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Fantastic Focaccia (Primo Rustic Bread)

Jan 4, 2006 | From the kitchen of Rose

Primo Bread Sponge.JPG

Bread Made with the Sponge Method--Note Even Holes

This fantastic bread is my holiday gift to dedicated bread bakers who either have a sourdough starter, are willing to make one, or to purchase one: (www.sourdo.com).

The source of this bread goes back several years to a visit we made to the Old Sheepherding Co. in Chatham, New York. My cousins Bill and Joy Howe have a second home nearby and were overjoyed to report that at the time Melissa Kelly, a CIA graduate, was the chef and that they had a standing reservation every Sat. night. I fell in love with the place and the food. Subsequently, the pastry chef, Price Kushner, fell in love with chef Kelly and they left to open their own restaurant, Primo in Rockland Maine www.primorestaurant.com

Last summer my husband and I spent a week in Maine attending his radiology conference and i persuaded him to drive to Primo saying it was no more than an hour away. (I fudged a little.)

The restaurant, located in a renovated Victorian house, was exquisitely New-England charming and romantic and Melissa’s food was as always unlike any other and well worth the voyage. But this time there was something extra: THE BREAD. i immediately pronounced it to be the best bread I had ever tasted (which means it was ONE of the best breads because when it ranks up there, it’s the one that’s in my mouth that gets top billing.)

After dinner I sought out Price who agreed, saying it was his favorite as well but he hesitated to give me the recipe saying it required something I didn’t have: A sourdough starter. My reply: “Guess what was the last thing I did before leaving for vacation! I fed my sourdough starter!”

Several months went by and finally I put my pride aside and called Price. Good thing too—he had misplaced my e-mail address. The recipe came that very day and I made it very soon thereafter. (I wasn’t taking any chances—I once held a recipe for 30 years only to find it wasn’t what I thought it would be.) The only changes I’ve made to Price’s recipe is to add the caramelized onion after baking as I found that in my oven it burned on the top of the bread, and I used a 475°F oven instead of 550°F as mine won’t go that high. My husband and I were thrilled with the results.

Now here’s what I love so much about this focaccia: It’s soft, and moist, with big uneven holes inside, a faintly tangy flavor which blends impeccably with the deeply caramelized onion topping, and it stays fresh for up to 3 days. It’s really easy to make—it’s just that you HAVE to have the sour dough starter. I tried to make it with the sponge technique and got smaller totally even holes in the crumb, far less flavor, and it staled the same day it was baked. Price was right! (NOTE: the photo on top with the even holes in the crumb is the bread made with a sponge. The photo below, with the beautiful irregular holes, is the one made with the starter!)

So make, buy, borrow, or beg a little starter and mix up a batch of this wonderful bread. Once a starter is established it only takes minutes once a week to keep it alive. I now add a little to almost every bread I make. Even when not fully active, it adds depth of flavor, better texture and keeping qualities to the bread.

The Perfect Texture--Note the Uneven Crumb

Primo Rustic Bread Slices.JPG

Preheat the oven to 475°F.
Bake for 10 minutes.

Caramelized Onion Focaccia from Price Kushner—Primo in Maine







Active white liquid starter*

about a full 1/2 cup

4.7 ounces

135 grams

water (approx. 80 degrees)

about 1/2 cup

4.5 ounces

128 grams

unbleached all-purpose flour

about 1 2/3 cups

9 ounces

259 grams

SAF Instant yeast

1/4 tsp

0.8 grams

fine sea salt

3/4 teaspoon

4.8 grams

olive oil

1-1/2 Tablespoons

0.7 ounces

21 grams


2 tablespoons

1 ounces

28.3 grams

For the Filling







caramelized onion

3 tablespoons

about 1 ounce

33 grams

For the Topping







olive oil

about 1 teaspoon

coarse sea salt

about 1/8 teaspoon

chopped fresh rosemary to taste

Baked Size: 10-1/2 inch round by 1-1/2 to 2 inches high

Mix starter, water, flour and instant yeast together.

Mix with dough hook on low for 5 minutes.

Cover and rest dough 20 minutes.

Add salt and mix in on medium 1 minute.

Add water and olive oil slowly until incorporated.

