Sunday, March 4, 2012

Whole Wheat Focaccia

Welcome to another recipe swap!

Today is the first day of our Recipe Swap split! (Don't know what the Recipe Swap is? Click here.) Our group is growing at a record pace, and we felt it was time to split into two smaller groups so we can all keep track of each other. Starting today, half of us will continue swapping recipes on the first Sunday of every month, and the rest of us will post on the second Wednesday of each month. The next group posts on Wednesday, March 14, so be sure to visit us then!

I thought there was no better way to split the group than to take a recipe from facing pages of the same book, giving one recipe to each group to remake. This Sunday's challenge is a tough one; pizza. Difficult, because pizza is so identifiable, which to me, means "hard to reinvent."
Whole wheat sun-dried tomato, garlic and oregano focaccia
My taste buds are native to springy, chewy, airy white flour. In my kitchen, converting recipes to whole wheat, healthier versions means converting recipes to less fun. But, a goal of mine this year is to create healthified versions of standby recipes. The original pizza recipe became a needed version of my focaccia recipe; a whole wheat, double rise version of flatbread, perfect for slicing and making into sandwiches.

I'm fascinated with yeast. I wish we all could eat endless sugar and fart carbon dioxide for magical results. I love watching it activate and rise, and kneading dough takes me to a happy place. Baking reminds me of working with clay; deciding how long to knead, when to rest, how to shape. Potters and bakers both participate in avocations that take the edges off of a day by distracting the mind with the need to concentrate on touch, shape and form. But, there's a tactical side to all of that. The first thing one must do when taking the plunge into the wonders of yeast is to get a digital scale. It does not need to be fancy. It just needs to be accurate. Mine is a $5 IKEA model that I've had for about three years. I now take the opportunity to convert every recipe I revisit from volume measures to weights. As a result, accuracy, certainty and self-confidence goes up.

The recipe below makes four focaccia. I won't lie, it takes most of a day. But, a beautiful day off it can be, one of cultivating patience and working with your hands. I did yoga while waiting for the second rise of the breads, allowing me official entry into some sort of SoCal Venice Beach-living stereotype contest. I ate mine with just a little of my favorite marinara sauce, warmed, on the side. The rest I split and froze to use for future lunch sandwiches.

Thanks all, for reading. We are all so grateful for your support of the Recipe Swap. We have a blast reinventing recipes; I hope you have as much fun reading them, and are inspired to get into your own kitchens. Please say hello in the comments below, and be sure to visit everyone's remake of the same recipe in the links below.

Whole Wheat Focaccia
Burwell General Store

Serves: 8, makes four breads

Notes: this is a very high-water recipe. Do not dismay. It will come together.

Stand mixer with dough hook attachment
two half sheet pans
digital metric scale
Better living through IKEA

390 grams organic All-purpose flour
224 grams organic Whole Wheat flour
476 g warm water (100F)
1 tsp dry yeast
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar (I used demerara)

1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1 Tbsp salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Before the second rise
In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the dried yeast. Add warm water (not in excess of 100F) and sugar, stir and let activate while preparing other ingredients. Turn stand mixer onto low setting and gradually combine the flours and salt into the bowl. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides, then turn mixer up to medium-high speed and mix with a dough hook for approximately 20 minutes, or until the dough is mostly pulled away from the sides of the bowl. Scrape dough into a large, oiled bowl, coat with a thin layer of oil, and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place out of direct sunlight, and let double in volume, about two to three hours. While waiting, lightly oil two baking sheets with canola or another high-temp cooking oil. Punch down the dough and remove to a large, lightly floured board, and divide the dough into four equal parts. With floured hands, gently stretch the dough into long, flat sections, and place on the baking sheets. After all four are formed, let rise again on the cookie sheets for about 45 minutes. After the second rise, take your fingers and punch down into the dough, creating dimples (giving the breads texture). Salt liberally, add toppings of your choice, and drizzle tops with a little olive oil. Bake at 425F for ten to 13 minutes, or until tops of the outside edges brown.

Remove from oven, let cool for ten minutes before tearing into the focaccia.


