Gael’s Saturday Focaccia: a taste of Vermont, wherever you are

King Arthur Flour – a.k.a. the Baker’s Mecca – is a wonderful place to visit, as tens of thousands of excited bakers every year can testify. At our flagship campus here in Norwich, Vermont, you can take a class, watch our bakers at work, shop, relax in our café (free WiFi, awesome coffee iterations, taste-tempting treats of all types) – and on Saturdays, enjoy a warm slice of Gael’s Saturday Focaccia.

So who’s Gael, and why is her focaccia renowned throughout our small corner of the world?

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Meet Gael Clauson, a 15-year King Arthur Flour employee. A retired speech and language pathologist turned reading specialist (and caterer), Gael works in our Baker’s Store every Saturday – “I hardly ever miss,” she says.

And every Saturday for the past 4 years, Gael has turned out big, warm, puffy-soft loaves of aromatic herbed focaccia, a.k.a. Gael’s Saturday Focaccia.

Gael works in our store’s demo kitchen, where during her day-long shift she’ll typically turn out up to 10 different desserts and breads, as well as soup – all for customers to sample. And this focaccia is a beloved favorite. “People always ask, ‘Do you sell this?’ We could sell 20 of these a week,” says Gael.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

The focaccia’s not for sale, though – it’s sliced into bite-sized chunks and offered to waiting customers. We simply want to spread the joy of baking: the thrill of pulling a perfect loaf out of the oven, and sharing it, still warm, with family and friends.

“When the soup is ready and the focaccia are out of the oven, I make this loud announcement: ‘I’ve got garlic-herb focaccia plus hot soup ready in the demo kitchen!’ ” laughs Gael. “That, with the aroma of the garlic oil, is enough to bring everyone running.”

We suspect only a small percentage of you will ever visit us here in Vermont. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy Gael’s focaccia. Follow along as Gael shows us how to create this enticing bread.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

First, combine the following in a mixing bowl (or the bucket of your bread machine set on the dough cycle, or the bowl of your stand mixer):

2 cups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Stir to dissolve the sugar and yeast.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Stir in 1/2 cup semolina. This adds a bit of warm color and slight crunch, but substitute unbleached all-purpose flour if you don’t have semolina.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Add 4 1/2 cups (19 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour, 2 tablespoons herbes de Provence and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper. Knead the dough — by hand, mixer, or in a bread machine set on the dough cycle — until it’s smooth. It’ll be quite soft.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Gael says, “Your finished dough should be like a marshmallow, very easy to knead. It should clean the sides of the bowl, if you’re using a mixer. If the dough seems too slack, add more flour a tablespoon at a time until it comes together. It should feel moist and soft; tacky like a sticky note, but not sticky.”

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn the dough on all sides to coat with oil. Cover it loosely with plastic wrap.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Put the bowl in a warm place, and let the dough rise for 90 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Gently deflate/de-gas the dough by pressing lightly; no need to punch it, says Gael. Turn it out onto a lightly floured counter; it should feel like a big marshmallow, very pliable.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Lightly grease two 8″ or 9″ round cake pans, and drizzle 1 tablespoon garlic oil or olive oil into each pan, swirling it across the bottom. “The oil will insure that the bottom of the focaccia will be crispy and tasty,” says Gael.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Divide the dough in half and gently shape it into rounds to fit whichever pans you’ve chosen.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Place the rounds into the prepared pans, cover the pans, and let the dough rise for 45 minutes in a warm place.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

It’ll become puffy.

While the dough is rising, preheat your oven to 425°F.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Use your fingers to gently but firmly dimple the dough, making focaccia’s signature little hills and valleys.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Sprinkle the top with herbes de Provence, a bit of coarse sea salt for crunch and flavor, and ground black pepper (if desired). Drizzle with garlic oil or olive oil.

Gael notes, “I use Maldon sea salt, garlic oil, semolina, our all-purpose flour, and herbes de Provence. I tell people if you don’t have those same ingredients, your focaccia won’t turn out like mine. And if customers buy the garlic oil and herbes de provence, they get our ‘Gael’s discount’ at checkout!”

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Bake the focaccia in the middle of the oven for about 30 minutes, or until it’s lightly browned and baked through. It should be brown and crispy on the bottom.

Remove the focaccia from the oven, and turn it out of the pans onto a rack to cool just slightly before serving.

Gael's Saturday Focaccia via @kingarthurflour

Serve with warmed marinara sauce as a dip, or just as is with soup or salad.

Gael says that although customers constantly suggest variations, most decide this original simple loaf is their favorite. Still, if you want a heartier, pizza-like bread, choose any of the following toppings (or whatever strikes your fancy): chopped fresh rosemary, grated Parmesan cheese, chopped Kalamata olives, shredded Asiago cheese, crumbled feta cheese, mozzarella cheese, anchovies, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, or diced red peppers.

Please read, bake, and review Gael’s Saturday Focaccia. Or print just the recipe.

Planning a visit to Vermont or New Hampshire? King Arthur Flour is on the border of those two states, just a stone’s throw from Interstate 91, about 2 hours north of Boston, 2 1/2 hours north of Hartford, CT, or 2 1/2 hours west of Portland, ME. Get directions.

