The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

What's wrong with my focaccia?

AnnieTC's picture

What's wrong with my focaccia?

today I tried to make the yeast bread. It's my first time. And it was totally bad! I did what is said in the recipe... 1/4 cup lukewarm water to dissolve the active dry yeast , then mix with remaining 3/4 cup and 2 tablespoon olive oil. sit for 10 mins. Then add 1 cup flour first , mix with salt and herbs, then another 1 cup. The dough is very thin ,soft.and sticky... don't look at a "dough" to me at all. It's very hard to "knead "by hands.

But you know what, after I placed it in a warm place ( I heated the oven at 50C and place a bowl of water inside ) for 1.5 hours. They're still thin and sticky... the recipe asked me to use fingertips to make dimples and they're too sticky and the dimples can't be made at all ! I am very frustrated.When it's baked, the dough dimples are not like that in the pictures... they're some just some holes. :-(

I really don't know what's wrong with it... they're so sticky and thin I wonder how you could knead such a "dough"? Please let me know what's wrong with everything....

bluezebra's picture

Hi there. I'm wondering, did you try to stretch and fold your dough any?

AnnieTC's picture

yes I did try that. But this dough just doesn't look dough to me... :-( like a sticky mess hard to work with

JMonkey's picture

I hope I'm not off-base, not having seen your recipe, but here's a couple of tips that might help you make the wet dough more manageable.

  • Flour your work surface generously: That'll prevent the dough from sticking to the board
  • Make sure your hands are damp: Wet dough won't stick to wet hands.
  • Mix the dough up so that everything is incorporated (2 minutes, maybe?), wait an hour, and then do three stretch and folds during the bulk rise: Brush off as much flour as you can using a pastry brush, or even your hands. Don't worry that the first fold doesn't seem to be very doughlike. Believe me, it'll get better. The folds can be as close together as 30 minutes, but however you do it, try to evenly space them out throughout the bulk rise. This video, by Mike Avery, is a great resource.
  • When you dimple the dough, make sure your fingers are damp: Again, wet fingers won't stick to wet dough.

I hope that helps! Good luck!
AnnieTC's picture

Thanks a lot ! I will try that out next time !

leemid's picture

I am no expert here, I have only made a couple of faux cashahs, but I have read that fats tend to inhibit yeast when the come into direct contact; that you don't want to soak the yeast in oil...

I could be wrong, but

That's my story,


JMonkey's picture

Yes, it's true that yeasts don't like fats, and it's not a great idea to put them in direct contact. Same thing with salt and cinnamon. Tree bark spices have natural fungicides in them that impede yeast activity, and if the yeast and salt are in close contact, the salt will kill the yeast. That's why when adding salt and yeast to a dough, it's a good idea to put salt on one side and yeast on the other so they don't touch directly, and then mix everything up together.

But in a dough, where there's so much more water and flour than fats and salt, the yeasts do OK. If there's a lot of fat or tree bark spices in the dough, you may want to up the yeast a bit for the sake of timing, but even if you don't, it'll still rise, albeit more slowly.

chiaoapple's picture

Recipes are only guidelines. Each kitchen's humidity is different, as is the absorbancy of different flours (brand, grind, etc). So, the best way to make bread is by feel, using the recipe amounts as ballparks.

Also, how you measure the flour also affects how much you're using. Do you pack the cup lightly or tightly? That's why I only go by weight now, out with the cups!

If you feel the dough is unkneadable (which foccacia dough should NOT be), then add a bit of flour, little by little, until you have the right consistency (usually soft and just kind of sticky), then knead on a VERY lightly floured surface, only adding enough flour to prevent sticking to counter, etc.

As to the oil-yeast-flour thing -- to my knowledge, adding oil too early prevents gluten development. I usually add my oils halfway through the mixing, when the dough is just about to come together. I find it really helps to make the dough easier to knead! Oh and one more thing -- maybe you did not let the dough rise/proof enough? A correctly proofed dough is usually much less sticky than an underproofed one. That might be why your dough is too wet to dimple nicely.

Hope this helped, and good luck!

