Several times a week, our resident baker, Guiliana, wakes up bright and early to start the process of making our focaccia by hand. Guiliana also works as a line cook at the Bistro, but her passion for baking is evident in the way she bakes our focaccia. At times, she relies on a scale and measuring cups, but her years of experience show as she pokes and prods the dough, adding more water or flour here and there based on how the dough that day is developing. Maybe it’s a humid summer day so she needs a little less water, or maybe it’s a chilly winter morning so she needs to let the dough take a bit more time to rise.
After combining the flour, water, yeast, salt, as well as an olive oil and herb blend, she lets the dough rise once and then redistributes the dough to let it rise a second time. Once the focaccia dough has risen to where she wants it, Guiliana expertly turns out 40 pounds of dough then divides and shapes it into dozens of sheet pan loaves. Some will head straight to the oven for tonight’s dinner service while others will head to the refrigerator for tomorrow’s.
Guiliana incorporates a bit of the previous bake’s dough, also known as a biga, into her focaccia to lend an extra depth of flavor. That and her years of expertise make it a little tricky for us to share our exact recipe, but here’s a close approximation if you want to try your hand at having some Bistro focaccia right at home.
- 6¼ cups bread flour
- 3 cups warm water (not hot!)
- 2¼ tsp active dry yeast (one packet)
- 1 Tbsp Morton Kosher salt
- 5 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for greasing and drizzling
- 2 Tbsp chopped basil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- Flaky sea salt
Pour warm water into the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast packet in, stirring to combine. Let stand for a few minutes. Add flour into the water & yeast mixture and, using the dough hook, mix the dough together, slowly at first and increasing speed, until the dough is extremely elastic and very sticky. When the dough has developed, slow the mixer and slowly sprinkle in the salt. Keep mixing until the salt is combined.
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, basil, and garlic. Use about half of this oil mixture to coat the sides of a large bowl and the other half to oil a large sheet pan. Turn the dough out into the oiled bowl and let rise until doubled, about 2-3 hours.
When the dough has doubled, turn it out onto the oiled sheet pan and stretch/press the dough to cover the pan evenly. Try not to squeeze out too much air. If the dough is giving you difficulty, cover it with plastic wrap, let it rest for ten minutes, and try again. Once the dough covers the pan, oil the top of the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours but up to 24 hours.
Take dough out of the fridge and set on the counter at room temperature. Preheat oven to 450°. Once the dough is puffy, about an hour later, remove the plastic wrap, sprinkle with sea salt, and bake until deep golden brown, about 25-35 minutes. Take the focaccia out of the oven, let cool for a few minutes, remove from pan using a metal spatula, and let cool completely on a cooling rack. Enjoy!