Recipe: 48 Hour Sourdough Focaccia

Here’s another favorite recipe–and a real crowd-pleaser–that I’ve been riffing on for the past few years. If you’re just getting into sourdough baking, this one is much more approachable than the full-on sourdough bread recipe I posted earlier. In fact, this one is so straightforward that I always make the dough as a side-project while I’m making sourdough bread.  

What makes this recipe so simple? A few things. There’s no stretching and folding during bulk fermentation. The shaping is minimal, so even though the dough is very slack, there’s less risk of disaster. And since you’re baking on well-oiled parchment-paper-lined sheet pans, it’s even easier than making pizza.


  • 630 g water at 87 F 
  • 20 g salt 
  • 200 g levain (sourdough starter) 50/50 whole wheat/unbleached all-purpose at 100% hydration 
  • 100 g rye flour 
  • 100 g whole wheat flour 
  • 700 g unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • Olive oil 

Essential Tools 

  • Vessel for mixing, bulk fermentation. We use a Cambro 6 qt round polypropylene food storage container. 
  • Digital food scale, large format for weighing flour, dough, etc. 
  • Small digital scale for weighing precise amounts of small ingredients, e.g., salt  
  • Pen thermometer 
  • Bench scraper 
  • 2 Half sheet pans for baking, parchment paper 
  • Cooling rack 

Method Overview 

  • Preparing the levain 
  • Autolyse – 30 minutes 
  • Bulk fermentation – 3-4 hours 
  • Shaping and proofing – 48-hour proof 
  • Topping 
  • Baking – 20 minutes at 475 F 
  • Cooling 


Start with your mixing vessel and add the 630 g water. Add the salt and mix. Add the levain and mix. Add the flour and mix to combine. Leave for a 30-minute autolyse. After the autolyse, it’s time to mix the dough. You can turn it out onto a floured work surface, but I do this step inside the Cambro. Mix the dough well, using a combination of kneading, stretching, folding. This will take about five minutes. Make sure all the flour is well incorporated and there are no dry spots. Top with a brushing of olive oil, covering the entire dough mass. Cover the mixing vessel and leave it for 3-4 hours of bulk fermentation. I keep the dough at 80-81 F.  

Once bulk fermentation is done, dust a work surface with flour. Turn out the dough and divide in half. Using four ¼ turns, shape each half into a boule. Lightly flour a platter, place the boules, and cover with cling wrap. Place in the fridge for a 48-hour proof. 

To bake, cover your sheet pans with parchment paper. King Arthur Flour makes pre-cut parchment paper that I love to use. Lightly coach the parchment paper with olive oil. Turn out the dough onto each sheet pan. Some tips: let gravity do some of the work to get your dough into rectangles. The dough will be very cold and will want to snap back into its previous shape. Give it some time. Start with a rough rectangle and let it sit for 10 minutes. Then it will be easy to shape it the rest of the way. For the classic focaccia texture, dimple the dough with your fingers. 

Top each focaccia as you like. See below for some ideas. Bake at 475 F for 10 minutes, turn and swap the pans, and bake for another 10 minutes until done. Depending on your toppings, you may want a quick 3 minutes under the broiler. Check to make sure the bottom is done, if you have a pizza stone, 3 minutes directly on the stone may be helpful. 

Place on a cooling rack for 10 minutes. Unlike the sourdough bread, if you really, really want to eat this before cooling, that’s OK. I like it better after it has cooled a bit.

Topping Ideas 

  • Dried herbs, olive oil, salt 
  • Anchovies, olives, cheese 
  • Cheese, cheese, cheese, & cheese 
  • Pizza style 
  • One of our favorites: Pissaladière-style, with caramelized onions and anchovies 
Sourdough focaccia
Pissaladière style
Sourdough focaccia
Pizza style

Recipe: Rye and Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

I got into bread baking about four years ago. Before venturing into sourdough, I baked many of the loaves in Ken Forkish’s great bread book, Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. Once I got into sourdough I spent the next couple of years essentially making the same loaf over and over again. This was the country bread from Chad Robertson’s Tartine Bread. Eventually, I was practiced enough to feel comfortable riffing on the method. This recipe is for my current favorite, which is a blend of rye, whole wheat, and white flour. 


