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The classical Focaccia Genovese proofs three times.

  1. First in bulk (right after partition if making more than one)
  2. Then flattened and topped with coarse salt in order not to let a film form that would prevent the dimples later.
  3. Apply a water/oil mixture, make the dimples and in case some topping and let it raise again.

Edit: in the first two phases the dough rose, that's why I think the yeast itself and its activity were OK.

At this point, as I needed a freshly baked focaccia on the next day when I didn't have time for 1--3, I decided to refrigerate at 5 Celsius. The pan had walls higher than the dough, so there was a gap between the focaccia and the film covering the pan.

On the day in question, I took the pan out of the fridge and let it warm up in the oven with the light on.

The time I waited was of course longer than the one I'd let for phase 3 above, but this time just didn't rise much and, at baking, became very thin and dry (considering the embarrassing amount of oil inside the dough that's quite annoying :))

So question one: can it be that, since I forgot to remove the film, the dough just didn't get warm enough to rise before baking? That is my guess but it looks like the onion part raised OK.

Back to the embarrassing amount of oil inside a focaccia genovese, can they be the cause of these unaesthetic albeit totally safe white dots that showed up during baking? enter image description here

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  • A guess would be that it either over proofed in the fridge, or the salt you added killed off the yeast activity.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jan 30 at 11:41
  • the first two phases were OK, that's why I think the yeast itself and its activity were OK. Let me add this to the text for better readability
    – David P
    Jan 30 at 11:44
  • ...can't see it well, but the white dots are likely the result of pre-salting.
    – moscafj
    Jan 30 at 12:01
  • @DavidP - but then you went on to add salt, and proof overnight. Both of these could cause potential problems. Overnight in the fridge is OK generally, but often you often need to use less yeast in the dough, otherwise it will over proof even in the fridge. Also salt in sufficient concentrations will kill yeast. It would be better to add the salt just before baking to avoid this risk.
    – Billy Kerr
    Jan 30 at 12:38
  • the reason for this salt in the original recipe was to avoid the formation of a crust between 2) and 3) and make it easier to dimple. Since the dimples were made on day 1, I thought it'd make sense to salt.
    – David P
    Jan 30 at 16:44

2 Answers 2

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I am guessing that this is a dough formula that contains a proportion of yeast that is designed to be appropriate for a relatively quick rise (a few hours). Even though you chilled your dough, the activity doesn't stop entirely. My hypothesis is that your focaccia was simply over-proofed. Especially if you've had success before and this was the only variable you changed. Also, as I mention in my comment above, the white dots are simply from the salt. Some (or all) dissolves on the surface. Then, when baked, because of dehydration, you see the salt spot. Just like if some salt water stayed on your countertop until it dried, leaving behind the salt residue.

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  • so you're saying the dough reached its maximum proofing during the fridge time and then collapsed causing the very thin spots you can see in the final product? A more naive guess (and the original one of mine) would be that the fridge was so cold it really stopped all the activity and the dough didn't manage to raise at all.
    – David P
    Jan 30 at 22:41
  • You don't provide your formula. I am assuming yeast rather than a starter, and further assuming an amount of yeast that would be designed to act rather quickly, since your typical recipe is to bake within hours, rather than the next day. So, yes, my hypothesis is that the yeast activity reached its potential before you decided to bake.
    – moscafj
    Jan 31 at 12:17
  • the amount of yeast is the same that makes the whole process ready in few hours yes. I'd say then the fridge was too warm in order to slow down the yeast activity in the given (long) time window.
    – David P
    Jan 31 at 15:26
  • and "parking" the dough in the fridge for a few hours only may still work if you need to buy some hours within the same day, wouldn't it?
    – David P
    Jan 31 at 15:28
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To the question about rising: there isn't enough information to answer it.

To get good bread texture, you have to bake the dough when it is well-risen. It doesn't matter how you get there, there are many combinations of time and temperature which will work. But it has to be neither under- nor overproofed, and the yeast has to be active at the time it goes into the oven, i.e. not overly cold. And the effect of these problems can be quite strong in a bread like focaccia, with high hydration, and a low crumb-to-crust ratio.

From your explanation, it is not clear what happened. You are wondering whether the dough was too cold, but the dough being overproofed or underproofed are equally likely explanations, and maybe even overbaking as a fourth, in conjunction with the rather thin shape. If you were not able to diagnose one of those problems at the time the dough went into the oven, we will never know which one it was. And even if we were to pick one as being more likely than the others, trying to retroactively pick a single cause for it would be futile.

To the question about the oil and white dots: again, not enough information

I am not sure what "dots" you are referring to. The surface of the bread does look a bit mottled on the picture, but I suspect that in reality, these things look more like bubbles-which-became-solid and not like white dots. If you mean these, they are indeed somewhat related to the oil, but I would hesitate to call it the "cause" - it is more that the combination of bad proofing and high fat resulted in something closer to a huge cracker than to a bread, and the bubbles were created by the proofing process, while their hardness is indeed related to the oil. But to say that the oil "caused" them would be misleading.

The second candidate I see in the picture for "dots" is that the wells of the dimples are much lighter. This is very normal for a focaccia baked to such a dark stage, and again the oil is part of the mechanism, but not a single clear-cut "cause".

While I don't see anything more in the picture, it would be so uncommon for me to refer to these first two as to "white dots", that I am wondering if you happened to have something else there, like spots of unhydrate surface flour or overdried crust, which stayed visually white after baking and became very visible in contrast to the very dark crust. If it is one of those, it is not related to the oil.

To the question you didn't ask outright: what you can you do differently next time

Start paying attention to what well-risen dough looks and feels like. Whenever you decide to follow a rising regime that differs from a tried-and-tested one, use your knowledge to bake the dough at a time at which it is in the proper proofed state. Any attempt to predict from first principles what you will get you there ('if I leave a hole in the foil, it will be perfect in 2 hours, if I don't, I will need to wait 3 hours 20 minutes') is doomed.

As for the amount of oil, it is unlikely to contribute to anything that can be seen as a spectacular failure. When you have started proofing and baking in a stable process which gives you reproducibly well-baked results, you can start experimenting with different oil amounts to fine-tune the texture to your taste.

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  • I know it's futile mental cinema but I'd like to point out that at all phases dough felt and looked OK. Right after the fridge didn't notice any rise (whole point of the fridge!) but did notice some after about 1hr in the oven with light on. More or less as much as there is if I let it rise again at phase 3
    – David P
    Jan 30 at 11:57
  • Other notes about the oil. I'm not trying to change the recipe. Just wondering why the "dots" don't happen when proofing and baking again at phase 3. This is why I think the cold has an effect.
    – David P
    Jan 30 at 11:59

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