Tackling a sourdough bread can seem like a daunting first project. Focaccia is an easy way to dip your toe into the wild yeast baking pool while creating a delicious treat that’s perfect for scooping up winter stews.
What Is Focaccia?
Focaccia is a classic Italian flatbread, often studded with herbs and tomatoes, but toppings vary widely. This version includes the canned pumpkin that’s been lingering in your pantry since Thanksgiving. It has a non-traditional set of toppings—caramelized onions and pepitas (pumpkin seeds)—which add crunch and make the bread extra fragrant. There’s also a sprinkle of flaky Maldon sea salt.
Focaccia is a high-hydration dough, which means that the percentage of water to flour is very high, resulting in a loaf with lots of air holes and a tender texture.
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You'll shape the loaf on a baking sheet
Sourdough Focaccia Tips
For best results, use a bubbly, active starter, give the focaccia dough time to double in the first rise, and don’t skimp on the oil in the pan. A generous coating allows the bread to almost ‘fry’ as it bakes, creating the signature crisp crust and soft, open crumb.
I like a combination of olive oil and grapeseed because olive oil adds a lovely, buttery flavor and grapeseed oil has a higher smoke point. Grapeseed oil is also high in polyunsaturated fats and vitamin E.
Pumpkin Sourdough Focaccia
- 100 grams (1 ½ cups) sourdough starter
- 100 grams (1/2 cup) canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
- 300 grams (1 cup) cool water
- 500 grams (4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 9 grams (1 ½ teaspoons) salt
- 45-60 g (3-4 tablespoons) of olive and/or grapeseed oil
- Toppings: flaky sea salt (such as Maldon); pepitas (pumpkin seeds); a small, red onion, caramelized in oil and butter (as directed below); pinch white sugar
- Combine starter, pumpkin, and water in a large bowl. Add flour and salt and mix with a rubber spatula until the flour is completely incorporated. The dough may seem a little stiff.
- Cover the bowl and allow to rise in a warm spot, 70° F (21° C) until doubled in size, 6-8 hours (or overnight).
- While the dough is rising, halve and slice a small red onion into half-moons. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil on medium-low heat in a frying pan. Add the onion and a pinch of white sugar and slowly sauté until the onion is soft and the edges start to brown, about 10-15 minutes. Refrigerate in an air-tight container until the dough has risen.
- When the dough has doubled, pour oil into a 9” x 12” sheet pan and coat the bottom thoroughly. Gently scrape/pour the mixture into the pan. Coat your palms with oil to keep the dough from sticking, reach under the dough, and turn it over to coat both sides generously with the oil.
- Gently press out the dough to form a rounded-corner rectangle shape, leaving indentations for oil in the focaccia as you work. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again. You can refrigerate the dough at this point for a few hours (even overnight, bring to room temperature before baking) or keep it at room temperature for an additional 1-2 more hours until slightly puffed.
- Position a rack in the lower-middle of the oven and heat to 425° F (220° C). Spread caramelized onions on the focaccia, sprinkle with pepitas and flaky sea salt. Spoon extra olive oil on top just before baking if desired. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate the pan, and check to make sure onions aren't browning too fast (if so, cover with foil) and bake for another 5-10 minutes until the bottom crust is golden. I personally like the onions to get a little 'charred,' but it's your call.
- Cool for 10 minutes before cutting. Serve warm or at room temperature. Best served the first day, but focaccia can also be frozen for up to a month (wrap tightly in plastic wrap and seal in a freezer bag).
How to Serve Foccacia
This bread is great on its own but also delicious with butter or softened goat cheese. Focaccia is a perfect side for hearty soups, or as an accompaniment for egg casseroles at brunch, but your toppings will determine the best pairings. Speaking of…
Other Ways to Top Your Focaccia
Take inspiration from pizza toppings, or try some of these specific combos:
- Marinated cherry tomatoes (slice 10 cherry tomatoes in half, place in a bowl and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, ½ teaspoon of salt, and ½ teaspoon of Italian herbs–marinate while the focaccia is rising the second time)
- Crumbled goat cheese and Italian herbs with a light sprinkle of hot pepper flakes
- Crumbled feta and frozen chopped spinach (thaw and squeeze out any extra moisture; stir in a little salt and 1 teaspoon of a Mediterranean/Greek seasoning herb blend)
What If You Don’t Have Sourdough Starter?
Try our Basic Foccacia recipe with the same toppings recommended here, plus roasted pumpkin or winter squash for that sweet and earthy flavor.
Related Reading: 6 Sourdough Add-Ins to Take Your Basic Loaf to the Next Level
Header image courtesy of Heather Reid