Mix on high (#8 Kitchen Aid*) 3 minutes (dough was 81°F) was 568 grams/ 20 ounces—very smooth—very tacky—almost cleans bottom of bowl.

Let dough ferment in oiled 2 quart container covered for 2 hours til doubled. (was 83 °F in kitchen)

Turn dough onto well floured bench.

With oiled hands, push dough out to 1/2 inch thick (9 inch squarish shape)

Transfer dough onto well-olive oiled parchment paper (I used doubled over and sprayed with non-stick vegetable spray, and set on an open sided baking sheet)

Push dough out again to 1/2 inch thick.

With oiled hands, lightly oil top of dough and cover.

Proof for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. It will be 10” x 10” x 1” (meantime preheat oven, with baking stone set toward the bottom--to 475°F at least 1 hour before baking) I also preheat a cast iron griddle or pan on the floor of the oven.

Dimple dough with oiled fingertips.

Sprinkle with rosemary salt and oil.

Slide dough still on the parchment onto the baking stone and quickly toss a handful of ice cubes into the preheated cast iron pan.

Bake until pale golden brown—about 10 minutes.

Strew with the caramelized onions.

Cool on a rack.


You will need 33 grams/a generous 1 ounce/3 tablespoons for each.







olive oil

2 tablespoons

yellow onions

3 medium or 2 large, halved, then sliced 1 millimeter thin
3 1/2 cups

1 pound

454 grams


1/4 teaspoon


1/8 teaspoon

black pepper, freshly ground

1/8 teaspoon

In a large, heavy skillet, over low heat, heat the oil until hot. Add the onions and sprinkle with the salt, sugar, and pepper. Cover tightly and cook without stirring for about 45 minutes, over the lowest possible heat. The onions will be soft and will have released a little liquid. Raise the heat to medium, and cook uncovered, stirring often, until all liquid has evaporated and the onions become deep gold in color (preferably leave on low and continue cooking for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally). (You will have 3/4 cup / 5 ounces / 134 grams of onion mixture.)

*To turn a stiff starter into a liquid starter:

Morning before, feed 30 grams (about 1 oz.) with 30 grams (about 1 oz.) water and 20 grams (about 0.7 oz.) flour

that night (12 hours later) feed it with 40 grams (1.5 oz) flour and 40 grams (1.5 oz) water

Next morning it will be filled with bubbles and about 1-1/2 times in height (use 135 grams/4.7 oz. of this starter)

For those interested in the “Baker’s Percentage”

Baker’s %

water: 68.5%

oil: 6.4%

salt: 1.35%

added yeast: 0.25%


Rose Levy Beranbaum
Rose Levy Beranbaum in reply to comment from Rob
08/19/2015 09:15 PM

Rob, the liquid starter is half water which means that the total water in the recipe is 128 + 67.5 + 28.3=223.8

the total flour: 259 + 675=326.5

326.5 divided by 223.8 = 68.5%


Deaar Rose
You give the Baker's Percentage for this Focaccia as:
water: 68.5%
oil: 6.4%
salt: 1.35%
added yeast: 0.25%

According to the ingredients in the recipe it should be:
Unbleached all-purpose flour 100
Active white liquid starter 52.12
Water 49.42
Oil 8.10
Salt 1.85
Added yeast 0.30
Total 211.79
Please correct me if I am wrong
best regards


Thanks Rose...just wanted to make sure I wasn't missing something!


you're right charles! the crust should have been darker. i was so thrilled with the crumb and flavor i didn't mind. of course i wouldn't make it as dark as a rustic hearth loaf with crisp crust but it is paler than it should be.


This bread has a very pale crust; since normally the bread is better the darker the crust, why have you chosen to keep this one light?


Woody Wolston
Woody Wolston in reply to comment from Tina
05/ 7/2013 06:11 PM

Hi Tina,
We ask is the first time you have made this recipe?
If it is, we suggestion you try making it again and bake it a few minutes longer.
Rose & Woody


Hi Rose, I follow your instructions but the the middle came out looking undercooked but it does have that crust. I am not sure that to do to fix that.
Please help. Thanks!


darn if this foccacia doesn't look good. just got done baking panetonne and sourdough whole wheat bread w/flax seeds. now, i've got to gear up and make this because i love stuff made with sourdough.

those of you looking for a starter, google "carls sourdough starter" and you'd get a way to send for a free sourdough starter (cost of 2 postage stamps). it's freeze dried and it comes with an instruction on how to bring it back to life.


