Whole Wheat Focaccia

Whole wheat focaccia

After making the best focaccia ever, I was a little obsessed with the idea of making a whole-wheat focaccia that was just as good, or even better. But with all that was going on, it took me until now to actually make it. Boy, was it worth the wait!

My Whole Wheat Focaccia is not just soft as a pillowy cloud with a divinely chewy crust, it is also a good-for-you bread that you don’t have to feel guilty about cramming down your gullet. Slice it into half and slap on some vegan mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes and you will have a delicious meal you’ll never forget. You can even eat it as is, or with some extra virgin olive oil drizzled on.

To achieve the perfect wholegrain foccacia, I put all of my trust in that stinky old mess no serious bread baker should be without, especially if he or she loves wholegrain breads: sourdough.Whole wheat focaccia

Whole wheat focaccia

Sourdough elicits some strong reactions: there are those who love it and those who hate it. I kinda belong to both groups. I am not a fan of sour breads, but I do love the texture that sourdough gives breads, especially wholegrain breads. So I tread the middle path: I use just enough sourdough to give me the texture and a hint of great flavor without any of the sourness. It’s a win-win.

Sourdough also plays a valuable role in wholegrain bread-baking. It helps wholegrain breads, handicapped by their low gluten content, rise and become airy, the way high-gluten breads are. Mark Bittman of the New York Times wrote a great article last week about wholegrain baking and the important role sourdough can play in making it better. If you have never baked before with sourdough and don’t know where to start, read this post from my archives to begin your own sourdough starter. It’s the easiest thing to do and you will reap the rewards forever.

To give even more flavor to my already delectable whole wheat foccacia, I brushed on an intoxicating medley of rosemary, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and garlic. All of these vibrant flavors infuse the bread during the baking and make it even more delicious, if possible. The oil also gives the focaccia a beautiful golden hue, making it food for the eyes as well.

This is pretty much a no-knead bread, made using the same technique from America’s Test Kitchen that I used in my last focaccia recipe, so it’s quite easy to make as well. I know you’re just raring to read the recipe so I won’t keep you from it anymore. Next, watch out for my dessert recipe for our Valentine’s Day countdown series: a chocolatey treat you will not be able to resist.

Enjoy, all!

Whole-Wheat Focaccia
Whole Wheat Focaccia
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
(Makes one large loaf or two small ones)
Recipe type: Bread
Cuisine: Italian
  • 1 cup sourdough
  • 3½ cups whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup vital wheat gluten (if you can't find this, substitute one more cup of the whole-wheat with all-purpose)
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast
  • Salt to taste
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2¼ cups warm water
  • For the topping:
  • 2 tbsp finely minced rosemary
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  1. Mix the toppings together in a small bowl and set aside.
  2. Mix the yeast in ½ cup of water and set aside to froth for five minutes.
  3. After five minutes, add the sourdough to a large bowl. Then add the flours, oil, and the remaining water and mix with a wooden spoon or in the bowl of a stand mixer until everything comes together. This is a very sticky dough at this stage, but that is what will make this focaccia light and airy.
  4. Cover the dough with plastic wrap and place in an oven with the pilot light on or in a warm place for about 1½ hours or until it has doubled in size.
  5. Using an oiled spatula, turn the dough over on itself in the bowl for a total of 10 times. You don't want to deflate the dough too much so don't knead it by hand.
  6. Turn the dough over into a large baking pan (15 by 10 inches) sprinkled with some coarse salt. Or divide in half and place each half in a 9-inch cake tin. (I used a glass baking dish which wasn't such a good idea, because the baked bread was a bear to unmold. I'd advise using a metal pan)
  7. Press the dough gently out from the center so it reaches the sides of the pan.
  8. Cover the pan or pans with plastic wrap and place in the oven with the pilot on for another hour or until the dough has doubled.
  9. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees at least 30 minutes before baking.
  10. Using a fork, prick the dough all over to remove any bubbles on top. Don't go heavy-handed because you don't want to deflate the dough.
  11. Brush the top of the bread with the rosemary-olive oil mixture. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.
  12. Remove the focaccia pan or pans from the oven and let stand on a rack for five minutes. Remove the bread from the pan and continue to cool on the rack.
This focaccia goes to Manasi’s I Must Make That event. It also includes a giveaway from CupoNation. Head over to Manasi’s blog, A Cook at Heart, for some delicious food, a lot of it Indian, a lot of it kid-friendly, and for the entertaining stories she pens alongside her recipes.
(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

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  1. says

    I’ve been meaning to try sourdough for a while now,kept putting it off for lack of confidence. I must try it now, I must!
    I love the combination of rosemary, garlic, evoo and sea salt.
    I guess the previous breads I have made lacked that special something, which may be gluten. I will pick up some today at the store
    ( late evening visit today, also hoping the son will fall asleep in the car early, so we can retire quickly too)

    • says

      Yo-yo, sourdoughs seem counterintuitive, because they appear almost like spoiled food and the thought of using it for food is kinda strange. Maybe that’s why you thought it didn’t work? A successful sourdough has to be strong-smelling, with an alcoholic, fermented odor, and there will be a brownish liquid floating on top.

  2. Kitty says

    Hi Vaishali, I’ve been following your blog for a while now, and I’ve made so many great meals from your recipes. I feel compelled to tell you that if you want to make a great 100% whole wheat bread (without vital wheat gluten), you should check out Peter Reinhart’s Whole Grain Breads book (or at least the 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread master recipe that’s floating around the web). I’ve read posts you’ve written previously where you mentioned that it’s impossible to make a soft and delicious bread from just ww, and having used Reinhart’s recipe, I have to say that I completely disagree. (It mostly involves just soaking the dough overnight to soften the bran.)

    • says

      Hi Kitty, I am happy to be corrected. So far my wholegrain bread-baking has not worked so well without gluten and/or sourdough, but I will be sure to give Peter Reinhart’s recipes a try. There are many readers outside the US who don’t have access to vital wheat gluten, so this is a great tip for all of us. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Prema Vaidyanathan says

    If I am not using vwg (i dont get it here in Singapore), do I use 21/2 c of whole wheat flour and 2 cups of apf? And should the yeast be mixed with warm water? No sugar? And can I use bread flour?
    I am still a beginner, so your reply will be vital.

    • says

      Hi Prema, yes, you can use bread flour instead of APF, and skip the vital wheat gluten. And no need for sugar when mixing the yeast with water. Good luck with the baking. It’s a labor of love, you’ll find, but very rewarding in the end. :)

      • Prema says

        Hi Vaishali,
        Thanks for all the guidance. I did try the Foccacia. As always, everything went right. Sourdough, frothing, leavening, bubbling happened. Afte 25 mts, the skewer came out clean,pan sounded hollow on tapping, the loaf left the pan with a beautiful crust. Left it to cool for a few hours. After that, felt that the bread was a little raw. So,kept it in the oven. Left it on for a while, but the crust became very hard. Where am I going wrong? Is there some other test that will help me?

  4. Prema says

    Can I try the same recipe for a fruit and nut loaf by substituting the oil with honey or orange juice and the herbs with some seeds, nuts and dried fruits? Or do you haveanother recipe for it? Should I bake in a cake pan or a loaf pan?

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