Samin Nosrat is an excellent chef who is super down-to-earth and full of joy. I love watching her cook and talk about food, which is what led me to her excellent Netflix series "Salt Fat Acid Heat". My exposure to her there also coincided with a recent obsession with Bon Appetit's YouTube channel, and particularly the "It's Alive" series with Brad Leone. Samin guested on an episode with Brad to discuss her version of the focaccia she learned about firsthand in Italy. I transcribed the version of the recipe she shared with Brad and used it to make my first attempt. It was super easy and delicious. I'm posting my notes here so I don't have to worry about losing them, and also to spread the word about this very easy and yet delicious recipe. Take it from me, friends, family, and coworkers will think you created something incredible, even though it was mostly time that did the work.
- Your Hands
- 1/2 Sheet Pan
- Large Container to let the dough rise (4 quarts or more)
- Kitchen Scale (or any scale that shows grams)
- Baking Stone (optional)
- Active Dry Yeast
- All Purpose Flour
- Olive Oil
- Kosher Salt
My version differs slightly from the video because I wanted to make this simple recipe even simpler by using a single container and doing all the mixing by hand. The results have been very pleasing. For the best result, I recommend starting this before you go to bed, letting the dough rise overnight, and baking in the morning. If you're in a rush, you can get the necessary rise in 4-6 hours, but you'll get a bit less flavor development from the yeast. Don't be alarmed by the length of these instructions, I'm just a bit wordy since this is all written withouth the benefit of video.
1) Place your container on the kitchen scale. I recommend a cylindrical food safe container like you can find at any restaurant supply store. The risen dough will be about 4 quarts so I recommend a 6 quart or larger container to ensure there's plenty of room.
2) Add 600 grams lukewarm water. This should be warm to the touch, but not hot. Over 110 degrees F will kill the yeast.
3) Add 1/2 teaspoon of active dry yeast to the water. Sprinkle it around so it covers the surface of the water.
4) Add 15 grams of honey. This is the food for the yeast. The flavor won't come through in the final product, but your yeast needs delicious sugar to make all those air bubbles.
5) Stir the mixture gently until the honey has incorporated.
6) Back on the scale, you now add 800 grams of all purpose flour to the same container. Don't worry about mixing yet, we'll do that in a minute. Don't bother with a fancy flour, just store brand all purpose flour is fine. The oil is the star here, not the flour.
7) Add 18 grams of kosher salt. It's important to do this by weight since some brands of kosher salt are denser that others.
8) Now put your container on the counter and use one hand to knead the ingredients together while using your other hand to turn the container. Keep going until all dry ingredients have been incorporated and you have a homogenous sticky dough. Don't worry that the dough is sticking to your hand, we'll solve that in the next step.
9) Put your container back on the scale and add 50 grams of olive oil. Now is the time to use something fancy. The better the olive oil, the more delicious your final result will be. Resume kneading the dough until you have incorporated the olive oil. It won't mix perfectly, but you'll feel the texture of the dough change. You can also use the doughball to clear any remaining bits of dough or dry incredients that may have clung to the sides of the container. Once you have a nice uniform oily doughball, you're ready to proceed.
10) If you're using a restaurant style container, just snap the lid on top. Otherwise, cover with plastic wrap. Your dough will be roughly one quart in volume.
11) Walk away. Let the dough rise at room temperature for at least long enough for it to quadruple in size. If you use a graduated container, you should see it rise to about 4 quarts. This can occur in just 4-6 hours, but I find an overnight rise is the best for flavor development and maximum airy goodness.
12) After your rise is complete, grab your 1/2 sheet pan and drizzle approximately 3 tablespoons of olive oil on it. Exact measurement isn't necessary, just drizzle a good amount so you get a coating on the pan under the dough.
13) Pour the dough out of the container onto the oiled sheet pan. Carefully massage the dough to the edges so you don't knock all the air out of it. You won't reach the corners on the first stretch, so when the dough starts to spring back, just walk away for 15-20 minutes.
14) Now we will make a brine but combining 80 grams of water and 5 grams of salt. We won't use it yet, but I like to make it now so the salt has plenty of time to dissolve.
15) Come back and massage the dough out again. If it gets the pan filled, you're good to go, otherwise take another break and come back. You can do the stretch/rest/stretch as many times as you need. Just be sure the top of the dough keeps a good coating of oil so it stays protected from the air.
16) Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you have a baking stone, place it in the lower third of the oven during the preheat so we can place our sheet pan directly on the stone to cook. While you are waiting for the oven to heat, it's time to use our brine.
17) Using your fingertips, dimple the dough in a smooth, deliberate way leaving nice finger-size pockets for our brine. Pour the bowl of brine over the surface of the dough and let it soak while we wait for the oven to finish heating.
18) Once the oven is ready, drizzle just a bit more olive oil on top of the dough and place on the rack (or on the baking stone if you are using one). Baking time will be around 20 minutes, but every oven is different, so don't go away. When you see the first signs of browning about halfway through, you'll want to rotate the pan 180 degrees so it bakes evenly. Every oven is hotter at the back so this is important if you want an evenly cooked loaf. I also like to sprinkle a little finely ground sea salt over the loaf while I'm rotating. This is totally optional though because the brine is already going to make this a pretty salty loaf.
19) When you see a good amount of golden brown on the top of the loaf, it's time to pull it out. Ideally you should remove the loaf from the pan and place on a cooling rack, otherwise it will continue to cook in the hot pan and could end up overdone.
20) Slice it and eat it! It will cool down quickly, so dig right in and enjoy the oily, salty, crunchy, airy goodness.