Sourdough wholemeal focaccia

I like to cycle flours quickly so that they’re always as fresh as possible and don’t go rancid or off (quite important if you’re using organic flours which have not been treated with chemical products and so have more chances to ‘breed life’).

I had a lot of Hodmedod’s YQ wholemeal flour which I wanted to use, but I wanted to try something different to the usual wholemeal loaf.

I thought of making a focaccia, which is very easy to make, but they’re normally made with white flour. Using wholemeal flour might sound like a heresy when the first idea that comes to mind about focaccia is a soft white fluffy dough, but the result surprised me—it was moist and full of flavour.

But I had nothing to lose, and much to find out!


Note: these amounts make enough dough for a 1 cm height focaccia covering a full sized oven tray, or a thicker double height focaccia if you bake it on a tray with higher walls, like I did. Halve the amounts if you want a smaller / thinner focaccia 😃

  • 30g white sourdough starter (plus water and ~135g flour to make more)
  • 590g water (at ~30ºC)
  • 750g wholemeal flour
  • 2.5 teaspoons salt
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • rosemary or any herb you like (oregano, thyme…), dry is fine if you have nothing else handy
  • coarse salt, for decoration
  • olive oil


The day before, prepare your starter.

Note: since we’re using wholemeal flour for the rest of the preparation, I chose to make the starter with white flour, so the end result is not as compact, but feel free to use any flour you want.

Take a few spoonfuls from the starter jar, and place them on a bowl. For example, take 30g of starter.

Then top up with water and flour in equal parts up to 300g.

In this case, we would need: 300 – 30 = 270g, so we add 270 ÷ 2 = 135g of water and flour each.

In fact I normally add a few more grams of each so that I don’t have to worry that some is lost when transferring between bowls. So I would add 140g of water and 140g of flour, making a total of 30 + 280 = 310 grams.

Mix well, cover and leave to ferment overnight (or enough time).

The following day, mix…

  • The starter (~300 g)
  • 580 g of warm water (at ~30C)
  • 750 g of flour

If once you mix this the mix seems quite dry, add 10 g of water, mix again and see if it has improved. Not all wholemeal flours are equal; each one absorbs more or less water. This dough has to be moderately wet in order to get the big holes and fluffiness, so we need to keep an eye on this. If you can’t tell, that’s fine: see how it goes this time, and come back to this idea the next time you bake this.

Then cover and leave to rest for 20 minutes, so that the water is absorbed into the dough.

In the meantime, you can peel and thinly chop the garlic cloves.

After the 20 minutes are over, add the salt and the garlic. If you’re using dry herbs, add them now.

Mix really well to dissolve the salt.

Then, pouring olive oil onto the dough and your hands, apply three stretch and release cycles at 10-minute intervals, covering the dough with a shower cap or a wet cloth in the meantime.

Leave the dough to rest until it rises by half.

Then apply a blanket fold a couple or more times, letting the dough rest for an hour each time. Use olive oil as releasing agent, and flip the dough over to keep the seam-side down each time you return the dough to the bowl. Then let it rest to rise.

When the dough is ready, the surface will feel quite ‘bubbly’ and ‘plump’.

Wholemeal focaccia - dough proving on the tray and starting to bubble
Dough proving on the tray and starting to bubble

Turn the oven to 220ºC.

In the meantime, perhaps place baking/parchment paper on your preferred baking implement (i.e. a baking tray), oil it so it becomes non-stick, do another blanket fold and place the dough on the tray, seam-side down again.

If it “contracts”, stretch it again towards the corners of the tray after about 15-20 minutes.

Dimple it quite aggressively to create dents for the oil to accumulate into “puddles”, and add a very generous amount of olive oil on top. If you are using fresh rosemary, break it into little pieces and sprinkle it on top. Or you can decorate with coarse salt… even black Hawaiian salt like I did because I was curious as to how it’d look (I bought this salt in Eataly in Italy many years ago!).

Wholemeal focaccia before baking, sprinkled with hawaiian black salt
Wholemeal focaccia before baking, sprinkled with hawaiian black salt

Then, bake until the top crust gets a nice golden-brown colour. It might take around 30 minutes.

Wholemeal focaccia, baked
Wholemeal focaccia, baked

But bear in mind two things:

  1. wholemeal flour will not get as golden as white flour would
  2. if you’re baking on a deep tray, you might need a bit lower temperature and longer cooking time (so it cooks throughout).

I keep a very close eye on the oven for the last 10 minutes to ensure things do not burn.

If unsure, I insert a skewer or clean knife into the centre of the baked focaccia and see if it comes out clean. If it didn’t, I’d return the focaccia to the oven and bake for a bit longer.

I suppose I could also use a thermometer to see if it has reached a certain temperature, but I don’t know what temperature this is, and so I have never done it. Maybe something to try for the next time!

Once you’re satisfied that it is cooked and it cools down a bit, you could move it to a grill so it fully cools down without steam accumulating on the bottom. This is easier to do if you use parchment paper!

Other things to try: you could add more garlic. This could do with way more garlic! Or fried onion.

Wholemeal focaccia - cut to reveal the crumb
Wholemeal focaccia – cut to reveal the crumb

You can eat it as is, with more olive oil, even with butter (I don’t know if this is another heresy too, but it can be quite deliriously yummy, what with the garlic and the salt from the top… yum).

Wholemeal focaccia - another example of the crumb, cut in another direction
Wholemeal focaccia – another example of the crumb, cut in another direction

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