Last Updated on August 3, 2023
Homemade, nutritious, easy-to-digest sourdough bread is so good, am I right?! And what about airy, soft, lightly-oiled focaccia bread? Extra good. When you put the two together, sourdough focaccia is utterly exceptional!
Follow this simple sourdough focaccia recipe and photo tutorial to learn how to make your own delicious sourdough focaccia at home. The final product is everything you could dream of: fluffy, moist, and naturally-leavened to perfection. We happened to use olives in this example, but if you’re not an olive fan – don’t let that dissuade you! You could choose to keep your sourdough focaccia more plain instead, or doll it up with a few different tasty toppings. It will be amazing either way!
If you are familiar with our basic sourdough bread loaf recipe (or baking sourdough in general), you should be quite comfortable with this focaccia recipe. The process is pretty similar, with just a few tweaks! The main differences are that focaccia creates a slightly wetter dough because it calls for more starter and a tad more water than our classic bread recipe does, and also is proofed and baked in a different vessel. If you aren’t yet intimate with sourdough, don’t worry! I will still break down the steps in understandable terms for you.
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SOURDOUGH FOCCACIA INGREDIENTS
- Sourdough starter – Approximately 160 grams of active starter will be used in the recipe. If you don’t have one yet, learn how to make your own sourdough starter from scratch here! Or, if you aren’t up for making a starter from scratch, feel free to pick up a dry (but alive!) organic sourdough starter the Homestead and Chill shop. All it needs a little water, flour, and few days to get active again.
- Flour – 450 grams total. For this recipe, we usually combine 400 grams of organic white all-purpose flour plus 50 grams of organic whole wheat flour, though you can use all white! We love the added nutritional value that whole wheat adds, but large amounts can make focaccia too dense. Also note that this sourdough focaccia recipe calls for all-purpose flour in contrast to bread flour, which we usually use for sourdough bread loaves. Yet due to the higher protein content in bread flour, it can also lead to a more dense and chewy texture than we’re after here. All-purpose flour helps to obtain the quintessential light and fluffy focaccia texture.
- Salt – 9 grams in the dough, plus additional for sprinkling on top. Sea salt, kosher salt, or Himalayan salt is preferred over iodized table salt in sourdough baking.
- Filtered water – 350 to 400 grams (which ranges from about 1.5 cups to just a splash over) *Note that if you live in a humid climate, you’ll want to scale back on the water content. Start off with 350 grams and add more if needed.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil – 1 tablespoon will be added into the dough itself, plus a couple more for oiling the pan and drizzling over the top later. The better the quality of olive oil used, the better the final sourdough focaccia flavor will be!
- Toppings of Choice – Popular focaccia toppings include olives (green, black, or kalamata), whole or sliced fresh garlic, grated cheese, fresh or dry herbs, tomatoes (fresh or sun-dried), roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, nuts and seeds, or seasonings such as “everything but the bagel”.
- A large mixing bowl or dough tub
- A kitchen scale
- A baking pan. We use this 9 x 13” non-stick (silicone-lined) baking pan. You can either use a similar-sized deep pan, or a larger shallow baking pan – like a cookie sheet. Using a cookie sheet will result in a more rustic oval-shaped sourdough focaccia, rather than one with an obvious taller crust or edge.
- A lint-free tea towel
- Liquid measuring cup
- Dough scraper – helpful but not necessary
A Note on Time
Before we get into the step-by-step, here is a quick summary so you know what to expect prior to diving in. Making homemade sourdough is generally a somewhat long process. Don’t worry! Most of the time the dough is just sitting there, hanging out in various stages of fermentation. But keep in mind that you won’t be eating your sourdough focaccia for at least 5 to 6 hours after starting – if not the next day.
We typically allow our sourdough to bulk ferment at room temperature for 4-5 hours, and then proof it overnight in the refrigerator. With sourdough focaccia, we do the same. Yet this recipe gives you an option to expedite the process and skip the overnight proof. Instead, you could do just a couple of hours of proofing at room temperature if desired. However, remember that that longer sourdough is allowed to sit before baking, the more fermented, nutritious, and easier to digest it becomes! Hence why we opt for the longer proof time. You can even allow it to proof longer, up to two days in the fridge!
Example extended-ferment schedule: Start making the dough around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and allow it to bulk ferment at room temperature until around 8 pm. Then, transfer dough into the baking pan, refrigerate to cold-proof overnight. In the morning, take out the focaccia dough and allow it to warm up to room temperature for a couple of hours before baking.
