Let’s start(er).

I picked up a sourdough starter recently. As I quickly learned, you end up with a fair amount of discard after the first feeding cycle (that sounds…a little creepy, yeah?).

My friend Candice is an incredible baker, and she makes gorgeous crackers with her discard.

Me, I have a ton of rosemary in the garden and even more masochism in my brain, so I decided to make a rosemary-garlic focaccia with some briny olives for good measure.

Sourdough Focaccia

(makes a massive loaf)

3/4 c. (approximately) of flat discard (double the amount if your discard is effervescent – the volume is the important bit here)
1 tsp. Saf-Instant yeast
1 c. whole wheat or spelt flour (have fun with this – it’ll make it chewier)
1 3/4 c. bread or all-purpose flour
1 1/4 c. water, slightly warmed
2 t. kosher salt, plus extra for the top (if you have any funky salt, you’ll use that for the top of the focaccia – we have some Maldon salt, and it was lovely)
1/4 c. olive oil
Whatever toppings you  like

Add your discard, yeast, water and flours in a bowl (or a stand mixer). Mix carefully for several minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl. This batter will be hella sticky, and you can add more water or flour as necessary to achieve a nice texture. Add your first round of salt, and continue mixing until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Cover with a towel and let rise until it’s at least doubled in size.

Here’s where I ramble on about how you need a pizza stone. If you do, preheat your pizza stone in a 500 degree oven for at least an hour – use the lower third of your oven.

(If you want to use roasted garlic in your focaccia, this is also the prime time to roast it – just throw some peeled cloves with a little oil inside a foil packet and monitor it until it’s soft and slightly browned.)

Here’s where I also opine about how steam from an offset pan will make your baking endeavors with yeast almost transcendent, because you’re going to want to find your oldest, most busted loaf pan and turn it into a water pan. (So go ahead and make sure you have some ice handy – or at least some ice cold water.)

After about an hour, while the dough is still rising, add the loaf pan to the oven, ideally next to the pizza stone.

Meanwhile, on a quarter sheet pan, lay out a sheet of parchment paper, and smear some olive oil around. Knead the dough lightly, flipping it over a few times (gently!!), and place it on the oiled parchment paper. Pour a bit more oil over the dough, and start pushing the dough outward towards the corners of the pan, using your fingers to create indentations throughout the load. Cover again with the towel, and let rise for about another hour – you’ll want it to double in size again.

Once it’s nice and puffy, brush the excess oil from the pan on top, and add your toppings. We used rosemary, roasted garlic and some leftover black olives from the fridge. Sprinkle with some Maldon salt (or whatever flaky salt you have on hand). Use your fingers to make some last-minute indentations, and place the pan on the baking stone.

(Don’t be like me: I tripped while putting it in the oven, so it landed in a sliding, unceremonious lump on the stone. AWESOME.)

Now for the sizzle: throw about a cup of ice cubes or ice water into the loaf pan, and shut the oven door. Don’t open it. Resist the urge. Just watch impatiently through the window until your bread is golden brown.

Cool, eat, and then store at room temperature…assuming you’ve not already demolished it. My focaccia wasn’t gorgeous, but it tasted phenomenal.

My next adventure will involve sneaking some of the starter into some Cuban bread. More on that later.

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