  • 750 g water at 87 F 
  • 200 g levain (sourdough starter) 50/50 whole wheat/unbleached all-purpose at 100% hydration 
  • 200 g rye flour 
  • 300 g whole wheat flour 
  • 500 g unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • 20 g salt 
  • 50 g water at 87 F 
  • Rice flour for dusting 

Essential Tools 

  • Vessel for mixing, bulk fermentation. We use a Cambro 12 qt round polypropylene food storage container. 
  • Digital food scale, large format for weighing flour, dough, etc. 
  • Small digital scale for weighing precise amounts of small ingredients, e.g., salt  
  • Pen thermometer 
  • Bench scraper 
  • Lame, or razor blade, or other sharp knife for scoring 
  • 2 banneton proofing baskets 
  • 2 cast iron dutch ovens. We use Lodge black cast iron 4 qt. 
  • Cooling rack 

Method Overview 

  1. Preparing the levain 
  2. Autolyse 
  3. Bulk fermentation 
  4. First shaping and bench rest 
  5. Shaping and proofing 
  6. Scoring 
  7. Baking 
  8. Cooling

The Method in Detail 

  1. Preparing the Levain 

This is one of the most crucial elements in the entire process, since the levain is the heart and soul of this bread. Ideally, you will be feeding your levain every day, so it’s always in great shape.  For us, this is not the case. I don’t bake every week, so doing a daily feed is wasteful. If I know it will be more than a week before I bake, I will keep my levain in the fridge. You then really do need to plan ahead.  

For me, it takes several days of regular feeding to get the levain where it needs to be. My regular daily feed is to take 50 g from the previous day and add 100 g of 50/50 flour and 100 g of water. I always keep my levain at 100% hydration. For the final feeding before a bake, I up the amounts to 150 g of flour and 150 g of water. 

With practice, you will get a feel for when your levain is ready for a bake. For me, it is a combination of the activity level and the aroma. The target aroma is a little hard to describe–yeasty, sweet, a touch of funk.

  1. Autolyse – 30 Minutes 

The purpose of the autolyse is to allow the water to integrate with the flour and begin to form the gluten structure of the dough. My typical autolyse time is 30-40 minutes. I have experimented with longer times, but for this recipe, 30 minutes is fine. The general guidance for an autolyse greater than 60 minutes is to leave out the levain. For a 30-minute autolyse, you can leave the levain in. 

  • In your mixing vessel, begin by adding 750 g of water at 87 F 
  • Add 200 g of levain 
  • Stir with a flour whisk to disperse the levain into the water 
  • Add the rye, whole wheat, and unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • Whisk the flour, levain, and water together 
  • Cover and let sit for 30 minutes 
  1. Bulk Fermentation3 Hours 

As the name implies, the dough will do much of its rise during this period. In this method, the dough is not kneaded in the traditional way. Instead, the dough develops structure through a series of stretches and folds. I aim for a constant dough temperature of around 80 F. If the dough gets too cold, between folds I will leave it in an oven that has been warmed to 100 F then turned off.   

  • Add 20 g of salt 
  • Add remaining 50 g of water at 87 F 
  • Use your hands to thoroughly mix the dough, incorporating the salt and added water 
  • Perform the first stretch and fold: grab a piece of dough, pull it up as far as it will stretch without breaking, then fold it back on itself, turn the vessel and continue until you have gone all the way around 
  • For the next three hours, perform a stretch and fold every 30 minutes, for a total of six 
  • At the end of three hours, the dough will has risen by around 30%, and will be very smooth and slack, and will pass the ‘window pane test’ 
  1. First Shaping and Bench Rest – 20 Minutes 

This is where things can get a little tricky, especially if you are not experienced with handling a very slack dough. All I can say is, you need to use the “Carnegie Hall” method: practice, practice, practice. We are making two boules, so the first step is to divide the dough. Then we will shape the two halves into boules and let them rest before the next step. 