Focaccia is my favorite European bread because I can do it so well at home. And the pictures below makes me make some immediately and use up some of my frozen caramelized onions made with superb local sweet onions (Maui, Wailua, etc).

My dearest friend Kathy, photographer, assistant, and food critic, is in Portland/Oregon for the week and shares these pictures about bread and baking heaven. I see a strong European (mostly French and Italian) influence, as most every gourmet bakery in the USA is!

Enjoy (and I hope you find this relevant to focaccia baking)...



Martin, the instructions are on the recipe above. At the end says how to make liquid from solid. You are going to love the TASTE of this focaccia.


Marti Cummings
Marti Cummings
04/28/2008 05:44 PM

When making the Focaccia Rustico Primo how much starter should you use if it is not in liquid form? I have a starter that I love and feed and use once a week.



Theresa, are you following the recipe on the top of this page? (Rose's recipe with sourdough starter). If so, it is simpler than what it reads. Or are you using the recipe sans sourdough starter?

With starter, follow the recipe resting/rising times, and in a nutshel this is the order of events: The recipe says to first mix all first 4 ingredients (active liquid starter, water, flour, and yeast). Then you add the next 3 ingredients: salt, then olive oil, and water. Then, top (dimple) with topping (olive oil, salt, rosemary). Bake. Add the caramelized onions.

You may have gotten confused at the bottom of the recipe when it says how to make your active liquid starter?

Good luck, it is a winner, and I am already craving it, in spite of having eating so much of it for near 2 months since I made a huge batch and froze/reheated with ease for that long!

Here pics, and previous post:

Here is the focaccia. I like to eat it at room temperature of slightly warm, but not hot. Placing it on my 'turned on' ceramic/copper fondue pot kept the temperature right through the party. Enjoy.



I;m making focaccia i just don't under stand if i am to mix the dough and the sponge together please help


it's in the bread bible which you can take out of the library or do a google search for sour dough starters.


jacqueline Dunn
jacqueline Dunn
09/13/2007 12:15 PM

I too would like to try and make the focaccia bread but have no starter and no one to beg borrow or steal from. I notice that you do say "make it " but dont give a receipe, do you have one? Could you please share it ? Thanks in advance Jacqueline



I really want to have a go at this foccacia, it looks so delicious. The starter is where I'm stuck. Can you make your own starter? I told my husband about starter and he told me that he remembers his grandmother making bread using a starter which she made herself. She would feed it with flour and water. Passed away at 96 years young. Thanks in advance to anyone who can help. Veronica from Down under. PS good on ya Patrincia for putting that bloke back in his place.


the "normal BB foccacia" doesn't have sour dough starter which makes it more acidic=bigger holes.


Hi there. This dough's water percentage is much, much less than the normal Bread Bible foccacia. Because of this, I would think that it would also be much less light and airy. Can anyone who's made both versions comment?


the posting about whole wheat bread earlier somehow got connected to a MITCH and his resume ....

this is bill ... the amateur baker in tacoma wa.


George, I think the loyal following you'll find on this site is ample proof of Rose's credibility. Browse around the comments and posts and you'll find a multitude of people who have used Rose's books and techniques with stellar results. In fact, after years of success with her methods, I often apply them to other people's recipes! I think if you give her a try, you'll find that the proof's in the puddin', as they say (or the pie, or the cake, or the bread). Rose knows.


Great job, Patrincia! There's no cookbook author I trust more than Rose. She is a scientist in her methods!


I just wanted to set the record straight.


George - Rose's Bio (Copied from this site):

Rose has been called the “Diva of Desserts" and “the most meticulous cook who ever lived." And add this recent accolade — “If ever there was a cookbook author who could place her hands on top of yours, putting you through the proper motions, helping you arrive at just the right touch, Beranbaum is the one."

Rose’s first book, The Cake Bible, was the 1988 winner of the IACP/Seagram Book of the Year and the NASFT Showcase Award for the cookbook that has contributed most to educating the consumer about specialty foods. A culinary best-seller, The Cake Bible is currently in its 34th printing.

