One of the tastiest sandwich breads you’ll ever try, this fluffy and crispy Italian-style focaccia will help you make the sandwiches of your dreams. Learn step-by-step how to bake this incredibly flavorful bread.
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Focaccia is an Italian-style bread known for its crunchy exterior and soft and airy interior. With endless ways of customizing this bread by itself, it's no wonder it would be the perfect sandwich bread.
After studying at culinary school in Italy, I learned the best way of baking this delicious style of bread.
If you enjoy this focaccia sandwich recipe, be sure to also check out my cheesy focaccia bread.
What You'll Learn In This Recipe
- Step-by-step instructions on how to make focaccia bread with plenty of helpful photos and tips along the way.
- How to store and reheat focaccia, so it’s always fresh and ready for lunch.
- Delicious ideas for focaccia bread sandwich fillings.
If you’re interested in other baking tips, sign up for my free email series that gives you 10 great tips on how to improve your baking skills.
Ingredients You Need
Extra virgin olive oil: Extra virgin olive oil is quintessential in Italian cuisine. For the best flavor in your focaccia bread, you want to use a high quality olive oil. Be sure it’s labeled as extra virgin on the bottle.
Be sure to also check out my email series all about Italian olive oil, if you want to learn more.
Instant dry yeast: One of the most important ingredients in just about any bread recipe is yeast. This is what gives the bread the ability to rise and gain the light airiness we love and enjoy. These characteristics are essential when making quality Italian focaccia.
Always be sure to check the expiration on your yeast before using it, otherwise, it could cause your bread not to rise.
If you happen to only have active dry yeast on hand, follow the same instructions, but substitute 2.5 teaspoons of active dry yeast for the instant yeast listed in the recipe card.
Bread flour: It is essential to use bread flour for this recipe instead of all-purpose flour. Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour. The protein content is directly related to the texture of the bread because of the effect it has on the gluten net.
While you may want to use all-purpose flour because you have it on hand, I can promise you that the result will not be the same. Through various recipe and taste tests, substituting bread flour for all-purpose flour results in an overall lesser quality product.
Fine sea salt: Salt is a small but mighty ingredient in this focaccia sandwich bread recipe. Salt not only amplifies the flavors of the other ingredients in the bread but also strengthens the gluten net, helping the dough stay in one functional shape.
The gluten net is the unseen net that holds the dough together. Adding salt strengthens this net, allowing your dough to become more resilient, elastic, and fully formed.
In this recipe especially, salt is needed to strengthen the gluten net after adding the extra virgin olive oil. Fat breaks apart the gluten net, so salt is needed to keep everything in proper form.
Granulated Sugar: Most importantly, sugar is food for yeast, allowing the yeast to feed and release gas.
On top of feeding the yeast, as your bread bakes, the sugar caramelizes, helping the bread get the deep, beautiful, brown color we love.
Sea Salt Flakes: Sea salt flakes are the chef's kiss of this focaccia recipe. These are added on top of the focaccia after the dough has been formed and shaped to add both a nice salty taste and a little bit of added crunch.
My preferred brand for flaky salt is the Maldon brand, but any type of flaky salt works for this focaccia.
Water: Focaccia is a high-hydration dough, meaning it has a higher percentage of water compared to other ingredients in the dough. Water is essential for developing the ‘crumb’ or airy bubbles within any bread. A general rule is that the higher the hydration, the greater the crumb and the lighter and airier your bread will be.
Be sure to use warm water (105°F - 115°F or 40°C - 46°C) when you are mixing it with yeast. If the temperature of the water is too high (over 140°F or 60°C), the heat will kill your yeast and the dough will not properly rise.
How To Make This Recipe
This step by step photo guide is going to help you easily make focaccia sandwich bread at home, especially if it's your first time.
With some practice and patience, you’ll be making the best focaccia bread you’ve ever had.
1. To start making your focaccia, add the bread flour and the instant dry yeast to a stand mixer. Be sure you’re using the dough hook attachment.
Turn on the mixer to a medium-low speed, and allow the flour and yeast to mix. You cannot make this recipe by hand, so a stand mixer is essential.
With the mixer still on medium-low, slowly add the water in three batches. Adding the water slowly allows the flour to slowly absorb the water.
You will be able to see when the flour has absorbed all the water if there’s no visible liquid pooling at the bottom of your mixer.
Once the water has all been added in, pour in the sugar.
2. Now that the sugar has been added, begin pouring in the extra virgin olive oil in quarters. Because the oil is slick in consistency, I have found it’s best to pour it into the center of the dough, allowing the dough to absorb it easier.