  • Lightly flour your workspace 
  • Lightly flour the top and edges of the dough 
  • Turn the dough out onto the workspace 
  • Using your bench scraper, shape the dough mass into a circle, this will allow you to eyeball where to divide the dough into two equal halves 
  • Use your bench scraper to divide the dough 
  • Add some flour to the dough where you divided it 
  • Weigh each piece to see how close you came to equal, if necessary, add dough from one piece to another 
  • Shape the first boule: grab a piece of dough, stretch and fold, turn 90 degrees and repeat for a total of four folds 
  • Slide your bench scraper beneath the boule and flip it over 
  • Shape the boule by dragging it across the workspace; this will develop a smooth ‘skin’ on the top of the boule 
  • When the boule is shaped, let it rest and repeat with the second dough mass 
  • Let both boules rest for 20 minutes 
  1. Shaping and Proofing – 6-12 Hours 

This is where the dough takes on its characteristic shape and finished fermenting. I use unlined banneton proofing baskets, this is where that swirly pattern comes from on the final bread. I now always do my proofing in the fridge. This allows for a longer fermentation, and I also find makes the process of scoring and transferring the bread much easier. 

  • For each boule, repeat the shaping process from the previous step 
  • Prepare the banneton baskets by dusting them liberally with flour; use rice flour to get the characteristic white swirl pattern 
  • Use your bench scraper to flip each boule into a banneton basket, what was the top of the boule is now on the bottom of the basket 
  • Cover each basket, we found specialty covers that are made for this, prior to that, we used cling wrap 
  • Let the boules proof in the fridge 
  1. Scoring 

The purpose of scoring is to split the top of the boule to enable a strong rise in the oven. Some people take this to an artistic extreme, but I tend to be a little more utilitarian. It is worth investing in a lame. Before I had one, I tried to score the boules with a knife, and the results were disappointing. 

PLEASE NOTE: for the next two steps, you are going to be dealing with an extremely hot oven, and two extremely hot dutch ovens. You need to have proper hand protection. I use silicone gloves. 

  • Place the two dutch ovens, lids on, near the bottom of your oven 
  • Pre-heat to 500 F for at least 30 minutes 
  • Take the first dutch oven out and remove the lid 
  • Quickly invert the first boule onto a lightly floured cutting board or pizza peel 
  • Use your lame to score the boule 
  • Carefully lift the boule and place it into the dutch oven (remember, it is 500 F, you will burn yourself badly if you touch it with bare hands or fingers) 
  • Place the lid on the dutch oven and return it to the oven 
  • Repeat with the second boule 
  1. Baking  

The purpose of baking in the dutch ovens with the lids on for the first part of the bake is to replicate the dose of steam that the boules would get in a commercial oven. The second part of the bake is with the lids off, to finish and caramelize the crust. Part of the fun of this method is the element of surprise when you take the lids off. That’s the moment you see how much oven spring you got, what kind of ‘ears’ you have developed and so on. 

  • Bake at 500 F for 20 minutes with the lids on 
  • Reduce temperature to 450 F and bake for a further 10 minutes 
  • Remove the lids, and bake for a further 20 minutes, until crust is deeply caramelized 
  1. Cooling 

This is also an essential part of the process. Of course, you will be tempted to tear into the bread as soon as it is cool enough to handle. And you should try that at least once. Grab a big piece and just slather some butter on it. It’s amazing! But it’s not really done yet. The crust hasn’t finished hardening. And the crumb is soft and custardy. In fact, it will be a bit difficult to cut the bread into a well-formed slice at this point. Wait at least an hour. Better yet, if you are doing a night bake—which is my current preference—let it cool overnight. It will be perfect in the morning. 

  • Carefully turn each boule out onto a wire cooling rack and let cool at least an hour 

Some thoughts on this bread 

If you are not familiar with this style of bread, it may cause you to rethink some of your bread assumptions. First off, the notion of ‘freshness’ and avoiding ‘day old’ bread. This bread actually keeps getting better and better. The flavor continues to develop and starts to peak after about the third day. We were at a book event with Appolonia Poilâne from the famous French bakery, and she told a story of a vacation with friends. She had brought one of Poilâne’s famous miche breads, and she and her friends ate that one bread for over 12 days, using it in ways best suited to its characteristics on each subsequent day. 

