This is a bit of a time consuming start the day ahead bread but is worth every minute.
Biga (pre-fermentation or starter)
½ c (125g) warm water (80-90F)
1 c (125g) bread flour
½ tsp active dry yeast
All of the biga
1 ½ c (350g) warm water
¾ cup of your favourite Awesome Olive EVOO (I use Coratina)
3 c (440g) bread flour
2 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp active dry yeast
2 6-inch rosemary sprigs
¾ tsp flaky sea salt or kosher salt
Make the Biga (start the day ahead): In a medium bowl combine the water, flour and yeast, stir until there are no dry spots. Cover with plastic wrap and sit at room temp for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Then transfer to the refrigerator overnight and up to 48 hours.
Making the dough (next day) this step takes about 1 ½ hours total so don’t rush this as it helps to develop the structure of the dough.
Remove the biga from the fridge (it should look expanded and a little bubbly). In a large bowl add the water, all of the biga, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and stir to combine. Don’t worry if it doesn’t totally come together, you just want to break up the biga.
Next, add the flour, salt and yeast and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is hydrated. Dough will be sticky, bumpy and shaggy. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm part of the kitchen for 30 minutes.
Stretch and fold the dough, wet your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Scoop the dough up from the sides of the bowl so that your fingers are under the dough in the middle. Lift the dough up so that the dough spills over the top of your index and pinky fingers making the shape of a U allowing the dough to stretch. Set one end of the dough down in the bowl then the other so that they overlap. Turn the dough and repeat the stretch and fold method. Do this 3 to 4 times every 30 minutes for the next 1 ½ hours. Transfer the dough to a parchment lined baking sheet (for a thinner focaccia) or a 9x13 parchment lined baking ban (for a thicker focaccia) that has been coated with olive oil.
Stretch and dimple the dough with your fingers spread apart and gently insert them into the dough in multiple places, stretching the dough to the edges of the pan. Do these 3 to 4 times (about every 20 mins) over a period of 1 to 1 ½ hours.
Finishing and Baking: Preheat oven to 450. Dimple the bread again, coat with olive oil and sprinkle with flaky sea salt or kosher salt and rosemary leaves, dimple it again. Bake for 18-20 minutes. When it's done it should be golden brown with darker brown bubbles. Remove from oven and drizzle with more olive oil. Let cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a cutting board, it should be crispy on the outside and fluffy and slightly chewy on the inside. Cut into strips for dipping or into larger squares and slice in half for sandwiches.
Awesome it up: top with roasted garlic, cherry tomato and oregano with Parmesan cheese, mushrooms and smoked cheddar (cubed), sun-dried tomato with prosciutto, try it with olives, red onion. Try it with different herbs like thyme or basil. Note when adding toppings make sure to press well into the dough to avoid popping off during baking.
Try using different Awesome Olive Oils like Garlic, Rosemary or even Mushroom and Sage EVOOs.
Original recipe from The Mediterranean Dish by Summer Miller