This recipe recreates the light, open-crumbed focaccia we ate in Bari, Italy. To achieve that texture, the dough must be wet—so wet, in fact, it verges on a thick, yet pourable batter. Resist the temptation to add more flour than is called for. Shaping such a sticky, high-hydration dough by hand is impossible. Instead, the dough is gently poured and scraped into the oiled baking pan; gravity settles it into an even layer. To cut the baked focaccia for serving, use a serrated knife and a sawing motion to cut through the crust and crumb without compressing it. If you like, serve with extra-virgin olive oil for dipping. If you have trouble finding Castelvetrano olives, substitute any plain pitted green olive.
Makes 8 servings
3 2/3 cups King Arthur bread flour
5 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 teaspoon coconut sugar
2 cups water, cool room temperature
8 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 ½ teaspoons salt
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1 cup Castelvetrano or other green olives, pitted and halved
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
In a stand mixer with the dough hook, mix the flour, yeast and sugar on medium until combined, about 30 seconds. With the mixer on low, slowly add water, then increase to medium and mix until the ingredients form a very wet, smooth dough, about five minutes.
Turn off the mixer, cover the bowl with a towel and let stand for ten minutes. Meanwhile, coat the bottom and sides of a large bowl with 2 tablespoons of the oil and set aside.
Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the salt over the dough, then knead on medium until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes; the dough will be wet enough to cling to the sides of the bowl. Using a silicone spatula, scape the dough into the oiled bowl. Dip your fingers into the oil pooled at the sides of the bowl and dab the surface of the dough until completely coated with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature for 5 ½ to 6 hours; during this time, the dough will double in volume, deflate, then rise again (but will not double in volume again).
After the dough has risen for about 4 ½ hours, heat the oven to 500 degrees F with a baking steel or stone on the middle rack. Mist a 9 X 13 inch metal baking pan with cooking spray, then pour 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil in the center of the pan; set aside.
When the dough is ready, gently pour it into the prepared pan, scrapping the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula to loosen; try to retain as much air in the dough as possible. The dough will eventually settle into an even layer in the pan; do not spread the dough with the spatula, as this will cause it to deflate; set aside.
In a medium bowl, use a fork to lightly crush the tomatoes. Scatter the olives evenly over the dough, then do the same with the tomatoes, leaving the seeds and juice in the bowl. If the dough has not fully filled the corners of the pan, use your hands to lightly press the toppings to push the dough into the corners. Let stand uncovered at room temperature for 20 minutes.
Drizzle the dough with the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil, making sure each tomato is coated. Sprinkle evenly with the oregano, remaining 1 ½ teaspoons of salt and the pepper. Place the pan on the baking steel or stone and bake until golden brown and the sides have pulled away from the pan, 20 to 22 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Using a wide metal spatula, lift the focaccia from the pan and slide it onto the rack. Cool for 30 minutes before serving.