Learn how to make THE BEST sourdough focaccia bread (step-by-step!), with bubbly, active sourdough starter, an easy overnight rising option, and tips for par-baking the dough. So soft! So fluffy! Focaccia recipe adapted from my book: Artisan Sourdough Made Simple.
If you’re new to sourdough bread, or want to expand your collection of easy sourdough bread recipes, may I suggest your next move? Make sourdough focaccia! My version is crisp on the outside, soft in the middle and packed with sourdough flavor in every bite.
Adapted from my book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple, this sourdough focaccia recipe is perfect for both beginners and seasoned bakers alike. There’s no kneading, no bread scoring, no Dutch oven. Just a handful of ingredients, a bread pan (or not) and some hands-off time to let the dough rise. That’s it.
I make this simple sourdough focaccia recipe at least once a week to serve with homemade pasta or salad, and morph any leftover bits into homemade sourdough croutons or breadcrumbs. Not a single crumb goes to waste! (PS: poking soft, squishy bread dough as a weekly thing is very therapeutic, by the way). So, without further ado, let me show you how to make it.
What is Focaccia? And Why Sourdough?
Focaccia (pronounced fo-kah-cha) is a classic Italian “flatbread.” Focaccia can be both sweet and savory, thin or thick, baked plain, or adorned with a variety of toppings- there are many styles to choose from.
While most focaccia bread recipes are made with instant yeast, sourdough focaccia is different. It uses a bubbly, active sourdough starter to naturally leaven the dough- instant yeast is not required. In addition to rising power, sourdough creates a slightly chewy texture and a unique depth of flavor- a major selling point!
How to Get a Sourdough Starter
You cannot make sourdough bread, of any kind, without a sourdough starter. There are several ways to get one. You can make it from scratch (Beginner Sourdough Starter Recipe), buy it online, or ask a friend to share some with you. Even bakeries are selling their starters these days! Alternatively, if you already have a sourdough starter and would like a refresher course, read this post: Feeding Sourdough Starter: My Best tips and Tricks.
Beginner Sourdough Focaccia Tips
- Think ahead: Feed your sourdough starter a few days in advance, prior to making the focaccia dough. This will ensure a vibrant starter that’s strong enough to make the dough rise.
- Use regular olive oil (not extra virgin). It has a higher smoke point and is less likely to burn the top and bottom of your focaccia.
- Pick your pan. Sourdough focaccia can be baked on a regular rimmed sheet pan or rectangular pan (think: brownie pan). If using the latter option, I highly recommend this non-stick pan by Lloyds. I’ve been using it for years. It’s truly non-stick.
You Will Need: Ingredients & Equipment
How to Make Sourdough Focaccia Step-By-Step
Make The Dough
- In the evening: whisk the sourdough starter, water and honey together in a large bowl (I use a fork for mixing). Add the flour and salt. Mix to combine and then finish by hand to form a rough dough. It will be wet and sticky.
- Cover and let rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Timing is flexible here. Then return to the bowl and work the dough into a ball. Again, the texture will be sticky and wet at this stage- all normal.
- When finished, transfer the dough to a lightly oiled, high-sided dough container or just keep it in the same mixing bowl. It’s up to you. The next step is to let the dough rise.
- Rest the dough at room temperature and let rise overnight. The dough should at least double or triple in size when ready. This will take approximately 12+ hrs @ 68 F (20 C).
- Note: the warmer the temperature, the faster the dough will rise. So for example, if your current room temperature is 80 F (27 C), the 12+ rise time mentioned above would not apply to your specific environment. Not even close. The rise time would be shorter, say 3-4 hrs. Simply put: watch the dough and not the clock!
Diving Deeper: Why Won’t My Sourdough Bread Rise?
- In the morning: oil a rimmed sheet pan with oil (see tip below). Use your hands to evenly coat the bottom and sides. With oiled hands, gently remove the dough onto the pan. Flip it over to coat both sides. At this point, you do not need to pull or stretch the dough to fit the pan. The dough needs to relax first, which happens naturally in the next step.
- Cover the dough (I use an inverted sheet pan instead of wrap- it doesn’t touch the dough). Let rest at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until puffy. Preheat your oven to 425 F (220 C).
- Note: I like to rest my dough in a warm spot, usually on top of the oven while it preheats. The dough becomes more soft and bubbly.
Tip: Instead of a sheet pan, you can bake sourdough focaccia in a non-stick rectangular pan instead (9 x 13- inch or 10 x 14-inch).
Assemble The Focaccia
- Right before baking, gently dimple the dough with oiled fingertips. As you dimple, the dough will naturally begin to stretch outwards. Continue to dimple and stretch (gently!) until you’ve created a rustic rectangular or oval shape, about 14 x 9-inches (36 x 23 cm) or larger. The dough won’t go all the way to the corners and sides of the sheet pan- this is OK.
- If using toppings, press them into the dough. As the dough rises it will puff up, so the toppings need to be well anchored- press down deeper than you’d think. Otherwise they will pop out!
Bake The Focaccia
In the oven, set the dough on the center rack. Bake the focaccia for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack (so the underside does not steam) for at least 30 minutes. Cut into wedges or squares, and serve warm with dipping oil, if preferred. Delicious!