Rose’s Christmas Cookies, was the 1990 winner of the James Beard Best Book in the Dessert and Baking Category. The Pie and Pastry Bible, published in 1998, received many kudos including: Food & Wine Books “Best of the Best: The Best Recipes from the Best Cookbooks of the Year" and Coffee & Cuisine “Best Cookbook" award.

Rose's newest and most comprehensive book, The Bread Bible, was the 2003 winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in the Best Bread Book Category. It was listed by Publisher's Weekly and Food & Wine as one of the top ten books of 2003, and by Fine Cooking as one of the top 12. From quick breads, such as muffins, biscuits, and scones, to yeast breads, such as seeded wheat breads, Jewish rye, baguette, and brioche, this is a collection of her favorites, with innovative techniques that will guarantee making a successful bread baker of anyone who so desires.

Rose is currently writing a comprehensive four color book on cakes for Pam Chirls, Senior Editor at Wiley. She has also recently launched a new product line, Rose Levy Bakeware, and is spokesperson for Lékué Silicone Bakeware, a Spanish-based manufacturer, both distributed by Harold Imports.

A luminary in the world of food writing, Rose is a Contributing Editor to Food Arts Magazine where “Rose’s Sugar Bible" (April 2000) received two prestigious awards: The Association of Food Journalists Award for the Best Food Feature in a Magazine and The Jacob’s Creek World Food Award for Best Food Article. She is also a contributor to The Washington Post, Fine Cooking, Bride's, Reader's Digest, and Hemispheres. Rose has been inducted into the James Beard Foundation/D'Artagnon Who's Who of Food and Beverage in America.

An internationally known food expert, Rose also has been a featured presenter in the highly regarded Melbourne Food & Wine Festival and the Oxford Food Symposium.

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george rezany
george rezany
08/23/2007 06:01 PM

rose what qualify you to give advice on baking I read your book the bread bible and i found many things contradict calvel ( the taste of bread ) jeff hamelman = a master baker
so tell me why should I follow your advice and buy your books seriously i find people that write books with little knowledge= cheating ty


paul, the name of your grissini is just great. so glad you got the bread bible as you are in for many adventures!


divide all water in recipe including any in starter if using by the total amount of flour including any in starter


Paul R. Mosso
Paul R. Mosso
02/28/2007 09:39 AM

Rose, Regarding "Baker's Percentage",
how did you calculate the water
percentage to get 68.5 percent?
I'm planning to try your recipes--the
pictures look great so the bread must be
great also. Regards, Paul R. Mosso


thank you susan!
i have always loved these plates but for you, having a danish grandfather, of course they have meaning beyond their beauty.
when i visited the factory in copenhagen they also sold paper napkins of the same design. i've long since used them and wish they would sell them in this country.


Rose, your book has been such a help to my breadmaking. It truly is my "Bible" and whenever I want to make ciabatta it is your recipe I use -- even though there is a recipe in many of the other books on my shelves. Anyway, I just now noticed that you have Royal Copenhagen dishes and I do too. Aren't they beautiful? Mine were shipped by my grandpa in big boxes full of excelsior when he returned to Denmark in the late 1950's. Just wanted to tell you that for some reason...


Alison kindly gave me permission to post this comment about the rosemary focaccia:

"I left a comment a couple of days ago about my Rosemary Foccacia disaster and I asked your advice for my next attempt. I just made the foccacia today using your comments; unbleached flour instead of bleached flour, process for about 25 minutes and I added just a little under 3 tablespoons extra flour at the end. Your advice was spot on, the dough looked like a shiny ball while mixing, and then stringy mozzarella once I stopped the KA mixer. I know that many other people have left comments with similar disasters and I just wanted to let you and others know that those little changes made all the difference."


yikes!!! i can't believe i wrote that. it almost sounded like one is supposed to bombard the poor dough with ice cubes! the blog demons must have been out that day in force. what i meant was toss a handful of cubes into the preheated cast iron pan. it would indeed be risky to throw them on the stone and uttery counter-productive to toss them on top of the dough!thank you so much for noticing! i've correct it on the blog. now i hope you'll try the recipe!


The ice cubes confuse me a little. Tossing them onto the dough or the pizza stone seems risky, at the very least, and it's not clear where besides the skillet one could "toss a handful" of cubes...



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