Sourdough Focaccia (Italian Flatbread)

Focaccia and Rosemary

Focaccia and Rosemary

By Cat, Jan 2008 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Includes: 1. Sourdough Focaccia

See also: 1. Traditional Focaccia (Italian Flatbread)2. Potato Focaccia; 3. Breads & Rolls Menu4Flatbreads: Note on Ingredients & Equipment

Focaccia (or the Provence version, fougasse) has become part of the American lexicon in the last 10 to 15 years, because of the increasing popularity of Italian foods.  Like other flatbreads, it is an ancient, enduring bread made from a short list of ingredients:  flour, water, yeast, olive oil and salt.

This version is leavened with sourdough starter, which is actually more traditional than yeast.

Sourdough Focaccia

This recipe is adapted from Sarah’s Musings blog  (1) and Simple Math Bakery blog (2). Sarah’s Musings makes a sponge using part of the flour, then adds remaining ingredients after the sponge-rise. Simple Math mixes all ingredients (using a stand mixer), before the short rise. I think I like the sponge method best, but that recipe uses a lot more flour. I hope to resolve this with testing.

These recipes also use different methods to  proof the dough; Sarah’s Musings takes a shorter time than Simple Math method.

I have two sourdough starters now: one is all whole spelt; the other is mostly unbleached white (wheat) that I made by feeding some of my whole spelt starter with the white flour, but I never got around to testing this before my grain sensitivities were discovered.

I love the flavor of whole grain spelt so will probably use that with a wheat starter.

Ingredients & Equipment:



  • 1 ¼ – 1 ½ cups sourdough starter (fed the night before)
  • 1 – 1 ½ cup water
  • 4 – 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp honey (optional)
  • 1 cup whole spelt flour

Finish the bread:

  • ¼ – ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup semolina
  • 3 – 4 cups unbleached white flour (or whole spelt)
  • 2 tsp unrefined sea salt


  • small bowl like a custard cup (for topping)
  • 10.5″ x 15.5″ cake or jelly roll pan
  • large bowl
  • wooden spoon
  • plastic bag big enough for the bowl to be inside the bag.
  • cotton dish towel
  • pastry brush



Topping (day before):

  • Grind rosemary and salt with a pestle to bruise the rosemary.  Add to olive oil in a cup or small dish, cover, and let sit on the counter overnight to infuse the oil with rosemary flavor.

Sponge (day before):

  1. Stir water into starter. Add oil and honey, stir again. Stir in flour. Place bowl into damp plastic bag and let rest about 1 hour, until it is nice and bubbly.
  2. Pour oil and sprinkle salt over dough; stir just a bit, then stir in semolina followed by 2 cups of flour. Dough will be very soft and sticky. Continue stirring in more flour, 1/2 cup at a time,turning out to knead in more flour until dough has some substance but is still a little soft and sticky.

Shape & rise, method 1:

  1. Form into a ball and place in oiled bowl. Place bowl in damp plastic bag and let rest in warm place 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until doubled.
  2. Oil baking sheet, then place dough in center and spread it out, pushing with your fingers, until it fills pan. If it wants to pull away, let it rest 5 minutes then try again.
  3. Cover with oiled parchment, or don’t cover at all (dough will stick to damp cloth) and let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.

Fold, rest & rise, method 2:

  1. Instead of the above method, pat dough into a 6” wide rectangle on floured board. With floured hands, grab opposite ends of dough and stretch it to about twice the length. Fold one end ⅔ of the way, then fold the other end over; it will still be a rectangle. Cover loosely with damp cloth and let rest 30 minutes.
  2. Repeat stretch/fold/rest twice more, letting it rest for an hour the third time.
  3. Place in oiled baking sheet and spread dough with your fingers until it fills pan. Cover with oiled parchment, or don’t cover at all (dough will stick to damp cloth) and let proof 2 hours or more, until rises to almost 1” thick.


  1. Preheat oven to 450°F during last 30 minutes of rise.
  2. Using your fingers, make random indentations in dough. Brush topping over, Place in oven and bake 15 – 20 minutes, until it is golden. Cool in pan, on a rack.

Testing 8/30: Made half-recipe using ⅓ cup each whole spelt starter and mostly-white starter. To finish the bread, I used semolina and unbleached white flour as written, using not quite 2 cups of the white flour. Sponge rest was about 1 hour. Second rest (after adding oil, salt and flours) was about 4 hours – it hadn’t risen after 1 ½ hours, probably because my kitchen was only about 62°F, so I let it continue to rest while I went to an appointment. When I returned, it hadn’t risen much but was softer, so I shaped it onto my oiled jelly roll pan. Covered it with a cloth and after about 30 minutes, I lifted the cloth but it had stuck to the dough. I scraped off what I could, re-shaped, and left to rest uncovered for another hour. In future I will cover with oiled paper (or no cover at all). Brushed with the oil/herb mix (used both fresh and dried rosemary), and waited for oven to preheat. Baked 18 minutes. Result: It had browned on the underside but still a bit pale on top. it did not rise much in the oven. Flavor is slightly sour but could use more salt in the topping.


  1. Sarah’s Musings blog (
  2. Simple Math Bakery blog (

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