Example expedited schedule: Start making the dough around 8 or 9 in the morning, and allow it to bulk ferment at room temperature until midday. Then transfer into the baking pan and continue to proof at room temperature for 2 to 3 more hours. Bake the sourdough focaccia in the mid-afternoon.
You’ll see what I mean. Keep reading.
Step 1: Ready Your Sourdough Starter
Ensure you sourdough starter is at peak activity, ready for use in a recipe. This usually involves feeding it at least once or twice several hours before using it, depending on how you had it stored. A sourdough starter is considered at peak activity when it is bubbling in its container, has more than doubled in size, is no longer expanding, but hasn’t yet started to fall back down and deflate. For more tips on feeding, storing, and caring for a sourdough starter, see this article.
Step 2: Combine Active Starter, Water, Salt, & EVOO
Using a kitchen scale, measure out the called-for amounts of active sourdough starter, water, olive oil, and salt. I suggest starting on the lower end of the water range, and add small amounts later (after the flour) as needed. Again, this is particularly true for those working in humid environments.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the starter, water, oil and salt until thoroughly combined.
It is best to add warm water. If you add cold water, it will start off the dough too cool and can slow down the fermentation process. Around 90 degrees F is perfect. You can either let the water sit out to warm up, or quickly microwave it for 15 to 30 seconds. It should feel lukewarm to the touch, but not hot.
Step 3: Add Flour & Stir
Next, weigh out the called-for amount of flour. Add the flour to the water-starter mixture, and stir to thoroughly combine. If needed, add more water – a tablespoon or two at time. We use almost the full 400 grams of water (though we have very low humidity here). Remember to tare or subtract your container weights as you go!
This focaccia dough consistency should be slightly more wet than the typical dough for a loaf of sourdough bread. It will also appear slightly chunky and sloppy at first, but will come together more in the next step.
A good test of the dough texture is when you stir or move it around with a wooded spoon (after thoroughly mixed), the dough should slowly sink back and spread into the void left by the spoon, rather than staying in place in a firm ball. Yet, it shouldn’t be so wet that you’d call it “runny”. Nor should it fall apart into shreds when lightly lifted. It is perfectly acceptable to sprinkle and mix in a little more flour if you’ve found your dough has become too runny. As you do with water, adjust using only small amounts of flour at a time!
Step 4: Bulk Ferment + Stretch & Fold
Cover the bowl with a lint-free cloth, such as a tea towel. If you are using a dough tub or bowl that has a lid, set the lid loosely on top. Now, the focaccia dough needs to sit and ferment at room temperature for about four hours, or until the dough has risen to double in size.
As much as possible, keep the dough in a temperate location. Around 75°F is ideal for sourdough fermentation. Cooler temperatures will make this process take longer, and hotter temperatures will speed it up. See the temperature troubleshooting tips at the end of this article for ideas on how to create an ideal sourdough microclimate within your home.
During the first 2 hours of the bulk fermentation time, perform 3 or 4 sets of “stretch and fold” about a half an hour apart. This will help smooth out and further form the dough, and also introduce air. After those 3 or 4 sets, allow let the dough rest and rise uninterrupted for the remainder of the time.
In case you aren’t familiar…
One “set” of stretch and fold consists of the following:
Using clean wet hands, grab one side of the dough and lift it up and away from the edge of the bowl. Pull up on the dough until you meet resistance. This is the “stretch”. Now lay it back down over itself, essentially folding it in half. The “fold”. Don’t push down on the dough after folding – air may be trapped between the folds, which is a good thing! Turn your bowl 90 degrees or one quarter, and repeat the process. Stretch, and fold. See the photos below.
Once you’ve gone all the way around the bowl back to where you started, you’ve completed one “set”. Continue with a few more stretch-and-folds if you can without ripping the dough, or simply stop after one set. The dough will become more taught as you go. If you pull it past the point of resistance, it will tear the developed gluten strands – which is what gives your bread structure.
Step 5: Transfer Focaccia Dough into the Baking Pan
Once the dough has risen and expanded to about double the original size, it is time to carefully transfer it into the baking pan. Before doing so, apply a generous layer of olive oil around the pan’s bottom and edges. We don’t want the sourdough focaccia to stick to the pan. Also, let’s be real… an oily crispy crust is one of the best parts about focaccia anyways!
