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Help me get a rise out of my foccacia!

Pei Jun 27, 2006 05:38 AM

Getting my bread to rise as much as I want it to is a continuing challenge. I appreciate that bread making is an art that's going to require (perhaps a lifetime) of practice, and that the perfect loaf may forever elude me.

Still, I try.

Today's challenge was foccacia. I got a nice 1 1/2" inch thick bread, but:

-the recipe claims the bread should be three inches thick
-no matter what I do, the pieces around the edge are always very thin
-is foccacia dough supposed to be very wet and sticky before the first rise? I've never made it before and the recipe didn't specify what kind of texture I should be looking for.

Are there solutions aside from using a smaller baking sheet for a thicker dough and just accepting the fact that foccacia crust isn't anyone's favorite part of foccacia anyway?

Thoughts: I did put a spread of olive oil, herbs, and caramelized onions on top of the bread before the final rise. Would less or no topping affect fluffiness a lot? I also wet my hands a bit while stretching it on the baking sheet so that my hands wouldn't stick. Bad idea?

Here's a photo for you bread mavens. Perhaps you can visually tell where I've gone wrong (TIA): http://www.chezpei.com/2006/06/foccac...

(Pei, formerly nooodles)

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  1. MollyGee Jun 27, 2006 05:47 AM

    I've been working to make The Perfect Calzone lately and I tried the pizza dough recipe from Madison's Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone and she sez, "For a crisp, light crust, pizza dough should be on the moist side, which means it will be slightly tacky." So, I'll venture that adding more a bit more flour and kneading it until it is a little smoother would give you a fluffier focaccia.

    But yours looks so absolutely delicious in the pictures I wouldn't change a thing!

    3 Replies
    1. re: MollyGee
      Pei Jun 27, 2006 07:07 AM

      I love love love that book. I should have thought of pulling it out for a foccacia recipe. Foccacia is just pizza dough handled differently, for the most part.

      1. re: Pei
        MollyGee Jun 27, 2006 04:21 PM

        And there *is* a focaccia recipe in it. I looked, but only after I posted about the pizza dough.

      2. re: MollyGee
        a
        Aaron Jun 28, 2006 06:05 PM

        That's exactly what I was going to say. Oven spring requires a "tacky" dough....essential in doughs like focaccia. As a great bread maker fried of mine said, "the dough should be just on the other side of a very thick pancake batter." That helped me alot.
        Pei, you may also try adding a tiny pinch of Vitamin C, an eigth of a 500 mg. capsule...this also really helps oven spring.

      3. PBSF Jun 27, 2006 06:05 AM

        As stated by the previous post, yours looks great. If it taste good, why change it. 3-inch thick focaccia? it must be the super-size version; never seen anything that tall in Italy

        1. Professor Salt Jun 27, 2006 06:17 AM

          It's a good looking bread. I wouldn't sweat the height issue.
          It has a nice, uneven cell structure (i.e. not overkneaded, nor overhandled after proofing). Those are good attributes for focaccia.

          But FWIW, here's some factors that will give you a taller loaf.

          You want to load the oven before the raw dough has reached its maximum height and started to deflate. You might consider cutting back on your proof time.

          Does your recipe call for retarding the dough in the fridge? That will help control yeast activity and give you a bigger window of vigorously rising dough.

          What kind of flour did you use? A higher gluten flour will give it more structure & rise taller than the same recipe using a softer flour. King Arthur's all purpose is a nationally distributed brand with a higher gluten content than other AP flours.

          How hot's your oven? All else being equal, a hotter oven = greater oven spring before the crust sets. Are you using a baking stone? That should help oven spring, too.

          The "thin around the edges" problem sounds like a loaf forming issue. How does the recipe instruct you to form the final loaf?