AnnieTC's picture

Hi Apple,

thanks for the tips. I did weigh the flour instead of using cups (1 cup = 125 g flour)

I just did exactly the recipe told me to do. And I had enough proofing time ( I watched the timer ) but I guess maybe the recipe itself calls too much water, and also it adds the oil from the beginning.. perhaps these two reasons makes the dough quite thin?

KipperCat's picture

I think your flour weight may be too low.  The NYT/Lahey no-knead bread uses about 143 to the cup, and I've measured as much as 160 grams in a cup of flour.

BROTKUNST's picture

I agree with Lee and JMonkey ... it's not a good idea to oil the yeast. It just disables the yeast to large degree. When you expect to work with a wet dough, I'd mix the water and the flour, let it sit in Autolyse for 20 minutes, add the salt and oil after that. Oil also works against the gluten formation and the Autolyse get the gluten formation going ... M. Glezer in Artisan Baking (across America) describes a technique to knead wet dough very effectively.


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

temperature in your oven is too warm, it will kill the yeast.  Don't let the dough get above body temp.  If it feels too hot to your touch, then it's too hot for the yeast.  Mini Oven

AnnieTC's picture

hi Mini Oven , 

thanks for the reply... well I just turned it to 50C ( the minimum that I could have ), heat it for 10 mins,  and turn it off so the temperature in the oven is actually lower than 50C .I have to say that my dough did rise. It doubles it's size. The only problem I am having with this dough is just that it's too thin to handle. 

 I guess I need to post the recipe for reference:

2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 cup 42C water
2 tbsp  olive oil
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp frech chives (I didn't use this)
1 tbsp fresh thyme ( I used 2 tsp dry )
1 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary ( I didn't use this )
In a large bowl stir the yeast and 1/4 cup water. Let stand until creamy about 10 mins.Stir the remaining 3/4 cup water and olive oil. ( see from the beginning it asks to add oil) add 1 cup flour and the salt, whisk until smooth. Add the herbs and mix well, stir in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at one time. until dough comes together as a rough mass.

On a light floured surface,knead the dough until smooth and velvety, 8-10 mins.( This is where I don't get, it's too thin to handle and even hard to knead it in the bowl, not to mention to knead it on a furface. and it's never smooth and velvety ) lightly oil a bowl, place the dough and turn it to coat with oil. cover it with plastic wrap and put it in a warm place to rise until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.

divide the dough into two, and lightly knead it. lightly oil two 8 inch cake pans. place two portion of the dough and strecht it to the edges,cover the pan with towels and let it rise until almost double in bulk and very soft and puff, about 45 mins. 

preheat oil to 230C, use your fingers to make dimples, about 13mm deep. Again cover the pans with towels and let it rise for another 20 mins. 


baked until golden and cooked through, about 15--18 mins. remove from the oven and immediately brush the tops with a generous amount of olive oil .

Hmm... that's all. Hope it is helpful . Thank you all for the tips !  

Larry Clark's picture
Larry Clark


Off the top of my head, it looks like this dough is about 100% hydration. Focaccia, if I'm not mistaken, is around 60-65% hydration.

Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Sometimes the flour makes the difference, some absorb more water than others and many times you have to add or subtract a little.  Here is how I see it.  Yeast & water, fine.  Water and oil, also fine, in fact if you use this bowl to let it rise, it won't need oiling.  Wisk a little longer before adding herbs, say 5 minutes and if your wisk can take it, add a little more of the flour.  You can also let it rest 10 min here if you wish.  After adding rest flour and before kneeding let it sit a good 30+ minutes.  This gives it a chance to soak up water.  If you find it still too runny, add a few handfuls of flour and fold or flip it under the dough. let it rest 10 minutes and then try to pour out and knead on a floured surface.  Don't forget to lightly oil your fingers and palms before you start to knead or fold, this will make it easier for clean up.  The dough can really seem sticky at first but if you have some good music and not in any hurry, you will manage.  Smooth and velvety I find to be a funny choice of words in a recipe, I prefer uniform and cohesive.  This is a soft dough so it should not have too much flour worked into it, but more flour on the outside surface for handling.  I hope this mix and rest technique helps.  We shall soon see.  Hope to hear from you soon.  --Mini Oven

AnnieTC's picture

Hey mini oven,

thanks a lot for the tips on resting! I will try it out next time. If you ever try the recipe and find something new.. don't be hesitate to tell me too!