If you see that the oil is pooling in the bottom of the mixer and making your dough spin around instead of mixing, grab a silicone spatula. With the spatula, carefully scoop and flip the dough, pushing it towards the dough hook. This helps the dough stay close to the hook, allowing it to mix properly.
This step takes both patience and attentiveness. The extra virgin olive oil has to be added slowly for it to absorb into the dough properly.
3. Once the last batch of oil has been added, shake in the fine sea salt and continue to let the dough mix until you see that all the oil has been almost completely absorbed by the dough (the dough will look like it does in photo 3).
Adding salt helps strengthen the gluten net after the fat in the extra virgin olive oil breaks it apart. You should be able to see the dough form together after adding in the fine sea salt.
4. With the dough fully formed, immediately increase the speed on your mixer to high, and let this mix for 1-2 minutes. To know when your dough is finished, you will see the dough wrapped closely around the dough hook, and you should hear a popping sound.
When it's done mixing, the focaccia dough will be smooth but quite sticky.
5. With the dough finished, lightly oil a container with some extra virgin olive oil. Remove the dough from the mixer, shape it into a tight ball, and place it in the container.
A helpful trick I’ve learned when shaping this dough is to put a little extra virgin olive oil on your hands to avoid sticking. Also, work with the dough quickly. The less time your hands are in contact with the dough, the less it will stick.
Next, cover your container with plastic wrap and place it in a warm, draft-free area. Leave it there until it has tripled in size. This should take between 3 and 5 hours.
As tempting as it may be, do not rush this step. Letting the dough rise is essential for getting that lovely airy texture that makes focaccia so appealing.
If you live in a cold environment or it's winter, the dough will still rise but, it may take a bit longer.
7. Once the waiting time is up, generously grease a 12 x 18 inch (30 x 45 cm) sheet pan with extra virgin olive oil. Be sure to coat the bottom and the sides.
Pour the dough out onto the sheet pan and stretch it to fit the pan. When stretching focaccia dough, allow gravity to do the work as opposed to forcefully stretching.
The best way to do this is by gently lifting sections of the dough and holding it up until the weight of the dough stretches itself out.
If, after you’ve stretched it, you notice the dough keeps pulling back towards itself away from the edges of the pan, allow it to rest for an extra 10 minutes or so. After resting, the dough will be less resistant to stretching and you should have no problem making it cooperate.
8. With the dough stretched and your topping prepared, use your fingertips to make indentations in the focaccia dough. Be gentle and make sure you don’t make indentations that go all the way through to the pan.
9. Now, you can move on to the focaccia topping. Whisk together ¼ cup and 1 tablespoon (60 grams) of water and ¼ cup and 1 tablespoon (60 grams) of extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl. Once combined as best as possible, pour the mixture evenly over your focaccia. Then, sprinkle the flaky salt across the top of the dough.
10. It’s time for the final stretch of the baking process. Cover your tray with plastic wrap and allow it to proof in a warm, draft-free place for about 60 minutes, or until it has tripled in size.
For this step, I find it best to set my oven on a low temperature (170°F - 200°F or 76°C - 93°C) and place the bread on top of the warm oven to proof. Be sure you’re placing the bread on top and not inside the oven for this step.
After the dough has tripled in size, it will be full of air. Be cautious when handing the dough at this stage. Avoid bumping or banging the sheet tray on anything or you will knock some of the air out of the dough.
When the bread has almost finished proofing, preheat the oven to 430°F (220°C).
Once the oven is heated, gently peel the plastic wrap off the focaccia tray. Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes until it's golden brown and crispy on top.
11. Remove the bread from the oven and let it rest on a cooling rack, covered with a tea towel. Covering the dough helps trap the heat and moisture, keeping the bread nice and soft when you go to eat it.
It is very important to let your focaccia completely cool down to room temperature before taking it out of the pan. Once cool, carefully remove the focaccia from the sheet tray and cut it into eight large pieces.
When you are planning to eat your sandwiches, slice the focaccia down the middle to form your sandwich bread. Now, you can add whatever sandwich fillings you desire and enjoy.
Focaccia Sandwich Ideas
Here is a list of my favorite fillings for focaccia sandwiches. Feel free to use this as inspiration and be as creative as you please with your own sandwich fillings:
- An Italian classic, mortadella, pistachio pesto, burrata cheese, and arugula is a sandwich you’ll dream about.
- Like a classic BLT but better, you can’t go wrong with bacon, lettuce, tomato, and mayo.
- Another Italian-style filling idea is prosciutto, mozzarella, and tomato. Add arugula for some extra greens to make a delicious combo.
- For a nice, saltier, Italian style sandwich, try using salami, prosciutto, pecorino, and olive tapenade.
- Go for a tasty turkey sandwich, also adding in goat cheese, pesto, and roasted red peppers.
