This cloudy, pillowy, crusty and herby sourdough focaccia studded with olives is a bread you’ll be wanting to make over and over again. It’s the perfect bread to slice up for a delicious sandwich, or to top with all sorts of tasty tidbits, or to simply dunk into a marinara sauce and chew on. Heaven.
If you followed along with our tutorial on how to make a sourdough starter from last week, you have a pot of bubbling starter in your kitchen now, waiting to be used in all kinds of delicious breads and more. Because you need two cups of sourdough starter for this focaccia, you will want to increase the amount of your starter. I did that by just adding a cup more of flour and 3/4 of a cup of water to my starter the day before I baked this sourdough focaccia, which gave me plenty of starter for the bread with some left over to keep my starter going.
This focaccia takes a little time to make, although it’s not dedicated time. You want to soak some of your flour overnight with the starter and then mix up the dough with the rest of the flour the following day. The dough is rather loose– even more so than the dough for a ciabatta batter — but that’s what gives this bread those wonderful, airy holes, its soft, pillowy crumb, and that crispy, crackly crust.
I smashed together some garlic, black pepper, salt, a bouquet of savory herbs, and extra virgin olive oil — along with kalamata olives — to smear on top of my focaccia, but you can keep it simple and just brush on some garlic, salt, and herbs. As the bread rises in the oven, the olives sink into the crust and the flavor of the herbs wafts all around the house, making it smell rather like a holiday.
This bread bakes up in a large, 15-inch baking pan, so you’ll have enough sourdough focaccia to feed an army or a rather hungry family. To make a smaller bread, halve the recipe and bake in a smaller pan.
- 2 cups sourdough starter
- 2 1/4 cups water
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tsp salt
- tbsp For the topping: 2 fresh herbs finely chopped (I used a mix of rosemary, lavender and sage. Use all or one. Thyme and oregano are great too)
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup Kalamata olives
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- Make the overnight starter by mixing together the sourdough, whole wheat flour and 1 cup all purpose flour. Mix well and let it stand overnight or for eight hours, covered, in a warm place.
- Add the salt and olive oil and knead in the remaining flour, half a cup at a time, until you have a fairly loose batter that just comes off the sides of the bowl but does not gather into a ball.
- Cover the bowl with a cling wrap and let the dough rise for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
- Using a wooden ladle, turn the dough over on itself in the bowl gently about 9 or 10 times, trying not to deflate too many of the lovely bubbles that have formed.
- Oil or spray with oil a large, 15-inch baking sheet with sides.
- Pour the batter into the center of the sheet and, using a spatula or flat ladle, help it along so it nearly fills the pan.
- Brush on some olive oil to keep the batter from drying, but don't cover it up with a towel or cling wrap-- both will stick to the dough.
- Leave the baking pan in a warm place for an hour or until the dough has risen to fill the entire pan and has risen to the top of the pan.
- About half an hour before you're ready to bake, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Make the toppings by smashing together the herbs, garlic, olive oil, black pepper and salt in a mortar and pestle. You can use a food processor, but in that case don't add the olives. Process the herbs, oil, garlic, salt and pepper into a coarse paste. Smash the olives with a heavy knife, and then mix into the herb-oil mixture.
- Smear the olives-garlic-herb mixture on top of your risen focaccia as evenly as you can without deflating the dough.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the top is lightly golden and the bread has started to pull from the sides. One way to tell your bread is done is to press it slightly, and if it springs back, you know it's ready.
- Let the bread cool on a rack at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving.
Hope everyone’s looking forward to Thanksgiving this week, to meeting friends, family, and laughing a lot. Visit Holy Cow!’s Thanksgiving archives for some vegan Thanksgiving food inspiration.