Spelt Sesame Focaccia

This is one of my favorite breads. It is impossibly tender and light. Do not skimp on the sesame seeds; their nuttiness complements the subtle spelt flavor perfectly. Taking inspiration from Leo, I serve it at Hot Pies alongside whipped ricotta, saba, and olive oil. Its also a great sandwich bread. Experiment with your inclusions and toppings-castlevetrano olives, red onion, candied sesame seeds, and roasted winter squash would all work. 

Yields 1 Large Loaf

Formula Percentages

91% white bread flour
9% spelt flour

80% hydration
8% Olive Oil
2% Salt

Final Levain Build
15 grams active sourdough starter
90 grams white bread flour
10 grams whole rye flour
100 grams room temperature water

Final Dough
400 grams white bread flour
40 grams spelt flour
289 grams water
160 grams fresh levain, from Final Levain Build
10 grams salt
35 grams olive oil

0:00 – Mix levain
8:00 – Mix autolyse
9:00 – Add levain
9:10 – Add salt
9:30 – Fold 1
10:30 – Fold 2
11:30 – Fold 3
12:30 – Fold 4
13:30 – Fold 5
14:00 – Pre-Shape
14:20 – Shape
17:30 – Dimple and Bake


1.  To build the levain, combine the ingredients in a clean container with plenty of headspace for the levain to rise. Cover the container and mark the height of the levain with a piece of tape, a rubber-band, or marker. You want to be able to tell when the levain has ripened—that is, almost tripled in size. Place the container with the levain in a warm spot to rise overnight.

2.  One hour before the levain is ripe, use a spatula or bowl scraper to combine the flours and water in a large bowl. At this stage, you only need to mix until the flour is completely saturated; the dough will look shaggy and underhydrated. This is okay; the autolyse is only intended to jumpstart gluten development. Cover the container with a clean, damp towel or a piece of plastic, and let rest for at least thirty minutes, and up to two hours, depending on what your schedule permits.

3.  When the autolyse is complete, add the levain to the autolyse. Incorporate them by folding the dough onto itself and pinching the relatively wet levain through the autolyse. Be gentle and careful not to tear the dough. Once the levain and autolyse are homogenous, sprinkle the salt and pour the olive oil over the dough. Continue the same folding and pinching technique from before until the salt and olive oil are incorporated—you will know the dough is fully mixed when you can no longer feel the grains of salt between your fingers. This dough has a large proportion of olive oil, so the dough may look greasy and broken initially. Keep pinching and folding—the olive oil will be taken up by the dough.

4.  As soon as the olive and salt are fully incorporated, perform the Rubaud method—a gentle movement suited for high-hydration doughs—to develop gluten. To Rubaud, scoop your hand under the dough on the side furthest from you and pull it towards you. Once the dough is gathered on the side of the container nearest to you, pull the dough to the opposite end of the container and drop it down gently. Repeat this motion rapidly for three minutes. After three minutes, gather the dough in the center of the bowl and cover it, leaving it to rest for 30 minutes.

5.  After 30 minutes, you will perform the first stretch and fold. To accomplish this, slide your wet hand under the dough. Stretch the dough up and away from the bowl, as high as possible without tearing the dough. Fold the dough toward the center, over onto itself. Rotate the bowl ninety degrees and repeat three more times, for a total of four folds. Cover and let rest, 30 minutes.

6.  Perform another fold. At this point, you should feel strength developing in the dough—the dough should be noticeably more elastic. Cover and lest for 30 minutes.

7.  Perform a third fold. Cover and lest for 30 minutes.

8.  Perform a fourth fold. Cover and let rest one hour.

9.  At this point, the dough should be both strong and aerated—you should notice bubbles floating just underneath the taught surface. As the dough approaches the end of its bulk fermentation, I like to perform a final coil fold to create even more tension along the surface of the dough and, moreover, to move the seam of the dough to the bottom. To perform a coil fold, wet your hands and scoop them under the dough at a point opposite yourself. Lift this portion of the dough and quickly tuck it into the space you just created when lifting the dough. Repeat this, moving from the opposite side of the bowl towards yourself until the dough has been completely turned over and you’re a left with a tight, bubble of dough. Cover and let rest 30 minutes. At this point, the bulk fermentation is complete. If after this period of three hours the dough has not almost doubled in size, perform another coil fold, and let it rest for another 30 minutes.

10.  Now, you will pre-shape the dough. First, turn the dough out onto the work surface. Use a bench scraper to push and pull the dough around the work surface to build tension around the exterior as the surface is pulled underneath. Repeat this movement until the dough is gathered in a tight bubble. Leave the dough on the worksurface, covered with a damp towel, for twenty minutes.

11.  While the dough rests, generously oil a 9x13 rectangular metallic cake pan or a well-seasoned 12-inch cast iron pan with ¼ cup extra virgin oil.

12.  After 20 minutes, repeat the same shaping method. This time, though, swiftly lift the dough off the worksurface with the bench scraper and place it in the center the cooking vehicle. Rub some of the excess oil on its surface and cover it gently with plastic wrap. The dough will now rest in the pan, at room temperature, until it is fully proofed, at which point it will be extremely aerated and jiggle when shaken. This will take about three hours. Periodically throughout this secondary rise, slip your hands under the dough and gently tug it towards the edges of the pan. This will ensure the dough fills the entire pan.

13.  About 45 minutes before the final proof is complete, around 2 hours later, preheat an oven to 475 degrees with a rack in the bottom and upper third.

14.  When the dough is fully proofed, generously sprinkle the surface with sesame seeds—enough to almost cover the surface completely—and flaked salt. Then, oil your hands with some of the oil pooled in the sides of the pan. Dimple the dough, gently pushing all the way to bottom of the pan without puncturing the dough. Once the dough is dimpled, place it on the bottom rack of the preheated oven for 17-22 minutes, or until puffed and dark golden brown on the bottom of the loaf (you can check its doneness by using an off-set spatula to lift the loaf slightly and peeking underneath).

15.  Move the dough the upper third of the oven and bake for another five minutes. After 5 minutes, turn on the broiler and cautiously broil for about 2 minutes, or until deeply toasted.

16.  Remove the loaf from the oven and cool slightly in the pan. Transfer the loaf to a cooling rack. Let cool on the rack for around 30 minutes before serving. I like to eat this loaf with whipped ricotta and olive oil. It is also well-suited for sandwiches.