Pain a l’Ancienne Focaccia with Herb Oil & Cheese

So here is another awesome recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day. If you don’t own this book yet, run…don’t walk…to your nearest bookstore, kitchen supply store or simply go online and  buy it! Now!! I’ve only been the proud owner of said goldmine for a couple of months and it has not let me down. No…what it has done is left me amazed that I can actually make such delicious, mouth-watering artisan breads. I’ve mentioned previously that Jay likes to do a “pizza night” every once in a while. Well, we actually end up doing those once a week now. Which reminds me, I need to update our Napoletana pizza dough recipe. We used to use a Peter Reinhart recipe from a different book, which was great. However, he revised that recipe in Artisan Breads Every Day and that is our new go-to recipe. We like it even better than we did the first one, and that is saying something! Anyway, back to the Focaccia…Just recently, we were doing our weekly pizza night, but not just for ourselves, we were having company as well.  So I decided to give the Pain a l’Ancienne Focaccia with Herb Oil & Cheese recipe a try and serve it as an appetizer. Well Ladies and Gentlemen, it stole the show!

It is a bit time-consuming I must say. I used all fresh herbs for the herb oil which left me picking and chopping for a while. Not to mention, there are quite a few steps to get accomplished before popping that focaccia into the oven. But it is sooooo worth it! Oh. My. Gawwwddd! It was  unbelievably delicious! The first bite left everyone looking at me in awe. I was sitting there in stunned silence, just as amazed with myself. This focaccia is that good!  But don’t take my word for it. Hopefully your book is on the way by now and you can experience it for yourself.

Pain à l’Ancienne Focaccia with Herb Oil & Cheese

Recipe from Peter Reinhart’s Artisan Breads Every Day

yield: 1 Large Focaccia or up to 4 rounds


  • 4 1/2 cups (20 oz/ 567 g) unbleached bread flour
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons (0.4 oz/ 11 g) salt or 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons (0.14 oz/ 4 g) instant yeast
  • 2 cups (16 ox/454 g) chilled water (55°F or 13°C)
  • 1 Tablespoon (0.5 oz/ 14 g) olive oil, plus more for the pan
  • Herb Oil (recipe to follow)
  • Cheese to sprinkle on top (parmesan, pecorino romano or my favourite – a blend of asiago, romano & parmesan)


Do Ahead

Combine the flour, salt, yeast, and water in a mixing bowl. If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 1 minute. If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for about 1 minute until well blended. The dough should be coarse and wet. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes to fully hydrate the flour.

Drizzle the olive oil over the dough then resume mixing on medium-low speed using the paddle attachment, or by hand using a large wet spoon or wet hands, for 1 minute. The dough should become smoother but will still be very soft, sticky, and wet. Use a wet bowl scraper or spatula to transfer the dough to a clean, lightly oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest at room temperature for 10 minutes.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface. With wet or oiled hands, reach under the front end of the dough, stretch it our, then fold it back onto the top of the dough. Do this from the back-end and then from each side, then flip the dough over and tuck it into a ball. The dough should be significantly firmer, though still very soft and fragile. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover, and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. Repeat this entire process three more times, completing all repetitions within 30-40 minutes.

After the final stretch and fold, return the dough to the oiled bowl and immediately cove the bowl tightly and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days, or pan it immediately ( as described below)

To make 1 large focaccia, line a 12×16 – inch sheet pan with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Oil it generously, including the sides, with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then transfer the dough to the pan. Drizzle another tablespoon of oil over the top of the dough, then use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it to cover about half of the pan. Make sure the top of the dough is coated with oil, then cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and immediately place the pan in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 4 days.

For round focaccia, cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit inside an 8 or 9 – inch round pan. Oil both the parchment and the sides of the pan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then transfer the dough to the pan, For an 8-inch pan, use 8 ounces (227 g) of dough; for a 9-inch pan use 12 ounces (340 g) dough. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of olive oil over the top of the dough, then use your fingertips to dimple the dough and spread it as far as it will allow. Don’t force the dough when it starts to spring back. Cover the pan tightly with plastic wrap and immediately place the pan in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 4 days.