- If you’re a fan of Gorgonzola cheese, combine it in your focaccia sandwich with some prosciutto, arugula, and honey.
- Unless you are planning on eating the focaccia the same day you baked it, I strongly recommend storing the bread in the freezer. If you leave it out at room temperature, the shelf life will significantly lessen, and the more time passes, the worse your bread will taste. Use airtight bags to store your bread in the freezer until you plan to serve it.
- Focaccia sandwich bread is a great ingredient to have on hand in your freezer at all times. If you make multiple batches of this focaccia at the same time, you’ll have an incredible focaccia bread sandwich whenever you need it.
- If you want smaller sandwiches, cut your focaccia bread into smaller pieces. This is great for a party where you want to serve smaller sized sandwiches.
- For more focaccia, check out this list of the best Italian focaccia bread recipes.
This focaccia should be about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick once it's been baked.
This is a dough that takes a lot of patience. When I tested my focaccia recipes, the dough typically took 3-5 hours to rise.
The temperature of your baking environment can affect the rise time. The colder it is, the longer it will take for the dough to rise.
If it has been 5-8 hours and your dough still hasn’t tripled in size, it's likely that your yeast is dead. In this case, I suggest purchasing new yeast and re-making the recipe.
This bread is loved for its light and airy texture. As you are dealing with your dough, be careful not to overwork it, or do anything that may knock out air in the bread.
In the proofing stage, when your bread is rising a second time before baking, the dough is at its most fragile state. Be cautious when handling the bread in this step to ensure as much air stays in as possible.
Lastly, be sure to check that the yeast you used has not expired. Expired yeast can lead to dense focaccia bread because the dough was never able to properly rise in the first place.
When I’m leaving my dough to rise during the bulk fermentation stage (the first rise), I leave it near a sunny window.
For the proofing stage, I will turn my oven on to a low temperature (170°F - 200°F or 24°C - 27°C) and place the tray on top of the oven. This creates enough heat on top of the oven which is the perfect condition for proofing.
Do not place the bread inside the oven during this step.
When you are ready to serve your sandwich bread, set your oven to 350°F (180°C). Then line a baking sheet with parchment paper to place your focaccia slices on top of. Bake for 18-20 minutes to achieve fully warm focaccia with a crunchy exterior.
These reheating instructions work for both frozen or room temperature focaccia.
Focaccia Sandwich Bread
- metal half sheet pan (12 x 18 x 1 inch)
- tea towel
For Focaccia Dough
- Mix bread flour and active dry yeast in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment on medium low speed. With the mixer running, slowly add water in three batches. Allow the flour to completely absorb the water before adding the next batch.
- Combine sugar; mix thoroughly.
- Slowly pour extra virgin olive oil in the center of the dough in four batches. Mix on medium low speed and allow the flour to absorb the oil before adding the next batch. The extra virgin olive oil takes a while to incorporate. Use a silicone spatula to flip the dough over periodically to help the dough hook catch and knead in the oil. Once you’ve added in your last batch of olive oil, add fine sea salt and mix thoroughly until all the oil has absorbed.
- Bump the mixer speed up to high and mix until you heard a popping sound and the dough wraps around the dough hook, about 1 - 2 minutes. The dough will be smooth but very sticky.
- Roll the dough into a tight ball, then place in an oiled bowl roughly three times the size of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm, draft-free place until tripled in size. Rise time will vary depending on the temperature of your environment.
For Focaccia Topping
- Generously oil the bottom and sides of a 12 x 18 inch (30 x 45 cm) sheet pan with extra virgin olive oil. Use gravity to allow the dough to naturally stretch until it reaches the edge of the sheet pan. If you notice the dough pulling back to center, allow it to rest in the sheet pan for an additional 10 minutes, then continue stretching.
- Whisk ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon (60 grams) water and ¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon (60 grams) extra virgin olive oil in a small bowl until combined.
- Use your fingertips to make indentations on top of the focaccia dough. Evenly pour the water and oil mixture on top of the dimpled focaccia.
- Cover sheet pan with plastic wrap and allow to proof in a warm (75°F - 80°F or 24°C - 27°C), draft-free place until tripled in size, about 60 minutes.
- Place oven rack in an upper middle slot. Heat oven to 430°F (220°C).
- Carefully remove plastic wrap from sheet pan without knocking any air out of the bread dough. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes until golden brown and crispy on the top. Place focaccia on a cooling rack and cover with a tea towel. Allow focaccia to cool to room temperature before removing from the pan and slicing into 8 large pieces.
- Slice each piece of focaccia in half so you have two halves for a sandwich. Add desired sandwich fillings and serve.