Andrea Maunder, locovore, wine expert and pastry chef, is the owner and creative force behind Bacalao, a St. John's restaurant specializing in "nouvelle Newfoundland" cuisine.


It seems nearly everyone is more carb-conscious these days. Many of us who don’t have medical reasons to avoid gluten are still limiting intake and opting more often for whole grain baked goods. So when we do indulge in white bread, it’s all the more important that it’s mouth-wateringly delicious and satisfies all those cravings we associate with good, fresh bread. Crunchy on the outside, a satisfying “chew” to the texture, complex flavour  – all the better served warm. Well, I have a focaccia recipe for you that is truly swoon-worthy. It has wine and olive oil in it, just the right amount of saltiness and the crust has an unforgettable crunch.

If you’ve never had focaccia before, be prepared for your new addiction. It’s a yeast-raised, flatter-style bread of Italian origin, topped with olive oil before baking. It is so delicious, it really needs nothing else – but you could tuck some herbs into it before baking, or serve it with good olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping.

You can bake this from start to finish in one day. But, at least once, you should try the overnight proofing process because it really does create the best results. It allows the flavours and textures to dev-elop in a way that is almost alchemy. It’s perfect for dinner parties because you essentially make it ahead, and it just needs to come to room temperature, proof and bake the day of eating. 


For the sponge

1 tbsp sugar
2/3 cup warm water (not hot –it will kill the yeast)
2 1/2 tsp (1 env.) dry yeast
1 cup flour (I prefer unbleached)

To make the dough:
3 tsp flaky sea salt (or flaky kosher salt)
1/2 cup warm water (not hot)
1/3 cup dry white wine (I have used red wine or dry vermouth, whatever was on hand)
1/3 cup good, flavourful olive oil
2 1/2 cups flour 

To shape and bake
Extra flour for dusting, if necessary
Up to 1/3 cup good quality olive oil, for bottom of pan and to drizzle on top
Up to 1 1/2 tsp flaky sea salt (or kosher salt)

Day Before
Make the sponge: Whisk together sugar and warm water. Whisk in yeast and flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let proof (rise) in a warm spot for 30 min. It will be risen, puffy and bubbling.

Make the dough: Dissolve salt in warm water. Add wine and olive oil. Add liquid and flour, and the sponge, to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix on medium speed for 5-6 min. until dough comes together into a soft, but not overly sticky, ball. Add extra flour as needed, but not enough to make the dough hard or dry. Remove from bowl and knead a few minutes to make a silky, shiny ball. (By hand, stir together until it comes together and is not overly sticky, then knead on a lightly floured board 10-12 min. to produce a silky, shiny ball.) Place in a large, oiled resealable bag – or a tightly covered, oiled bowl – in the fridge overnight.

(To finish the focaccia today, do not refrigerate dough. Place it in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow to proof in a warm, draft-free place for about 45 minutes, until doubled in size. Then pick up from the directions below for second rise in the pan and proceed with baking.)

Bake Day
About four hours before you want fresh-baked bread, remove dough from fridge, keep it in the sealed plastic bag or bowl so that it doesn’t dry or form a skin, and allow to come to room temperature (likely a couple of hours). Preheat oven to 425°F. Dough will be soft, spongy-looking and stretch easily. Don’t knead. 

Prepare baking pan. Pour 2-3 tbsp good olive oil into (roughly) 10"x15" baking pan. Then gently stretch the dough into the shape of the pan and press it in. It will spring back only a little. Be patient and allow the dough to stretch and ooze into the shape of the pan. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil on top. Press dimples into the dough with your fingertips. Cover and allow to proof in a warm, draft-free place for about 45 min., until doubled in size.

Dimple dough again, drizzle a little more olive oil into the dimples. Sprinkle with salt (crunchy and flaky salt is fantastic for the top). Tuck in herbs if you like (eg. fresh rosemary or thyme before baking, basil after baking). Place focaccia in oven and reduce temperature to 400°F. Bake 25-30 min. until top is crunchy and golden. Serve warm, with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping, if you like.

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