to allow the gluten in the dough to relax.
  8. Brush a large mixing bowl with extra virgin olive oil. The bowl should be big enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size.
  9. Gently scrape the dough into the greased mixing bowl. Cover the mixing bowl tightly with plastic wrap then tie around the edge of the bowl with a plastic wrap rope.
  10. Leave the mixing bowl out at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 and ½ hours. This is called the Bulk Fermentation step.
  11. Lightly dust a clean counter top with bread flour, then gently scrape the dough out onto the counter top using a bench scraper.
  12. Fold the top edge of the dough down to the middle. Repeat with the right edge, bottom edge, and left edge. This is the Turning step, which helps develop gluten structure. A well developed gluten structure prevents the dough from collapsing. It also helps redistribute the gas that has collected in the dough, resulting in a more even texture.
  13. Carefully move the dough back to the bowl, folded side down, then cover again with plastic wrap.
  14. Leave the mixing bowl at room temperature until the dough has doubled in size again, about 1 hour. At this point, the dough should have enough structure to not collapse when you disturb it (though I don't recommend disturbing it just to check!)
  15. While you're waiting for the dough to rise, preheat the oven to 350 F. Cut the top ¼ off of both heads of garlic. Pull off 3-4 cloves, remove the skin, and crush the cloves with the side of your knife.
  16. In a medium sized microwaveable bowl, add the garlic cloves, a little more than ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil, and 1 T chopped fresh rosemary. Microwave for 30 seconds, remove, cover to keep warm, and set aside to infuse.
  17. Place the garlic heads cut sides up in a large square of aluminum foil, then drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Seal the aluminum foil, then bake for 30 minutes or until the garlic cloves are soft and light golden brown.
  18. Open the aluminum foil pouch and let the garlic cool enough to handle. Squeeze the head of garlic from the bottom up. The garlic cloves should out very easily. Chop roughly then set aside.
  19. Strain the infused olive oil and pour ¼ cup olive oil into each focaccia pan. Tilt the pan to distribute the olive oil evenly over the bottom.
  20. Using the rounded end of a plastic bench scraper, cut the dough in half. Gently scoop and place half of the dough into the middle of each cake pan.
  21. Spray two pieces of plastic wrap with pan spray and lightly cover the surface of the dough. The pan spray prevents the plastic wrap from sticking to the dough.
  22. Leave the dough at room temperature for 30 minutes. During this time, the dough should relax, spread out more in the pan, and rise slightly more.
  23. Remove the plastic wrap and lightly brush the surface of the dough with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle the chopped rosemary and roasted garlic cloves over the top, then use your fingertips to push the garlic and rosemary into the dough making deep indentations. Sprinkle generously with Kosher salt. This step accomplishes two things: punching excess gas out of the dough and flavoring it at the same time. (Don't be afraid of being too forceful making indentations. This allows the gluten strands to relax, which makes the dough tender. It also redistributes the yeast. If you didn't redistribute the yeast, they will run out of resources to continue fermentation and collapse before you ever finish baking it.) (The rule of thumb for how much salt to use seems to be twice what you'd expect. You have to make up for the fact the middle and bottom of the dough aren't seasoned.)
  24. Leave the dough out at room temperature for 30 minutes or until the dough has risen up and over the garlic cloves. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 F. (This may seem too hot, but a high temperature is crucial to developing a rich golden crust. A high temperature like this is common for artisan breads like focaccia.)
  25. Bake on the center rack of the oven until the top is golden brown, about 20 minutes. (If you want the focaccia to rise even more during the baking process, add steam for the first 15 minutes. You can do this by occasionally quickly tossing a couple ice cubes on the bottom of the oven or by leaving an oven-proof container of hot steaming water on the bottom rack. Keep the oven door closed as much as possible so the oven temperature doesn't drop.)
  26. Remove the focaccia from the oven. Use an offset spatula to move the focaccia to a wire rack. Brush the top of the focaccia again with extra virgin olive oil, then let the focaccia cool to room temperature.
  27. Once you're ready to serve, cut the focaccia into wedges. Otherwise, keep the loaf intact until then. Serve with a small dipping plate of balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil sprinkled with Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper.
Notes
A collapsed dough has a wrinkled top. If this happens, kneed the dough until it regains its shape, and let it rise again.
If the dough collapses during baking, you're out of luck because the gluten strands have basically broken beyond repair.
 Adapted from LA Times
Artisan Roasted Garlic and Rosemary Focaccia
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