My thanks to co-blogger Julia Reed for the photos illustrating this post.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Laura and Mike Murphy

    We are huge fans of Gael AND her recipes. I look forward to trying this recipe right away. When we visit King Arthur (we call it our “pilgrimage to the mother ship”) for baking supplies or classes, we always head straight for Gael’s demo table to “catch up” and sample her delightful offerings. I might suggest you convince Gael to offer her wonderful Guinness chocolate cake recipe for her next show and tell. Amazing!
    (I always pick up whichever soup mix she makes, and she is kind enough to tell me the wonderful “twists” and add-ins she incorporates).

    Reply
    1. Laura Murphy

      Postscript to June 5–I made this recipe Friday night–turned out terrific! Gael’s Saturday focaccia will now be our Friday focaccia treat. The instructions AND the show and tell photos were a huge help in getting the bread exactly as shown. Thanks again.

    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Anna, I would not recommend mixing and kneading this dough with a blender. If you mean a food processor and you have the proper kneading blade, this should work. Barb@KAF

  2. Gayle Schild, WA

    Sounds Delish, can’t wait to try this one. I love Focaccia bread, and the Restaurant that seved it closed. What a blessing to get this wonderful recipe! Thank you so much, KA, and Gael.

    Reply
  3. Ricardo Neves Gonzalez -Petrópolis,R.J. BRAZIL

    Nice post!
    I ever loved to bake Focaccia and for me it´s among those type of breads that are better to eat the day it was baked. The dissolution of coarse salt on top of the bread contributes to a bad visual the next days it comes out from the oven. I love Focaccia with less hydration,at around 65%.I think that Focaccias when baked with high hydration levels become shaggy and heavy. I´m among those who dream with a visit to Kaf´s Headquarter soon.Meanwhile,i´m happy with this interaction with you through this blog,and now reading a Jeff Hammelman autographed book, Bread Techniques and Recipes,one friend gifted me after he visited you last month!! Thanks a lot!!!

    Reply
  4. Deanna

    In the above recipe I do not see the spices added to the dough, yet they clearly are there, nor are they listed? However, they are in the recipe link so hopefully everyone clicks on that instead or this will be a blender version of the original.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Deanna, in our blog posts we provide a link to the recipe page right under the title photo, highlighted in orange. We do expect that our readers will view the recipe for complete ingredients and instructions, but it’s always good to remind everyone that the recipe is the place to go for step by step instructions and ingredient amounts. Thanks for the reminder! Barb@KAF

  5. Cookie

    I’ve read different articles about semolina being gluten free. Do you think I can make this with KA’s gf flour and be gf?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Cookie, Semolina is a coarsely ground flour that comes from durum wheat and is not gluten-free. While I wouldn’t recommend trying to make this recipe with gluten-free flour, we do have lots of gluten-free bread recipes you might like to try. Barb@KAF

  6. Cynthia Chavers

    Could I use my sourdough starter for this? If so, how would I substitute? I’d like to make this over the weekend!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Use 1 cup discard sourdough starter to replace 1 cup flour and 1/2 cup water in this or any yeasted recipe. You’ll still want to use the yeast! Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  7. Cathy

    we love your store and yes we call it bread mecca now I think I need to make a trip very very soon.
    Cathy

    Reply
  8. sandy

    I have made this bread twice in the past week. The first time we ate it with a pasta dinner (I wrote a review under the recipe section because we enjoyed it so much). The second time I made it (goes together so fast) I made the loaf a little thinner, went really light on the herbs, and baked it. After it cooled, I split the loaf and made a big round ham and cheese panini with it. It was really good and looked nice too. I cut it into wedges to serve toasty hot. The bread had great substance and worked well in the press.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      It would be interesting to do an experiment in your test kitchen. Bake one focaccia and freeze it once it’s completely cooled. Freeze the other focaccia after shaping in the pan, but before the rise. The night before your taste test, thaw the unbaked focaccia in the refrigerator and bake the next day. Thaw the baked focaccia as well and have friends over for a taste test of the two to see which one survives your testing! You’ll be able to have a party for the taste testers and then know which method to follow for the future. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  9. Paige Varney

    I honestly just want to move close to this store so I can make it a regular on my weekly shopping and cafe hanging out list. Can’t wait to try Gael’s focaccia recipe!

    Reply
  10. Kay

    KAF’s Blitz Focaccia recipe is a standard in my house! I make it on Sunday and use it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner during the week. Easy to make and tastes so good.

    Reply
  11. Candace Wishon

    When this is cool, could you cut it in cubes, dry in oven and use for croutons or stuffing? Haven’t made it yet, was wondering.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Yes! Gael’s Focaccia Croutons sound wonderful to have on hand for summer salads. Happy Baking! Irene@KAF

  12. John

    Does Chris Kimball stop by King Arthur from time to time? Just curious, as his outfit is in Vermont also. Are you guys & Chris Kimball rivals?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We like to think of ourselves more as partners in crime, John. Chris Kimball lives on the other side of the state, but we have worked with our friends at America’s Test Kitchen in the past, and we continue to work with some of their staff, like Andrew Janjigian, who teaches at our Baking School. Mollie@KAF

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