There’s just two of us, and this is a substantial amount of bread. We will usually eat the first boule over about three days. At that point, we will slice up the second boule and pop it into a one gallon freezer bag and freeze it. That will usually keep us going for another few days. 

Sourdough bread crumb
The crumb shot

Recipe: Sourdough Crackers

Because of COVID-19, people around the world are sheltering in place. Here in NYC, most people are hunkered down, and that includes us. We are only venturing outside for essentials, and to go for an occasional run or cautious birding trip to Central Park. Otherwise, we are at home cooking up a storm!  

We’re thrilled to see so many people take up breadmaking during this time, and sourdough bread making in particular. As we mentioned last week in our post on easy sourdough kimchi pancakes, the sourdough starter process can generate a good deal of discarded starter (read, discarded flour) and now that feels more wasteful than ever.  

But there are things that you can make with starter that you would otherwise be tossing. The pancakes are one favorite of ours, and these sourdough crackers are another. The pancakes are dead simple to make, these are maybe a little trickier, but by no means as difficult as making a good quality sourdough boule.  

We started out with the King Arthur Flour sourdough cracker recipe and have been riffing on it ever since. It’s a simple recipe at heart. Make a dough with equal parts spent sourdough starter (100% hydration, which means 50/50 flour and water) and unbleached all purpose flour, plus ¼ part butter. Season it however you like it. Roll it out thin. Top it how you like it. Cut into cracker shapes, bake it, and there you go!  


For the dough 
  • 1 cup sourdough starter (100% hydration) 
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour 
  • ¼ cup melted butter, cooled 
  • ½ tsp salt 
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan (or dried herbs, or combination)
For the topping 
  • Kosher salt 
  • Paprika 
  • Grated parmesan 
  • Get creative! 


The sourdough starter should be unfed, let’s say 24 hours or maybe a bit longer. Not what you would use to make bread, we want it to have a pronounced tang. (A 100% white flour starter, combined with white flour will make the most addictive, quasi-junkfood version of these crackers. I usually do one batch with our 100% white, and one batch with our 50/50.) Combine the dough ingredients in a bowl until it comes together. You don’t need to overwork it, you’re not making bread. Split in half. Wrap each half in cling wrap, and store in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This step is crucial, just like you are making pasta dough. If you try to skip it, you will be very unhappy! 

Prepare two parchment papers to fit two ½ sheet pans. Take one of the doughs and roll it out onto the parchment paper. You have some leeway with the thickness. If you make it really thin, you will get a nice crisp cracker. The most important thing is to make the thickness consistent, or else you will have an uneven bake. 

Before you cut the dough, go over it lightly with the tines of a fork to create dimples. Add your toppings. Salt, paprika (I use smoked hot) and parmesan. Now, you can use a pizza cutter to make into cracker shapes. I usually go the long way first, then across the width. They do not need to completely separate now, they will do that during and after the bake. Once that’s done, lift the parchment paper into the sheet pan. Now you can repeat the process with the second dough and a second sheet pan. 

For the bake, you can do both pans at once. 350 F for about 20 minutes. Turn and swap the pans midway through. This is the really tricky part. Depending on how evenly you rolled out the dough, the edges may get to done before the middles. Do lots of testing, often. Under baked, they won’t be satisfyingly crisp. But then they can start to get burnt in an instant. You should probably do the “Great British Baking Show crouch” for the last few minutes. 

Once they are done, take them out and cool them on a wire rack. You can break apart any crackers that haven’t separated yet. Now you can do some more “quality control,” but remember to leave some for later. They will store in an airtight container for longer than it will take for you to eat them. Our friend Kathy found this Star Wars pencil crayon tin for us at a thrift fair in Queens. That’s where we keep ours!

Sourdough crackers
Service suggestion