To transfer the dough, I like to use a dough scraper to gently loosen around the edges of the dough ball. Then, tip the bowl and ease the dough onto the middle of the oiled pan. It should spread out into a fairly thin layer on it’s own (an inch or two), and not stay in a tight tall blob in the middle.
To assist in an even spread, use wet or oiled hands to lightly push and pull the dough into the corners of the pan. It will resist, so don’t tear or force it! It will eventually settle in with time. Give it another little push and pull in a half an hour if needed.
Step 6: Continue Proofing Dough (Two Options)
From here you have a couple of options, as we discussed in the “Timing” section above. Depending on the time of day and your personal preference, you can either allow the dough to sit out at room temperature to proof for a couple more hours, or move it into the refrigerator to continue a longer proof.
Either way, the goal is to allow the dough to puff up and rise to about double in size again. On average, this should take around 2 hours at 75°F – though it can vary depending on the strength of your sourdough starter and your climate.
We prefer a longer proofing time, for the added nutritional benefits and also the increased flexibility for our schedule. After transferring the dough to the baking pan, I let it sit for a half an hour to spread out a bit, and then move it to the fridge. From there, it may sit for as little as 8 hours or as long as 14 hours. The key is to take the pan and dough back out of the refrigerator a few hours before you want to bake. Allow it to warm to room temperature, puff up, and reach that ideal doubling in size.
While the dough is proofing, cover the pan with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap.
Step 7: Dimple & Dress Dough
This is a good time to preheat the oven to 450°F.
Here comes the fun part!
By now, the dough should have risen and look a bit bubbly. But to create that distinctive dimpled focaccia top, you need to poke it! Wet your hands with either olive oil or water, and press your fingers into the dough repeatedly in many places. Be sure to push all the way down to the bottom of the pan. It should look really bubbly now!
*Edit: I now usually drizzle olive oil over the surface of the dough and then poke it with oiled fingers, rather than adding oil after with the toppings as shown below… but either way works!
Step 8: Dress the Sourdough Focaccia
Next, drizzle the top of the dimpled dough with extra virgin olive oil. About two tablespoons is recommended, though we never measure. Also sprinkle over a nice little dusting of coarse sea salt.
Finally, dress up your sourdough focaccia with any toppings your prefer! Press larger toppings such as olives, tomatoes, or artichoke hearts down into the crevices to prevent burning in the oven. In this example, we used kalamata olives and chopped fresh rosemary from the garden.
Step 9: Bake
Bake the sourdough focaccia on 450°F for approximately 25 minutes, or until the top is a deep golden brown. Your house should smell damn delectable right about now! Once it is done, allow the bread to cool for a few minutes inside the pan, and then transfer it onto a cooling rack.
Note: Check the bread about halfway through. If the top seems like it is browning too much too quickly, try putting an empty baking sheet on an empty oven rack above the sourdough focaccia loaf. This will help to deflect some of the heat and prevent burning the top.
Step 10: Serve & Enjoy
Eat up! Unlike recommendations for whole sourdough bread loves, this sourdough focaccia can be cut and enjoyed warm – right from the oven! It is arguably the most delicious this way. We love our focaccia on its own, or cut in half to create an open-face veggie sandwich. It also goes perfectly dipped in butternut squash & sage soup or creamy roasted carrot & sweet potato soup, or served with our vegan pumpkin 3-bean chili!
To maximize freshness, store the focaccia in a sealed air-tight container or covered with plastic wrap. Homemade bread will always be best on the same day it is baked, and pretty dang good the next day as well! Beyond that, I recommend re-heating the focaccia in the oven on 375°F for 10 minutes to bring the texture back to life. It can also be frozen in a sealed container or bag for up to a month, and re-heated in the same manner.
Can I get a “Hell Yum”?
I hope you enjoyed this article, and enjoy your fresh homemade sourdough fococcia even more! Please feel free to ask any questions, and spread the love by sharing or pinning this post.
Keep scrolling below for the printable recipe, along with ways to tinker with your sourdough temperature if needed. If you make this recipe, be sure to report back with a review – or tag me on Instagram with #homesteadandchill @deannacat3 to share your tasty creations!
If you like this recipe, check these out too:
- Herb Sourdough Crackers Recipe (a great way to use your discard when feeding!)
