Focaccia and Flatbread

This dough works well as the basis for many kinds of flat bread. It is a soft dough with a high water content that spreads outwards easily while puffing up a little with holes of varied size. It can be shaped like a slipper to make a classic ciabatta or rolled out very thinly to make a tortilla that’s baked on a hotplate (or frying pan) and flipped during baking. To increase softness, add a little extra oil. Always use as much water in the final dough as you dare.

The quantities shown will give two medium-sized flatbreads or a larger number of smaller items.

Stage 1
Overnight sponge

IngredientsWeight (g)
Scotland The Bread heritage wholemeal flour140
Yeast (dried)5
Water (30°C/86°C)120
Total265
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Add the flour and mix to a soft sponge. There is no need to mix this vigorously: gluten development by physical means is irrelevant in a dough which is allowed such a long time to ferment because naturally occurring enzymes and acids transform it anyway.

Put the sponge in a bowl with plenty room for expansion (up to three times its volume) and cover with a lid or plastic bag to conserve moisture.

Leave it at room temperature to ferment for about 16 hours. During this time, the sponge will rise up and collapse. The yeast cells will multiply and lactic and acetic acids will begin to develop.

Stage 2
Final dough

IngredientsWeight (g)
Overnight sponge (from Stage 1)250
Scotland The Bread wholemeal flour400
Sea salt5
Olive oil25
Water (30°C/86°C)220
Total900
Mix all the ingredients together and knead gently until the dough comes together into a soft and slightly stretchy mound. Cover and allow to rise for an hour or two.

Without knocking all the gas out of the dough, divide it into two pieces and shape each in turn (using floury hands) into flattish discs about 20 cm (8”) in diameter (a rectangle, as in the picture, is just fine). Place these on lightly floured silicone paper or baking parchment on a baking tray. Leave the dough to rest for a couple of minutes and then give it final gentle stretch and shape. If you are using a topping (e.g. olive oil, rosemary and rock salt), add it now. Cover and prove for 60-90 minutes.

When the dough is good and puffy, dip the finger tips of one hand in olive oil and gently ‘dimple’ the dough with the pads of your fingers, pressing down until you can just feel the baking tray, but taking care not to puncture the dough with your nails. This move will prevent the dough ballooning up like a pita bread in the oven. The dimples will also help trap little puddles of olive oil after baking.

Bake at about 210°C for 10-15 minutes. As soon as the bread is out of the oven, brush it generously with olive oil which will soak into the top crust.

Flat breads tend to dry out quite quickly (due to their large surface area of crust). They are at their most delicious if warmed through a little just before eating. A few minutes in a moderate oven brings the dough up to over 60°C for long enough to make the starches in the dough go from crystalline to a bit ‘gummy’ – which our palates perceive as ‘freshly baked’.

2 thoughts on “Focaccia and Flatbread

  1. Louisa Rutherford says:

    Started the focaccia overnight starter midnight Saturday. Ran out of time Sunday. Should I abandon and start again? Been at room temperature although popped in fridge last night

    • Scotland The Bread
      Scotland The Bread says:

      Hi, very sorry this reply is probably too late to be of any use to you this time, but in case it happens again: in order to avoid excessive acidity in this batch, remove the original weight of starter outlined in the recipe and refresh again, and continue as normal from there. The residue of ‘overfermented’ production sourdough should not be thrown away, though. Just put it back in the starter pot in the fridge with any other left-overs. It will have enjoyed its little breath of fresh air. Hope that helps!

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