Chewy and soft on the inside, with an extremely airy crumb and crispy exterior, this Sourdough Focaccia is one of the nicest breads we make! Made with naturally leavened dough and topped with soft plump olives and a mixture of herbs, this bread is lovely on its own, dipped in some olive oil and balsamic or served with soups!
When I first started baking with sourdough starter, I had very mixed success with the loaves that I made at the beginning. Unlike any other sourdough bread I made, Sourdough Focaccia has never failed me. It turns out perfect every time, no matter what toppings I use.
One of my favourite focaccia toppings is this one I am sharing with you here. Mixed herbs and black olives with a rich tomato and olive oil glaze is a perfectly balanced combination of flavours. It has all the elements of the Adriatic cuisine and really takes you back to the holidays in Greece.
I cook my focaccia is an iron cast skillet (here’s one of the ones I use and here’s the other one). They are the irreplaceable pieces of cookware in our kitchen. Not only great for bakings Sourdough Bread, Focaccia or Pizza, we make Apple Tart Tatin, various Frittatas and our Christmas Pommes Anna in them too.
This is an overnight recipe, so you will want to start a day (or even two) before you want to eat your Sourdough Focaccia. It is certainly fun to make: the dough is very wet, but you don’t actually need to work with it that much.
As usual, I use a 100% hydration starter in this recipe. That’s the one that’s been fed equal amounts (in weight) of water and flour. A mature active starter is a key to a great open texture of good focaccia, so I wouldn’t recommend making one of these until you’ve had and maintained your starter for a good couple months.
This recipe is for 4 people to eat as a snack, or with soup. But the recipe can easily be doubled, as long as you use a large baking tray to bake it in.
The Night Before: Feed Your Starter
It is important to use your starter at its peak. And by the peak, I mean that it’s been fed and it at least doubled in size but hasn’t started deflating yet. How long it takes for it to double depends on various factors, like the flour you use, the temperature and humidity of your kitchen.
Our kitchen gets cold at night in winter, so I can feed my starter in the ratio of 1 part starter : 2 parts flour : 2 parts water. I leave it overnight (12 hours even) and only then it doubles. However, if your kitchen is warm, you may need to adjust the amount of water and flour you feed. Alternatively, you can feed your starter in the morning if you know you can get it to double within 4 hours or so. In short, you will need 110g of active starter.
Day 1: Prepare Sourdough Focaccia Dough
In a bowl of your standing mixer, mix active starter, water and 190g of the flour into a rough dough. Cover and leave this to rest for 1 hour. This process is called autolyse, during which enzymes in the flour are activated and gluten starts to develop.
After an hour, add salt, olive oil and the rest of the flour (75g) and knead in your mixer on low/medium speed for around 5-7 minutes, until the dough is clearly less sticky and more elastic. I will be honest, I never tried kneading focaccia dough by hand, as the dough is very very sticky to start with.
Tip the dough in a well-greased shallow dish and cover with a tea towel. Leave to prove at room temperature for 4-5 hours (again, depending on the temperature of the kitchen). Every half an hour, uncover the dough, oil your hands and perform a set of coil folds (video below) or traditional stretch-and folds.
You will see how much more elastic, firm and easier to manage your dough gets with each of them. After your second fold you will also start to see small blisters forming on the surface of the dough. This is a great sign of an elastic and airy dough.
Pop the dough in the fridge fully covered or cling filmed and leave it there overnight.
Day 2: Bake your Overnight Focaccia
Take the dough out of the fridge. Lightly oil a 20-24cm cast iron skillet. Now the tricky bit! Using a dough scraper, carefully transfer your Focaccia dough out of the dish into the skillet without deflating it too much. Cover and leave in a warm spot for approx. 1 hour. Your dough should rise, and have large visible blisters on the surface at this stage.
Preheat the oven to 200°C Fan. Then prepare your topping. In a small bowl, mix 3 tbsp of olive oil, 1 tsp of tomato paste, 1 tsp of mixed herbs and 1 small crushed garlic clove. Prepare your olives by cutting them in half.
Now oil your fingers, and dimple the dough all over. Place olive halves in the dimples. Then brush the olive oil mixture all over the surface of the Sourdough Focaccia, taking care not to burst any blisters. Sprinkle some coarse sea salt on top. Then place on the middle shelf of the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes depending on the thickness of your focaccia. We used a 24cm cast iron pan, and it took 17 minutes to cook.
Cool it for at least 15 minutes before slicing. It’s lovely warm, but also delicious the next day!
If you’re looking for other Sourdough Recipes to try, have a look at our:
Overnight Sourdough Focaccia with Olives and Mixed Herbs
- 24cm Cast Iron Skillet (or see Notes below)
- 110 g active sourdough starter
- 265 g strong white bread flour
- 150 g water
- 5 g salt
- 25 ml olive oil
For the Topping:
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1 tsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp mixed dried herbs
- 8 olives cut in half
- ¼ tsp coarse sea salt for sprinkling
Day 1: Make the Dough
- Make sure your starter is active and at least doubled in size before you use it.
- Mix starter, 190g of flour and water in a mixing bowl of your standing mixer. Cover with a tea towel and leave to rest for an hour – this process is called an autolyse.
- After an hour, add salt, olive oil and the rest of the flour. Using a standing mixer, with a dough hook attachment, knead your dough on slow/medium speed for 6-7 minutes until the dough is less sticky and more elastic.
- Scoop the dough out into an oiled shallow dish and leave at room temperature to rise for 5 hours. Every 30 minutes perform a set of coil folds – you can find a video below (you can stretch and fold instead if you prefer). Blisters will start forming on the surface of the dough after your second fold. By the time you fisnihed all folds, the dough will be lively, elastic and airy.
- Thoroughly cover the dough with a tea towel or clingfilm and pop in the fridge for an overnight cold-proof.
Day 2: Bake your Sourdough Focaccia
- Lightly grease an iron skillet (or see notes). Take the dough out of the fridge and very carefully transfer it into the skillet, trying not to deflate it too much. Cover again and leave in the warmest spot of the house to prove for another hour. It will increase in volume, puff up and have very noticeable blisters across the surface.
- In the meantime, prepare the toppings. Half eight olives. Then in a small bowl, mix olive oil, tomato paste, mixed herbs and crushed garlic.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C Fan
- When your focaccia dough has proved, oil your fingers and dimple the top of the dough all over. Pop the olives halves in the dimples. Then brush the top with the oil mixture, taking care not to burst any blisters. Sprinkle with some sea salt and pop in the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes.
- Cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing. This Overnight Sourdough Focaccia is delicious both warm and cold, even the next day!