Gluten free herb focaccia that’s crispy on the outside and light and airy on the inside, with that well-developed yeasty flavor and aroma.
This recipe is worth your (mostly hands-off) time
There is nothing tricky about this focaccia recipe. If you allow me to guide you through it, step by step, and you’ve carved out some time to let it rise, you will be able to make this happen.
Everything is intentional. The ingredients, the oven temperature, the measurements.
Be sure to carve out some time for this recipe, though. You’ll need to let the starter rise until it doubles (about an hour).
Then, you’ll assemble the dough and let it sit for at least 12 hours in the refrigerator. Then, after you shape the dough, it will need to rise for 2 hours or more.
But it bakes pretty quickly, and the rewards are immense. Your house will smell like a bread bakery, in all the best ways…
How to get this yeast bread to rise
We have discussed how to get yeast bread to rise before (see, e.g., our gluten free artisan bread) (indulge me, I’m a lawyer, remember). And I would happily repeat the discussion every time, but it gets tedious for those of you who are with me through thick and thin.
Getting yeast bread to rise almost always comes down to two conditions. They are: proper measurements/ingredients, and time.
The right ingredients…
The simpler I make my recipes, the more important it is to use the right ingredients. If you insist on using Namaste gluten free flour or another blend that I don’t recommend, then your bread likely won’t turn out. You get the idea.
You also absolutely must use tapioca starch/flour. When we removed gluten, we lost something super important to bread.
When I develop a recipe with ingredients that are meant to help replace the function of gluten, you have to use them unless they have an ideal substitute. Tapioca starch/flour does not have an ideal substitute, as it’s unique and provides stretch. That’s amazing for a starch.
You must also measure by weight, not volume, wherever possible. Tiny amounts of things, like herbs, don’t matter as much and can’t be measured by volume without lab-style equipment; even I’m not doing that.
Volume is almost always too imprecise. Even water can be measured by weight, since 1 fluid ounce (volume measurement) of water weighs 1 once (weight). It’s magic!
Once you’ve added your ingredients, you must cover the dough as instructed. Otherwise, the water will evaporate, lowering the hydration ratio.
If you lower the hydration ratio (the ratio of water:flour), you create a much worse environment for the yeast to rise. It’s not your yeast that’s bad, likely, unless it’s out of date. It’s your hydration.
Time and patience
Yeast is active at most common temperatures. It’s even active in the refrigerator. Just be sure the water isn’t evaporating in there!
Do not turn on your oven, turn it off, and then place your bread dough in there to rise. You very well might kill the yeast, and it’s an unnecessary risk.
For the starter, you need to just let it sit. It has a ton of water. It will rise.
For the first rise of the combined dough, in the refrigerator, the amount of rise is not what’s really important. Be sure you don’t lose any moisture by fastening a lid tightly, and just let it sit.
The refrigerator rise is for two things: yeasty flavor development, and absorption of the water into the flours. That allows us to have a higher hydration ratio without sopping wet dough.
For the second rise, you need an actual rise. So cover it, warm it a bit with some sort of ambient heat if you can, and let it be.
You want it to come as close as possible to doubling. It won’t rise much more in the oven. That rise is called “oven spring,” and this gluten free focaccia doesn’t have much oven spring.
You can turn on your oven to a low temperature (around 300°F) and place your rising dough on top of the range. Do not place it in the oven!
This second rise will take some time, and you want to let it rise until it’s dimpled on top. Typically, focaccia has a dimpled appearance since you poke it in places when raw to burst any enormous rising bubbles.
You just aren’t going to find those enormous bubbles here (although you might with the recipe in my Bakes Bread book made with my gluten free bread flour). But the dimples will happen naturally, as the dough rises unevenly.
What is that black thing in the video?
If you look carefully at the video, you might notice a very thin black disk that I place under the dough as it rises. It’s called the Raisenne Dough Riser, and it costs about $70 U.S.
I saw it online, and decided to test it (not sponsored; not affiliated) since it’s not crazy expensive, and the winter months can take a lot of extra patience as we wait for our yeast bread to rise. It isn’t hot to the touch, but it provides a consistent bump in temperature.
The Raisenne is, indeed, lovely for helping dough to rise in the colder, drier months. It’s not necessary, though!
Ingredients and substitutions
The recipe for gluten free herb focaccia is naturally dairy-free and egg-free. You can even make it vegan if you replace the honey with maple syrup or even agave.
I recommend that you refrain from making any other substitutions, though. Its success relies upon the proper ingredients, in the proper proportions, in the manner described in the instructions.
You must use tapioca starch/flour. You cannot use Expandex, which is a chemically modified tapioca starch/flour. They are not interchangeable.
If you don’t have tapioca starch/flour, order some. If you can’t have it, then I’m afraid this recipe isn’t going to work for you.
There is no non-yeast substitute for yeast. But if you don’t have instant yeast (also called breadmaker or rapid-rise yeast), you can use active dry yeast.
To replace instant yeast with active dry yeast, multiply the amount (by weight) of the instant yeast (here, 6 grams) by 1.25 or 125%. Here, that would mean 7.5 grams of yeast. Just add a bit more after you reach 7 grams.
Active dry yeast has a thicker coating around the yeast, so you should soak it in some liquid in the recipe (here, water) until it foams before adding it with the rest of the water.