Focaccia in the Rye

It’s time for my second Sourdough Surprise challenge! This month it’s focaccia bread, and like last month it’s something I’ve been meaning to try baking for a while – what luck!

I started my research with the example recipes given at Sourdough Surprise. The ones from The Bojon Gourmet and Eat the Roses I discarded quickly as they both use additional yeast, and I wanted my started to do all the work. The Imported Kiwi recipe is nice and simple and doesn’t use extra yeast, but of course it’s using wheat starter and flour.

So I went looking for a rye sourdough focacci recipe. Along the way I found the Savor the Earth blog, which is where I stole the ‘focaccia in the rye’ quip from, but that wasn’t a sourdough recipe.

Eventually I found a rye sourdough focaccia recipe at Burp! Recipe’s blog. As I suspected it used wheat flour, as rye flour doesn’t form gluten and you need that for the big air holes you want in focaccia. It also has the olive oil I expected to see in the recipe. However it still wasn’t quite what I wanted. It calls for only a cup of  starter, and two 4-hour rises. I want to use all of my refreshed started, and I want to have my bread ready in time for lunch so we can line our stomachs with it before heading out to the pub :) So I’m taking inspiration from the Burp recipe, but ultimately making up my own recipe from my experience with my rye sourdough.

I then moved on to thinking about the flavour I wanted. As it’s my first focaccia I wanted to stay reasonably traditional, despite some very exciting flavours I saw at Borough Market recently that I’d love to try (like one with a layer of what looks like dauphinoise potatoes on top!). Flicking through books for inspiration I found the idea of topping with anchovies in Michel Roux’s Cooking with the Master Chef (p26). Consulting my Flavor Bible I found that a good flavour combination is rosemary + olive oil + anchovies + lemon, all of which are favourites in our house! Putting this all together I’ve come up with the following recipe.

Day 1 – Refresh the Starter

My rye started lives in a small plastic box in the fridge. There’s enough starter for at least two batches in there at all times, so if I mess one up I haven’t lost my starter (which happened once when I put 00 pasta flour in the refresh instead of rye four…). It lives at 200% hydration, which seems very high compared to evryone else’s wheat starters, but that’s what the recipe from Andrew Whitley’s Bread Matters says, and it’s always worked for me, so it’s what I do!

So to refresh the starter:

  • 50g rye sourdough starter (200% hydration)
  • 150g rye flour
  • 300ml warm water

Those get mixed up and put in a plastic bowl inside a plastic bag, and it sits for 24 hours at room temperature to refresh.

Day 2 – Make the Focaccia

After refreshing for 24 hours I’ve got a lovely bubble liquid.


I put 60g of the refreshed starter back in the box in the fridge (the extra 10g make sure any small spills don’t cause my supply to dwindle). I then make up the main dough:

  • 440g refreshed rye sourdough (200% hydration)
  • 300g wheat bread flour (14.8% protein)
  • 50g rye flour
  • 60ml olive oil
  • Juice & zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp salt

I then knead this in a standing mixer for about 10-15 minutes to form as much gluten as I can.


Then it rises for a couple of hours in a nice warm spot above the radiator.


After rising I fold the dough in on itself a few times using a dough scraper, rather than the rather aggressive punching back, then form into a round shape on a silicone baking sheet using just my hands. I’m making it into a round shape as my new baking stone hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m stuck with my thin, round pizza stone.

I use my fingers to prod wells into the dough (although it bounces back a lot!) then add the toppings:

  • Salted anchovy fillets, rinsed with water to remove excess salt
  • Rosemary
  • Olive oil

The rosemary gets poked in, the anchovies are pushed down into the dough, and then the olive oil drizzled over the top.


This then goes back by the radiator to prove for an hour. While it’s proving I put the pizza stone in the middle position of the oven and heat to our oven’s maximum 230C fan.

After it’s proved it’s transferred to the pizza stone and cooks for 15 minutes at full temperature. I then give it a turn, and cook for another 10 minutes at 180C fan until the top crisps up and the internal temperature is about 95C. Turns out mine was 99C when I checked it… Anyway, then it’s out and on to a cooling rack.


Looking good… but I was worried about it being overdone given the 99C temperature. As soon as I cut into it I was relieved, it was clearly nice and soft inside. Then I opened it up and…


…OMG look at the proper focaccia holes in there! Colour me (self) impressed! I’ve tried adding wheat flour to my rye sourdough to give a better crumb before, but it’s never worked this well. I think using 14.8% protein flour (rather than cheap bread flour with only 11.8% protein) is the key, so I’ll be making a point of using that in future for all my breads. In fact what I’ll be doing it ignoring what the flour is called, and just paying attention to the protein level!

To top if off it tastes great: the anchovy/lemon/rosemary/olive oil combination really works, and it has a good deep rye flavour despite all the wheat flour I needed to create those nice holes.

20 thoughts on “Focaccia in the Rye

    1. The taste of rye is great… but the lack of gluten makes it hard to get a good crumb. Like wholemeal flour you want to mix with regular strong bread flour to get a good crumb. Having said that I have enjoyed my weekly quest to try and make a good crumb using mostly rye!


    1. It does give a lovely flavour, but it’s hard work if you use it on its own! Thankfully you can still really taste it when it’s mixed with strong wheat flour for the gluten and structure.


    1. Thanks! The Flavor Bible is an invaluable resource, whether for interesting bread toppings or just using up ingredients in the fridge!


    1. It’s very interesting checking the labels on the pack. Thankfully everything is given per 100g so working out the percentage is trivial :) The regular Hovis bread flour from the local shop is 12% but Tesco have an extra strong that I used for the focaccia that is 14.8% which is significantly higher and really does seem to make a difference.


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