- Cast Iron Whole Wheat & Herb Sourdough Pizza Crust
- Simple No-Knead Sourdough Bread Recipe
- Sourdough Cornbread
- Healthy Sourdough Spiced Pumpkin Bread (or muffins)
- Delicious Sourdough Zucchini Bread (or muffins) with optional nuts, seeds, chocolate or dried fruit
- Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookies: Cinnamon Spiced & Salted
- Sourdough Ginger Molasses Cookies (Soft and Chewy)
Simple Sourdough Focaccia Bread Recipe
- Large mixing bowl
- Kitchen scale
- Baking pan (either a deep-sided pan approximately 9 x 13", or a larger shallow standard cookie sheet pan, around 18 x 26")
- Dough scraper (optional)
- Tea towel, or other lint-free towel for cover
- 160 grams active sourdough starter
- 450 grams total flour – we use 400 grams of white all-purpose flour, and 50 grams whole wheat
- 350-400 grams filtered water (about 1.5 cups)
- 9 grams salt – sea salt, kosher salt, or Himalayan salt is preferred over iodized table salt (in the dough mixture) plus more for sprinkling on top
- 1 tbsp olive oil (in the dough mixture) plus more for drizzling on top
- Toppings of choice: olives, chopped fresh herbs, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, garlic, grated cheese, etc.
- Before making the dough, be sure to feed your sourdough starter at least twice, allowing it to reach peak activity level.
- In a large mixing bowl whisk the called-for active starter, lukewarm filtered water, olive oil, and salt together. Start on the lower end of the water range, and add more after adding flour if needed to achieve desired dough texture
- Add the called-for flour to the mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Note that focaccia dough is slightly more wet than typical sourdough bread dough.
- Cover the bowl with a cloth and allow to sit (bulk ferment) at room temperature (70-75 degrees is optimal) for about 4 hours, or until it has risen and doubled in size.
- During the first two hours of bulk ferment, perform 3 to 4 sets of “stretch and fold” every 30 minutes. Then allow the dough to sit undisturbed for the final 2 hours.
- Once the dough doubles from its original size, transfer into a well-oiled baking pan/sheet.
- Using wet or oiled hands, gently push and pull the dough into the corners of the pan (or to spread out some on your shallow baking sheet), but it will spring back and resist. Encourage it, but don't force it. It will continue to spread on its own with time.
- If baking the same day, allow the dough to rise at room temperature (about 2 more hours) until it doubles in size again before next step. OR proof in the refrigerator overnight. If proofing overnight, allow the dough to warm up at room temperature for a couple of hours the following day and doubles in size before the next step.
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Using wet or oiled hands, press your fingers into the dough repeatedly in many places (all the way to the bottom of the pan) until the dough is dimpled and bubbly.
- Drizzle olive oil over the top of the dough, sprinkle with coarse salt, and add toppings if desired. (You can also drizzle oil over the top first, and then dimple it with your fingers)
- Bake at 450 degrees F for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Once the bread has finished baking, allow the bread to cool for a few minutes inside the pan before transferring it onto a cooling rack.
- Serve and enjoy warm, or use it within 2 days for optimal freshness.
- Store in an air-tight container or covered in plastic wrap, and re-heat on 375F for 10 minutes if desired.
- Baking times may vary slightly depending on your oven.
- Check the bread about halfway through. If the top seems like it is browning too much too quickly, try putting an empty baking sheet on an empty oven rack above the sourdough focaccia loaf. This will help to deflect some of the heat and prevent burning the top.
Temperature Troubleshooting Tips
Some of the biggest sourdough frustrations that people struggle with – their starter not getting active, or their dough not rising – is often caused by less-than-ideal temperatures. Keeping it in that target range of 70-80°F reallllly helps. Try not to get crazy and overheat it though! Too much heat can make it proof too fast, which also isn’t ideal.
Here are a few ideas for keeping your sourdough warm and content:
- If your house is cool, for example during winter, try keeping it in the warmest location in your house. Maybe in a room with a fireplace or heater in use, or on your counter near the stove.
- Keep it inside the oven (off) but with the oven light on.
- Keep it near or on top of a warm appliance, like the refrigerator – if yours gives off heat. Remember, heat rises too!
- Wrap your bowl or container with classic holiday string lights. We use this trick for our kombucha crocks in the winter time! I say classic lights because newer LED ones don’t give off heat.
- Use a seedling heat mat, if you have one handy. We do this in the winter, but don’t set it right on the mat. I stand it upright against a wall or lightly wrap it around the bowl, creating a warm cocoon instead of hot bottom.
- When in doubt, assess the temperature of the dough itself with a probe thermometer. It won’t always be the same temperature as the air.