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I just made a hard and chewy focaccia, help!!!!

chiarlau Oct 21, 2012 06:30 PM

I recently got a KitchenAid mixer and my very first project was this focaccia:

It turned out slightly hard and chewy, not fluffy and soft as I was hoping! Very dissapoiting.

Does anyone know why?

Looking for tips, I found another recipe that uses the same amount of yeast and more olive oil for half the amount of flour.

Can this the be the reason? Should I use more yeast and oil? Hope someone would have any good tips!
Thanks a lot!!

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  1. todao RE: chiarlau Oct 21, 2012 08:00 PM

    Depending on who's formula you use, a cup of flour will run 128 - 142 grams. For sake of analysis, let's uses the 142 grams figure. 8 ounces of water will weight about 227 grams. That means that your first Focaccia formula holds a hydration level of approx. 62%; IMO, too dry for a Focaccia.
    The second formula holds to a hydration level of approx. 82%; a much better approach to Focaccia.
    My own forumula relies on a 70% hydration factor.
    Your first recipe combines salt with yeast very early. Yeast and salt don't get along well and IMO you lost some of your yeast's influence at that point.
    The second formula is a much more favorable environment for the yeast.
    There are other differences in the two recipes which, even though I don't agree with using honey in a Focaccia, cause me to recommend you forget about the first one and work with the second.
    Allow me to add that using bulk measure for bread recipes will never give you consistent results. Beg or borrow (don't steal) a scale and work with bread formulas that provide weights for ingredients rather than bulk measure.
    If want to get caught up in the vortex of bread making spend some time on this site:
    One last point. When a recipe suggests letting a dough rise for a specific amount of time, find another one. When proofing dough you watch the dough, not the clock.
    Here's one of my favorite Focaccia recipes by Peter Reihnart.
    Makes a very nice bread.

    1 Reply
    1. re: todao
      chiarlau RE: todao Oct 22, 2012 08:02 AM

      Great information!! Thanks so much!!!

    2. RetiredChef RE: chiarlau Oct 22, 2012 01:28 PM

      Just wanted to add my .02 to this.

      #1 Reihnart's Focaccia recipe is very good.

      #2 Your recipe needs more olive oil.

      #3 Folklore about mixing salt and yeast have been around for ages but is mostly incorrect. Every 'scientific' study has shown that salt-stressed yeast is actually "more" productive and reduces fermentation time. But not only that the bread quality it's self is better. I have been using this technique for over 30 years as have many high end bakeries.

      "Salt-stressed yeast leads to bigger, softer bread: Study

      Exposing Baker’s yeast to a salt solution prior to bread baking can improve the volume, texture, taste, and aroma of the finished product, says a new study."

      One thing you will find out is that if you ask two cooks a question you will probably get 5 answers, the irony is that 4 of them are probably right.

      12 Replies
      1. re: RetiredChef
        chowser RE: RetiredChef Oct 22, 2012 01:39 PM

        I agree wholeheartedly about #1. If you look for it online, it's the Reinhart recipe w/out the sugar. There is one w/ sugar that isn't the BBA one, nor do I think it is Reinhart's. It's good but not nearly as good the BBA.

        I've read repeatedly about #3 with salt retarding yeast but never found it to be true and I can be heavy handed w/ salt. It's good to know it's not just my imagination.

        To the OP, a longer rise is better so let it sit in the refrigerator more than an hour. An overnight rise, if you're not starting w/ a starter is best. I think it's better to start w/ a good recipe, than try to tweak and iffy one.

        1. re: RetiredChef
          todao RE: RetiredChef Oct 22, 2012 04:10 PM

          Their test included a sugar component that is atypical of the testing I've worked with so I can't compare their findings with the others I'm familiar with.

          You may want to read this "scientific" report from King Arthur

          The OP asked

          "It turned out slightly hard and chewy, not fluffy and soft as I was hoping! Very dissapoiting.

          Does anyone know why?"

          How would you explain that experience?

          1. re: todao
            sandylc RE: todao Oct 22, 2012 05:49 PM

            "It turned out slightly hard and chewy, not fluffy and soft as I was hoping! Very dissapoiting.

            Does anyone know why?"

            Too much flour? Overbaked? Underproofed? Wrong expectation (wants fluffy bread instead of foccacia)?

            1. re: sandylc
              chowser RE: sandylc Oct 22, 2012 06:13 PM

              That's a good question about expectation. It never occurred to me that the OP might want light, fluffy white bread and not focacccia like texture.

              1. re: chowser
                sandylc RE: chowser Oct 22, 2012 06:25 PM

                I have a few people in my family who still do not understand things like blister on the wood-fired pizza ("it's BURNED!") and good, crusty bread ("it's HARD!")

