Baker: Elaine Boddy

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Excerpt from "Easy Everyday Sourdough Bread Baking" by Elaine Boddy - Photography by James Kennedy.

This holey, pillowy sourdough focaccia is studded with the flavours and colours of autumn, the time of year that I like the best. The spices are added to the dough from the start to build flavour as the dough proves, and the chunks of butternut squash and pecans are added just before baking.

Thus, as the bread bakes, the squash becomes slightly charred on the edges and the pecans toast and get satisfyingly crunchy. I roasted a whole large butternut squash and pureed half of it to make the Pumpkin Spiced and Shaped Loaf; the other half I cut into chunks for this recipe. Other ideas are to roast a large squash for dinner one night, saving 200 grams (7 oz) for this recipe, or to simply roast a small squash expressly for this focaccia.


Step 1: In the early evening, in a large mixing bowl, roughly mix together all the ingredients, except the toppings, nuts and olive oil, until you have a shaggy, rough dough. Cover the bowl with a clean shower cap or your choice of cover and leave the bowl on the counter for 2 hours.

Step 2: After this rest time, perform the first set of pulls and folds until the dough feels less sticky and comes together into a ball. It will feel quite stiff from the spices. Cover the bowl again and leave it on your counter.

Step 3: After another hour, perform one more set of pulls and folds on the dough until it comes into a firm ball, covering the bowl again afterward.

Step 4: Leave the covered bowl on the counter overnight, typically 8 to 10 hours, at 64 to 68°F (18 to 20°C).

Step 5: The next morning, the dough should have doubled in size. Please note that if your spice mix includes cinnamon, this can slow down how the dough proofs so if the dough has not yet doubled in size, allow it more time to fully do so. Once doubled, either use it immediately or if you would like to bake the dough later in the day, place the bowl, untouched but still covered with the proofed dough inside, in the fridge to halt any more growth.

When you are ready to use the dough, take it from the fridge, allow it to warm up, then continue. Prepare your baking sheet by liberally drizzling it with the olive oil. Using a bowl scraper or your hands, gently ease the bubbly risen dough from the bowl onto the prepared pan, being careful not to squash the dough too much. Gently turn it over in the oil so that it is covered completely. Cover the entire pan loosely with a large plastic bag or plastic wrap and leave it on the counter for 1½ to 2 hours, or until it has become puffy and visually doubled in size again.

Step 6: When you are ready to bake, decide whether you would like to bake in a preheated oven or from a cold start. If preheating, set the oven to 400°F (200°C) convection or 425°F (220°C) conventional.

Step 7: Using your fingertips, firmly press dimples all over the dough, spreading it out at the same time until it fills the pan. Push the chunks of butternut squash and pecans randomly into the dough. If you preheated the oven, bake the focaccia uncovered for 20 minutes. If you are using a cold start, place the uncovered pan of dough in the oven, set the temperature as above and set a timer for 25 minutes.

Step 8: Remove the baked focaccia from the oven and let it rest in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes, then ease the baked bread off the pan, transfer it to a board or large plate, cut it into pieces and serve.

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