  1. You've reminded me of the taste and texture of wheat dough; something I have not had for over 7 years now but your photos were instantly transporting. You also have given me a nudge to really be baking by weight. I'm mostly still baking by volume but the sight of the $5 Ikea scale reminds me I use mine for other such endeavors and need to take the plunge. I love the rustic look to this crust and foccacia. I rarely allow myself a day of baking despite loving it and this swap did the same for me. Such a civilized endeavor! Thanks as always for all you do to facilitate our swap.

  2. This looks delicious and like Toni said, you did an awesome job describing the perfect texture of a great wheat dough. I have just recently started baking by weight for some of my recipes and I love the almost always guaranteed results!

  3. I agree with Toni and Mary, the rustic taste of the wheat bread is now on the tip of my tongue thanks to your description. I've been very lax with my baking in terms of measurements- you have encouraged me to be more precise with my measurement. As always, a great recipe swap recipe and gorgeous photos!

  4. Oh, these look beautiful and oh so yummy! I heartily second the need for every home cook to own a scale-- it's amazing how your accuracy will increase. I have that very same IKEA scale and it's lasted forever!

    And yay for converting white flour recipes into whole wheat! Although you may sacrifice some rise and fluffiness, I've found that I actually have grown to prefer the nutty whole wheat taste. Again, your focaccia looks simply divine. I'm not sure I could bring myself to save it for leftovers-- I'm almost positive the whole thing wouldn't last a day around me. :)

  5. These look wonderfully rustic and delicious ... making me wish that I could eat bread again!! Never mind, I guess that I'll just salivate over all this delicious gluten packed treats and then go have a hot cup of tea.
    Shari from

  6. "I'm fascinated with yeast. I wish we all could eat endless sugar and fart carbon dioxide for magical results."

    Me too, CM... me too :)

    This post is fantastic - both incredibly SoCal-yoga-practicing-focaccia rising rustic and poetically you. Saving this to (gasp! biting my nails!) try a gluten-free version. Which I already know won't be as tear-able. But hopefully won't be terr-bile.

  7. Your post is such an inspiration for me to get in the kitchen and start creating more yeast-filled treats! Beautifully written!

  8. This is making me sooo hungry, focaccia is my absolute favourite bread and I will have to try this version! My girls love working with yeast and are fascinated by the rising process - baking bread is a great rainy day activity in our house and they can eat the results for tea!

  9. It's true, pizza is difficult to reinvent. I guess I'm glad my swap day got the other recipe : )
    Your focaccia looks yuuuummmyyyy! I feel the same way about yeast, and bread in general: it's amazing and it's especially amazing to work it by hand into a brilliant creation like you'd done here.

  10. I always love your words and your perspective. This recipe is just If ever I have a full day free in the near future (she says, hoping), I will totally tackle whole wheat focaccia. I'm all for healthified versions of old standbys. :)

  11. It looks absolutely brilliant! Thank you for letting me participate in this swap and I LOVE that you used Whole Wheat!

  12. focaccia needs a lot of water but it is so delicious! who cares if it takes the whole day? and how do you manage to save some?

  13. Who knew? I've always rejected whole wheat flour, but you make me see it could work. thanx

  14. Ahh bread. I've cut back on my grains, but I do miss a beautiful bread like this. Looks so good.

  15. I am yet to acquire a digital scale, although I have two scales already, that I use for baking (most of European recipes are by weight, including my mom's and grandma's:)
    I love focaccia! I have a bag of King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour in my pantry just languishing without purpose, as my kids frown upon WW bread. But I can lure them with the smell of "pizza ingredients" for sure:)
    BTW, are you trying to tell me I have to take up yoga to be real SoCal citizen? Biking on the beach is not enough, I guess:)
    Nice twist:)

  16. Digital scales really are essential for TRUE measurements, especially with breads/yeast. While I don't use mine every time (turns out dried flour/water/yeast create a bit of a cement like 'glue' and I'm a tad bit of a messy baker), I SHOULD!
    Sundried tomatoes and whole wheat in focaccia, excellent! Some of my favorite ingredients!


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