On Baking Day

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 1/2 hours before you plan to bake, and if you haven’t already panned it, follow the instructions above to do so, spreading it to cover a portion of the pan.

Warm the over for just a few minutes, the turn it off. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on the surface of the dough and beginning in the center and working toward s the sides, dimple the dough with your fingertips to spread it over more of the pan. The dough wills tart resisting and sliding back toward the center after a minute off this; stop dimpling at that point. It should now be cover 70 to 80 percent of the pan Cover the pan with plastic wrap and put it in the warm over (with the heat off!). Leave it in for about 8 minutes. If you have plenty of time, you can simply let the dough rest at room temperature for 30 minutes between dimplings, which will require a total of about 4 hours prior to baking.

After the focaccia has been out of the oven for 10 minutes, remove the plastic wrap, drizzle another small amount of olive oil over the dough, and dimple it again. This time it should cover about 90 percent of the pan. Cover it again and return it to the warm oven for 10-20 minutes. On the third dimpling (if not the second), the dough should evenly fill the entire pan If it creeps in from the corners because of the oil, don’t worry it will fill the corners as it rises. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and proof the dough in the slightly warm oven as before, removing it after 5 to 10 minutes and completing the rise at room temperature. It should be about 1 inch high in 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 500°F (260°C) Top the focaccia with the herb oil topping (recipe will follow), but wait until the end of baking time to add the cheese.

Place the pan in the oven. For large focaccia, lower the oven temperature to 450°F (232°C) and bake for 12 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the top fo the dough is golden brown. For round focaccia, keep the oven temperature at 500°F (260°C) and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. To test for doneness, use a metal spatula to lift the edge of the focaccia so you can see the underside; it should be a mottled golden brown in spots. Add the cheese when the focaccia appears to be done then bake for another 2 to 4 minutes to melt the cheese.

When you remove the focaccia from the oven, run a pastry blade or metal spatula along the sides of the pan to loosen the focaccia then carefully slide the focaccia, parchment and all onto a wire rack, /cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Herb Oil

I used fresh herbs for this recipe, which calls for dried herbs for the most part. If you would rather use fresh, 1 teaspoon of dried herbs is equal to 1 Tablespoon of fresh herbs, so you can do the math from there.

Yield: About 2 cups


2 cups olive oil

2 Tablespoons dried basil

2 Tablespoons dried parsley

1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1 Tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

1 teaspoon dried thyme

2 Tablespoons granulated garlic powder, or 10 cloves fresh garlic, pressed and lightly sautéed in 1/2 cup olive oil

1 tablespoon kosher salt or coarse sea salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chile flakes

1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika


In a bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients. Let sit at room temperature for 2 hours before using.

6 Responses to Pain a l’Ancienne Focaccia with Herb Oil & Cheese

  1. This looks absolutely divine. Really delicious recipe too. I keep meaning to make focaccia.

  2. […] bread recipes. I’ve made quite a few of them is the past, such as Napoletana Pizza Dough, Pain a l’Ancienne Focaccia, Chocolate Cinnamon Babka, Struan and his Best Biscuits Ever and I have always been delighted with […]

  3. Pete says:

    so how much of the herb oil is used? 2 cups should be enough to float the dough.

    • liadh1 says:

      Oh my goodness! No you definitely don’t want to use all of the herb oil in one go! The recipe I supplied does make two cups of the herb oil, but you only use a bit of it for the focaccia topping. I do brush it generously over the top, but yes there will be quite a bit of herb oil left over when I’m ready to pop the bread into the oven. It is delicious though and I’m sure you will be able to but it to good use.

  4. […] the week. Lea of Lea & Jay wrote an excellent post about their experience making (and eating) this focaccia (and posted the recipe) here. As with all recipes in this book, you do have to mix the dough the night before and leave it to […]

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