          1 Reply
          1. re: Professor Salt
            Mattapoisett in LA Jul 11, 2006 10:40 AM

            If you decide to do a refrigorator rise, cut back on the yeast to about 1 - 1.5 tsp instead of 1 Tbs this will retard the rise even further giving the dough more flavor. Also make sure your yeast is fresh. To help longevity, keep the yeast in the freezer. I bought 2 lbs of Red Star active dry which is kept in a airtight metal canister in the freezer and it has kept very fresh for over 2 years

            Take Care

            - P.

          2. Pei Jun 27, 2006 07:05 AM

            Thanks all!

            I will definitely try a slow refrigerator rise next time to contrast with a quick rise in a hot kitchen.

            King Arthur Flour was what I used.

            The oven was preheated to 450 and reduced to 350 for 20 more minutes after the first 15 minutes of baking. I don't have a stone (yet!) but I set a thick baking pan on the rack in hopes of achieving at least a little of the baking stone effect. It probably didn't help much.

            The recipe just said to gently remove dough from the proofing bowl and stretch out to all corners of the baking sheet. Is there a better way?

            3 Replies
            1. re: Pei
              yayadave Jun 28, 2006 10:22 AM

              Somehow I got this posted on another thread. What I wanted to tell you is that using high gluten flour helps make the bread higher. I got 25# at Cosco for about $6.50.

              1. re: yayadave
                Pei Jun 28, 2006 02:28 PM

                Omigod thank you. I'm still getting used to having a car and keep forgetting that I'm allowed to buy gigantic bags of things at Costco.

                Is it just Kirkland brand? Does it say bread flour or something on it? I'll be much more willing to experiment if I don't have to spend $4 on a bag of King Arthur every few weeks.

                1. re: Pei
                  yayadave Jun 28, 2006 04:08 PM

                  It is called "All Trump" because I don't know why and is made by General Mills. It's also recommended for pizza. I stored it in a couple of big plastic (Lexan) containers. I figure a pound of flour to each loaf or every two pizzas, so it'll go fast enough.

                  I particularly noticed the change in my bread in the bread machine, where there are fewer variables. With this flour, the bread was higher. And I was still using the same recipe and the same ol' worn out yeast.

                  I also bought a 6# can of Italian tomatos at Costco for about what I paid for a 28 oz can of 6 in 1 at the local super market. That's in case you want to move your action on to pizza.

            2. Professor Salt Jun 27, 2006 07:29 AM

              "The recipe just said to gently remove dough from the proofing bowl and stretch out to all corners of the baking sheet. Is there a better way?"

              That's what you should do to form focaccia: a slack, wet loaf. If the thin edges / low height thing really bugs you, you can get more height out of your loaf by putting tension on it by forming it with a trifold and sealing each fold firmly.

              I wouldn't recommend using those techniques because it stops being focaccia and becomes something else. As PBSF said, ain't nothing wrong with your loaf's height.

              1. m
                Maine Foodie Jun 28, 2006 07:43 PM

                So, what is it that you think is wrong? If my foccacia only looked so tasty...sigh!

                I tend to like my outside crispy and my inside moist (that would be my foccacia) I found that adding about a 1/4 cup of oilive oil to the dough before the first knead works wonders to keep a moist dough. If you want a 3" tall bread you might want to keep the toppings off until after the last rise. But as I said before...I have foccacia envy! Love your blog too. I now have blog envy too!

                Enjoy,
                Seth
                http://mainefoodie.blogspot.com

                1. k
                  kittyfood Jul 11, 2006 01:17 PM

                  My husband and I learned to make focaccia when we attended a cooking class with Giuliano Bugiali. His recipe and technique turned out a bread that wasn't more than 1 1/4 inch thick, and we've always made it the same way. The dough should indeed be somewhat sticky and soft, and the toppings should be sprinkled on shortly before baking, after the rise -- his version is simply lots of olive oil and kosher salt, and some rosemary, and the results are fabulous. I've occasionally encountered 3 inch focaccia but I wonder if this is an American invention.

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