Focaccia, The Artisan Kitchen by James Strawbridge.

Focaccia, The Artisan Kitchen by James Strawbridge. Photography by John Hersey.

The Artisan Kitchen

Giving a modern twist to age-old techniques, this book shows how to master 25 different cooking and preserving processes, from fermenting to cheese making, hot smoking to sourdough baking.

Discover how to culture the perfect batch of sweet-sour kombucha; make a fresh-tasting chutney; dry cure bresaola; create your own unique sourdough starter; and slow roast over an open wood fire. Be inspired to experiment with more than 150 recipe ideas.

Embark on your next culinary adventure and revolutionize your enjoyment of food. Escape to The Artisan Kitchen.

The Artisan Kitchen: The science, practice and possibilities is available at and


A sourdough starter gives focaccia a stronger structure and more flavour than baker’s yeast. Experiment with different herbs and spices for topping your focaccia. Za’atar, capers, olives, pumpkin seeds, or thinly sliced potatoes and onions all work well and can elevate the taste. You can also include seasonal pesto into the bread to marble the dough with herbs.


1 focaccia loaf


31⁄2oz (100g) sourdough starter (see below)

1 tsp (1⁄4oz/10g) sea salt flakes, plus 1 tsp for sprinkling

12⁄3 cup (14oz/400g) water

32⁄3 cup (1lb 2oz/ 500g) white bread flour

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 3–4 sprigs of rosemary, leaves

stripped from the stems


dough scraper (optional)


  1. Mix the starter, salt, and water in a bowl with the flour using your hands or a dough scraper. Knead on a floured surface for 15–20 minutes until smooth and silky, then form into a rough ball and place in a bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, cover, and set aside. Let rise at 68–81°F (20–27°C) for 6–12 hours until the dough has doubled in size.
  2. Turn out the dough onto a lined baking sheet with deep edges. Drizzle the parchment paper with another tablespoon of olive oil and punch down the sourdough gently so that it fills the tray. Leave covered for a further 1–2 hours to proof for a second time at 68–81°F (20–27°C).
  3. Use your fingertips to gently punch down the dough one last time, making shallow indentations. Let proof for a final 45 minutes at 68–81°F (20–27°C).
  4. Push the sprigs of rosemary into the indentations and sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of sea salt flakes.
  5. Bake at 400°F (200°C) for 25 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack. While the focaccia is still warm, brush with the remaining olive oil, then let cool completely before serving.


Establish whether your dough is sufficiently kneaded using the window-pane test. After kneading for 15 minutes or so, hold the dough up to the light from a window and stretch it. A thin, opaque membrane should be visible, which indicates fully developed gluten. If the dough tears and breaks apart, keep kneading and try again after another 5 minutes.

Try using flour blends for focaccia, incorporating about 25 percent farro, kamut, and enkir flour. All slightly lower in gluten but high in protein, these ancient grains add a nutty flavour to focaccia.

Due to the high hydration levels of this bread and the amount of oil used, focaccia can be a sticky dough to work with. If you are baking focaccia in a pizza oven, dust semolina flour onto the peel so that the dough doesn’t stick.

Sourdough Starter

My sourdough starter was appropriately named by my eldest son Indiana as “Bubbly Mummy.” It’s now a few years old and is treated with great respect as a family pet. Working with a living organism is as much to do with intuition as it is the recipe, so be attentive. Keep fermentation constant by feeding the starter regularly and maintaining the same hydration levels and temperature.


2¼lb (1kg) starter


3-2⁄3 cups (1lb 2oz/500g) organic white bread flour

2 cups (1lb 2oz/500g) water (see Expert Tips)


1-quart (1-litre) glass jar muslin or cheesecloth


  1. Mix 3 cups (14oz/400g) of the flour with 14oz (400g) of the water in a sterilized glass jar. Whisk well and cover with a piece of muslin or cheesecloth. Leave out of harm’s way at a constant temperature between 59–81°F (15–27°C).
  2. After 1–2 weeks, the starter will begin to ferment and increase in volume. You will see bubbles start to form; the consistency should be like a smooth, runny porridge that falls off a spoon slowly but in a continuous stream. Add the remaining 2⁄3 cup (3½oz/100g) flour and 3½oz (100g) water, and after 24 hours, the starter will appear lively, with a pleasant sour smell.
  3. Once fully active, the starter will need frequent attention to keep it alive. When stored at room temperature, feed daily with equal amounts of flour and water—2 tablespoons of each will suffice. If kept in the fridge, however, the starter will require feeding only twice weekly, with 2 tablespoons each of flour and water. To avoid an increase in volume, remove 2–4 tablespoons of the starter mixture before feeding.
  4. When you use some of the starter to make a loaf, you will have to replace what you take away. For example, if you use a 5 ½oz (150g) starter in your recipe, replace it with ½ cup (2½ oz/75g) flour and 2½oz (75g) water, whisked into the original starter. With practice and careful feeding, your starter can last for months if not years, making loaf after loaf.


For exact quantities in bread- making, I weigh liquids instead of relying on volume measures. The advantage is that scales are more accurate than judging the level of the liquid in a measuring cup by eye, plus you can add everything into one bowl on a set of scales.

Make a starter 2–3 weeks ahead of when you plan to start baking. If you are not baking every day, keep your starter in the fridge and take it out 24 hours before you need it, to kick-start it into action. You can also freeze it. To bring it back to life again, let the liquid defrost and leave it at room temperature for a day before feeding it.

You can add some established cultures when beginning a sourdough starter to get it going. Many people use a tablespoon of natural yogurt in with the flour and water to work alongside the wild yeasts. I sometimes use milk kefir as a direct stand-in for my sourdough starter.

Recipe reprinted with permission from DK Books.

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