Sourdough Rye Dessert Focaccia

This recipe for a sweet take on focaccia comes to us from the author of New World Sourdough, Bryan Ford. With long fermentation times and a hearty dose of rye flour, the focaccia itself nearly equals the flavor of its toppings, which include brown butter, peaches (or other stone fruit), and almonds. With its crispy exterior and soft, chewy interior this is one impressive focaccia, totally worth tackling if you want to dive hands first into sourdough and rye baking.  

Prep
40 mins
Bake
20 to 30 mins
Total
22 hrs 50 mins
Yield
one 12” x 16” focaccia
Sourdough Rye Dessert Focaccia - select to zoom
Sourdough Rye Dessert Focaccia - select to zoom
Sourdough Rye Dessert Focaccia - select to zoom

Instructions

  1. To build the levain: In a large bowl, mix the starter, flours, and water until incorporated. Cover and leave in a warm place (about 75°F) for 3 to 4 hours, or until doubled in size. You can use your levain immediately or refrigerate it up to 12 hours (or overnight) to use the next day. 

  2. To make the dough: Add 280g of the water to the levain in the bowl. Stir to partially dissolve the levain; it’s OK if it’s not fully combined.

  3. Add the flours, sugar, and olive oil and mix until there’s no dry flour left. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest in a warm place for 1 hour.  

  4. Add the salt and the remaining 70g water. 

  5. Squeeze the dough with your hands to work the water and salt into it; try not to tear it. This process should take 3 to 5 minutes.

  6. Take the dough out of the bowl and perform a slap and fold or some stretching and folding to build strong structure; a bench knife is a handy tool here.

  7. Once you can handle it a bit more easily, stretch and/or knead your dough until its surface is smooth. Return it to the bowl, cover, and let it rest for 30 minutes. 

  8. Perform a stretch and fold to continue building strength. Repeat this process one more time for a total of two stretch and folds in a 1-hour period. 

  9. Allow the dough to rise for 4 to 6 hours. It should be nice and bubbly to the touch; if it’s in a clear bowl you’ll see a web-like structure near the bottom. 

  10. Place the dough on a floured work surface. Pat it into a rectangle and fold from the top to the center a few times to create a loose cylinder. 

  11. Place the dough on a baking sheet coated with olive oil, then coat the dough itself with olive oil. Cover and refrigerate for 12 hours. 

  12. An hour before you’re ready to bake, start preheating the oven to 450°F to 500°F. 

  13. To prepare the toppings: First, make the brown butter by sautéing the butter in a saucepan on medium heat until it turns golden brown. Remove the pan from the heat and let the butter cool for 15 minutes. 

  14. Use your hands to gently coat the dough, which will have spread and flattened on the pan, with almost all the brown butter (reserving some to use just before baking). 

  15. Use your fingers to dock (dimple) the dough, making an even pattern of peaks and valleys. You’ll want to be relatively gentle and not poke holes through the bottom. 

  16. Slice the fruit into very thin slices (16ths are good) and arrange the slices evenly on the focaccia, aiming for at least one slice per serving. Top with the sliced almonds, sprinkling them over the dough and fruit. Drizzle honey (to taste) on top, along with the remaining brown butter. 

  17. Bake the focaccia for 20 to 30 minutes (depending on how hot you've preheated your oven), or until it’s slightly darker than golden brown. It's at its best when it’s crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. 

  18. Remove the focaccia from the oven and transfer it to a rack to cool slightly before serving. 

  19. Store leftover focaccia, lightly wrapped, at room temperature for a day or so; wrap securely and freeze for longer storage. 

Tips from our Bakers

  • Its long fermentation times set this focaccia apart, so a little advance planning helps; here’s a schedule you can follow. We’ve gone with the average time for both the fermentation of the levain as well as the first fermentation of the dough. If your house is particularly cool (less than 72°F), you should start the process 90 minutes earlier (7:30 a.m.), and if it’s particularly warm (more than 80°F), you should start the process 90 minutes later (10:30 a.m.). Or you should be prepared to refrigerate and bake the focaccia later or earlier, respectively. 

    -   9:00 a.m. Build levain
    -   12:30 p.m. Mix final dough 
    -   12:40 p.m. Rest prior to adding salt (autolyse)
    -   1:40 p.m. Incorporate salt and additional water
    -   1:45 p.m. Knead (slap and fold or stretch and fold)
    -   2:00 p.m. Rise
    -   2:30 p.m. Fold 
    -   3:00 p.m. Fold
    -   8:00 p.m. Shape and refrigerate
    -   7:00 a.m. Preheat oven; prepare toppings
    -   8:00 a.m. Top and bake

  • Bryan develops his recipes by metric weight, so for best accuracy we recommend measuring by weight. That said we recognize that some bakers prefer to work with volume measurements, so here are the volume approximations for the ingredients in this recipe: 

    Levain 
    -   1/4 cup sourdough starter
    -   1/4 cup King Arthur Organic Whole Wheat Flour
    -   1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons King Arthur Organic Bread Flour
    -   1/3 cup lukewarm water 

    Dough 
    -   all of the levain 
    -   1 1/2 cups cold water, divided
    -   1 3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons King Arthur Organic Rye Flour
    -   2 1/2 cups King Arthur Organic Bread Flour
    -   1/2 cup sugar
    -   2 tablespoons olive oil
    -   1 1/2 teaspoons salt  

    Topping
     1/4 cup unsalted butter
    -   1 to 2 medium to large peaches, sliced
    -   handful of sliced almonds (about 1/4 cup)
    -   honey, for drizzling