                My departed dad judged bread quality mostly by how "ooh, soft!" it was.

                So it does need to be asked. OP, not trying to insult you!! Just conversing....

                1. re: sandylc
                  chowser RE: sandylc Oct 22, 2012 06:53 PM

                  I have seen focaccia from stores that are light and fluffy so it is a good question. Focaccia should be "harder" and especially chewier. Maybe the answer is just that simple. Although I still stand by what I said about a longer rise giving a better texture. I don't think I'd use either of the recipes in the OP, as is.

                  1. re: chowser
                    sandylc RE: chowser Oct 22, 2012 07:03 PM

                    I agree. I've seen "wonder" focaccia, as well!!

              2. re: sandylc
                chiarlau RE: sandylc Oct 22, 2012 10:39 PM

                For what I've been reading and thanks to all of you, I think it might be a combination of all the above.
                Regarding the expectations I was hoping for a fluffy focaccia like the one from Reihnart's recipe in the link that todao posted above!

                1. re: chiarlau
                  chowser RE: chiarlau Oct 23, 2012 04:12 AM

                  If you make the Reinhart one, double up on the herbed olive oil to use for other things. It's addicting.

              3. re: todao
                RetiredChef RE: todao Oct 23, 2012 08:07 AM


                I can only tell you what 30+ years of my baking experience has told me, what my fathers 50+ years (he was a professional baker) and numerous other professionals all say. Currently I am eating a very beautiful boule that I started earlier today with water, yeast and SALT mixed together. It proofed slightly faster and came out with a better texture, smell and crust than if I had waited to add the salt into it. There is no sugar in this loaf.

                I suggest that you don’t believe me or others but try it for yourself, make two of your favourite loaves one with salt added at the beginning and one when you regularly add it and then taste and see the difference. Ask other people to try the two loaves and see which one they prefer. The test will tell you better than I can.


                1. re: RetiredChef
                  sandylc RE: RetiredChef Oct 23, 2012 12:54 PM

                  I am finding this whole salt thing very fascinating! Professional bakers who write books always instruct to delay the salt when making sponges, poolish(es?), etc. Is this akin to the "don't wash mushrooms" myth that won't die?

                  I am trying your comparison as soon as I get the time.....thanks.

                  1. re: sandylc
                    chowser RE: sandylc Oct 23, 2012 01:52 PM

                    I've read in quite a few places that too much salt would retard yeast development. I've never read a quantifying amount of "too much" but have come to assume it would have to be enough to make the bread unpalatable, if true. Peter Reinhart starts w/ salt in his starters.

            2. z
              Zalbar RE: chiarlau Oct 22, 2012 01:48 PM

              What is probably happening is that your bread is forming a crust right away and the dough has nowhere to expand so you end up with a very dense piece of bread.

              This is why we slash bread, and bake in an initial moist environment. The slashing allows the bread to open and expand, while the moisture retards crust formation.

              Outside of a steam injection oven, you can slash and mist your dough with a water sprayer (like for plants) You want it wet, but not soaking, so don't run your hands under water then over your dough, not forming clay here (and you'll end up with a super thick crust).

              5 Replies
              1. re: Zalbar
                chowser RE: Zalbar Oct 22, 2012 05:31 PM

                I've never done any of that with focaccia.

                1. re: chowser
                  Zalbar RE: chowser Oct 23, 2012 11:54 AM

                  That's why I said probably, not necessarily that is what is happening. The only other reason I can think is either under or over proofing.

                  1. re: Zalbar
                    chowser RE: Zalbar Oct 23, 2012 01:54 PM

                    I think a few people in this have touched on possible reasons. I was just commenting that I've never slashed focaccia nor used steam for focaccia. Underproofing is definitely a possibility, especially since the OP recipe only calls for an hour rise.

                    1. re: chowser
                      chiarlau RE: chowser Oct 23, 2012 02:28 PM

                      "I think a few people in this have touched on possible reasons" It's ok, since I've learnt a lot from all your posts. This was my first time ever making bread, and I believe as I stated above the problem was a combination of several factors. One of them also the wrong recipe. So instead of trying to make the same one I will try with Reinhart's one! Hopefully this time it will tourn out better!

                2. re: Zalbar
                  sandylc RE: Zalbar Oct 23, 2012 05:20 PM

                  I don't think that slashing and steaming are appropriate for focaccia. Especially the steam; focaccia is covered in olive oil and could not possibly benefit from moisture - it wouldn't get to the dough through the oil.

                3. s
                  smtucker RE: chiarlau Oct 22, 2012 04:40 PM

                  Couldn't agree with the BBA recommendation enough... but don't throw out your dense bread. Should make lovely breadcrumbs.

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