Poolish: Prepare 12 to 18 hours in advance
The day before baking bread, prepare the poolish: Combine water (approximately 70°) with the instant yeast. Stir until completely dissolved. Add the flour and blend together into a smooth consistency. Cover with plastic wrap or a lid so that no crust can form. Allow to ferment overnight at room temperature.
Place poolish, water, yeast, salt and flour in a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix on first speed for 6 minutes (stop and scrape the bottom of the bowl every 2 minutes). Mix on second speed for 1 minute.
Place dough in an oiled container, making sure that the internal temperature is 75° F. (If you need to warm it slightly, place in a sunny window or preheat your oven for just a few minutes, turn off heat and place the (ovenproof) container in the oven to rest.)
Every 30 minutes give the dough 1 stretch-and-fold by pulling the dough up from each corner and folding it back on itself. Wet your hands to keep the dough from sticking. Cover in between manipulations. Total time of bulk fermentation should not exceed 3 hours and the dough should rest for 20 minutes after the last stretch and fold.
Preheat oven to 475°.
Pour dough into well-oiled (13- by 18-inch) rimmed baking sheet and gently press it towards the edges. Brush top with savory oil mix. Use your fingertips to gently coax the dough to the outer edge of the baking sheet every 10 minutes, about 3 times. Let the dough rest 10 final minutes undisturbed. Add any prepared vegetables to the dough if you wish. Bake 25–30 minutes. If desired, add the cheese halfway through the baking.
Makes 1 (12- by 18-inch) loaf of focaccia bread. Enjoy!
* Savory Oil Mix
Ideally prepare this along with the poolish the night before you bake the focaccia. Heat oil gently over low heat. Remove from heat, add herbs and garlic, cover and let sit overnight. Remove garlic from oil before spreading over prepared dough.
About this recipe
WINE PAIRING: Domaine Saint-Rémy Pinot Auxerrois—Alsace, France. With savory foods like this focaccia, adding the lightest hint of sweetness will underscore the herbaceous flavors. The vineyards in Alsace cultivate many classic examples of perfectly balanced white wines with just a touch of honeysuckle. This wine has hints of dried apricots and mild acidity that rings on the palate, yet has a pleasing off-dry quality. Serve lightly chilled.
—Marc Berry, Grapes & Grains, Barrington