TIP: How to Par-Bake Sourdough Focaccia: If you want to make focaccia in advance, and time fresh, baked bread for dinner, par-bake the dough. To do this, bake the focaccia for approximately 15-18 minutes @ 425 F (220 C). The crust will be set, very pale in color and golden underneath. Remove the focaccia from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool, wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 6 hours. To finish, bake the focaccia in the pan for 12-15 minutes. PS: par-baking focaccia bread is really convenient when you want to bring that “wow factor” to a party!
Sample Baking Schedules
The key to sourdough is timing. Here are 2 sample baking schedules to follow and adapt according to season. In my experience, the overnight method is best in cooler temperatures (the dough can survive a long rise without becoming over proofed in the morning). The daytime method is best in warmer temperatures (when the dough rises faster). As a rule of thumb, temperature controls time and ultimately: your baking schedule.
Fall/Winter (overnight method)
- 4-6:00 PM: Feed starter
- 8:00 PM: Make the dough
- 8:30 PM: Let rise overnight (bulk rise)
- 8:30 AM (the next day): Inspect the dough. Does it need more time to rise? If so, give it more time, otherwise continue on.
- 9:00-11 AM: Second Rise
- 11:30 AM: Par-bake or Bake.
Spring/Summer (daytime method)
- 8 AM: Feed starter
- 10 AM: Make the dough
- 10:30 AM: Let rise during the day (bulk rise)
- 3:00 PM (onwards): Second rise
- 5:00 PM: Par-bake or Bake
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- 50–75 g bubbly, active sourdough starter
- 375 g water (see Notes below)
- 20 g honey (optional)
- 500 g bread flour or all purpose flour (see Notes below)
- 9 g fine sea salt
- 2–3 tbsp olive oil, for coating the pan
- Assorted Toppings (optional): rosemary, garlic cloves, flaky seat salt, tomatoes, olives etc.
- Thoughts on Flour: You can use bread flour or all purpose flour to make sourdough focaccia. Comparatively speaking, bread flour yields a slightly chewier focaccia with a higher rise. All purpose flour creates a more tender focaccia. The choice is up to you. If you prefer to use all purpose flour, I do recommend King Arthur brand. Coming in at over 11.7% protein, this flour is stronger than most all purpose flours, which means it can handle a higher quantity of water without the dough becoming a gloppy mess. It’s actually stronger than most bread flours! If you cannot access this flour, make the following changes to ensure success: decrease the water to 325-350 g (start small and work your way up) OR use King Arthur bread flour with 375 g water instead.
- Thoughts on Sourdough Starter (quantity): When the weather is cold, I’ll use a higher amount of starter to give the dough a boost when doing a long, overnight rise. I’ve given you a range so you can decide what suits you best.
- For Baking: You will need a rimmed sheet pan or non-stick rectangular pan (9×13-inch or 10×14-inch)
Before you begin: decide when you want to make the dough. The instructions (below) outline a long, overnight rise @ 68-70 F (20-21 C) Alternatively, you can rise the dough during the day. Please refer to the sample schedules in the post above and choose what suits your needs.
- Make the Dough: In the evening: whisk the sourdough starter, water and honey together in a large bowl (I use a fork for mixing). Add the flour and salt. Mix to combine and then finish by hand to form a rough dough. It will be wet and sticky. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes to an hour. Timing is flexible here. Then return to the bowl and work the dough into a ball.
- Bulk Rise: Cover the bowl of dough with lightly oiled plastic wrap (or transfer the dough to a lightly oiled dough container). Let the dough rise overnight at room temperature, approximately 68-70 F (20-21 C) for about 12+ hours. The dough will double in size (or more) when ready. Note: if the weather is warmer than 68- 70 F (20-21 C) the dough will rise faster than 12+ hrs. Please adjust your timeframes accordingly.
- Second Rise: In the morning, pour 2 tbsp. of olive oil onto a rimmed sheet pan (or 1 tbsp. olive oil if using a non-stick rectangular pan). Use your hands to evenly coat the bottom and sides. With your oiled hands, remove the dough onto the pan, and then flip it to coat both sides. Cover and let rest for 1 1/2- 2 hours or until very puffy (I use an inverted sheet pan to cover the dough). Preheat your oven to 425 F (220 C). Note: I like to rest my dough in a warm spot, usually on top of the oven while it preheats. The dough becomes soft and bubbly.
- Assemble the Focaccia: Right before baking, gently dimple the dough with oiled fingertips. I start at the bottom of the pan and work my way to the top. As you dimple, the dough will naturally begin to stretch outwards. You should end up with a rustic rectangular or oval shape, about 14 x 9-inches (36 x 23 cm) or larger. The dough won’t go all the way to the corners and sides of the sheet pan- this is OK. Note: If using a rectangular pan, the dough will naturally fill the shape of the pan.
- Add Focaccia Toppings (optional): Press your preferred toppings into the dough. As the focaccia rises, the dough will puff up. The toppings will pop out if not properly anchored. If using garlic, I keep the cloves wrapped in their papery peels to prevent burning. Remove and discard the peels before eating.
- Bake the Focaccia: Place the dough onto the center rack. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack before cutting. TIP: To par-bake focaccia dough: Bake for approximately 15-18 minutes @ 425 F (220 C). The crust will be set, very pale in color and golden underneath. Remove the focaccia from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Once completely cool, wrap in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 6 hrs. To finish, return to the pan and bake for 12-15 minutes.
- To serve, cut the focaccia into wedges or squares and enjoy warm!
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