The secret to my chewy, airy, hearty focaccia lies in the addition of whole-wheat flour in the dough. Whole wheat contains wheat germ and bran, lending a deeper, more complex flavor and structure to the dough, and when paired with softer all-purpose flour, the baked texture of this Italian classic is the perfect combination of airy and hearty.
The dough is sticky and wet, so it’s best to mix in a stand mixer. Once kneaded and risen, the dough is pressed into a freeform shape. There’s no need to be precise or finicky, making it easy for beginning bread bakers. Focaccia’s trademark dimpling requires little skill to shape and, frankly, it’s fun to do. It’s not often we have permission to randomly stick our fingers into our food.
- 2 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1 1/3 cups whole-wheat flour
- 2 teaspoons quick-rise (instant) yeast
- 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons table salt
- 1 1/2 cups water, warmed to between 115° and 125°F
- nonstick cooking spray
- cornmeal, for dusting
For the topping
- 3/4 cup coarsely chopped, drained and roasted red peppers
- 1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 3 to 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the bread
Put both flours, the yeast, sugar, and salt into a large bowl of a stand mixer and whisk until well blended. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and mix on medium speed while pouring the warm water into the flour mixture until the flour is completely incorporated. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the sides and bottom of the bowl, 9 to 11 minutes. If the dough climbs up the hook, stop the mixer and scrape the dough back down into the bowl. The dough will be soft and sticky to the touch.
Remove the dough hook, scrape the dough onto the counter, knead once or twice until it no longer sticks to the counter and passes the windowpane test, and shape into a ball. Lightly grease the sides of the bowl and put the dough, rounded-side up, back in. Cover the bowl with a plate or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm spot until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
Line a 13 x 18 x 1-inch (33 x 46 x 2.5 cm) half sheet pan with parchment and generously sprinkle with cornmeal. Scrape the dough onto the prepared pan. Using your hands and working from the center outward toward the edges, gently press out the gas while shaping the dough into an approximately 1⁄2-inch (12-mm) thick oval or rectangle (see the Essential Technique on the facing page). The shape doesn’t matter; just make sure it’s about 1⁄2 inch (12 mm) thick.
Scatter the red peppers, goat cheese, and rosemary evenly over the dough. Drizzle 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil evenly over the top.
Cover the dough loosely (to allow for rising) but completely with plastic and let the dough rise in a warm spot (see the Baker’s Wisdom below). After about 20 minutes, position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 400°F (200°C/gas 6); continue to let the dough rise.
When the oven is heated and the dough is puffy and about 1 inch thick, carefully peel away the plastic. Dimple the dough by pressing your three middle fingers down to the bottom of the dough at about 1-inch (12-mm) intervals. Sprinkle with about 1 teaspoon of the sea salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
Bake until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped, 20 to 25 minutes. Move the pan to a rack, drizzle with the remaining 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil, and let cool for 20 minutes. Using a large metal spatula, move the loaf directly to the rack to cool. The focaccia is best served the day it’s made, warm or at room temperature.