This easy autumn focaccia with apples, sage, and hot honey is the perfect way to start getting confident in baking bread. It’s a seasonal riff on my easy olive and lemon focaccia. It only takes about 20 minutes of hands on time (with NO kneading!) to make, is very forgiving, and most of all, it’s incredibly delicious. The topping is full of autumn flavor with very thinly sliced apples and crispy sage, sprinkled with flaky salt and drizzled with hot honey. The result is a focaccia that’s the perfect balance of salty and sweet, with just a hint of heat. It’s a super easy intro to bread baking, and the perfect recipe for beginner and seasoned bakers alike!
What is focaccia?
Focaccia is a flat-type bread originating from Italy, originally baked in an oven. There are several different variants of focaccia. However, it can generally be recognized by its dimpled surface and thick, flat shape. It is made with olive oil, which helps to give it a very soft and springy crumb. It can be made plain, sprinkled with coarse salt, or with toppings such as olives and tomatoes.
You can enjoy focaccia by itself, dipped in some balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. My favorite way to eat focaccia is to use it for sandwiches, and to fill it with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, and homemade pesto. For this particular focaccia, it’s fantastic as-is with an extra drizzle of hot honey.
Tools you need to make this autumn focaccia
One of the awesome things about focaccia is that it doesn’t require any special equipment like a stand mixer. All you need is a bowl to mix the dough in, and a high-sided 9×13″ rectangular baking pan. You can also use a large 12″ cast iron skillet. I prefer to use a baking pan, since I like to use this focaccia for sandwiches.
I also recommend using a kitchen scale. While using weight measurements are not as common in the USA, it’s a far more accurate way of baking, and the best practice for making bread. I have provided both weight and volumetric measurements, but you will get the best and most consistent results if you weigh your ingredients. Plus, fewer dishes to wash!
This recipe has been tested many times using weight measurements, so if you choose to use volumetric, please be aware that you might achieve different results.
To slice the apples, I recommend using a mandoline slicer or a very sharp knife. Be careful of your fingers!
Homemade hot honey
You can absolutely purchase prepared hot honey, but it’s also super simple to make at home. Simply heat your honey in the microwave for 30 seconds or on the stovetop until it is very runny. Add some red pepper flakes of your choosing, mix, and let sit for about 30 minutes to infuse. I love to use Aleppo pepper flakes, but you can use anything you like. You can also try using fresh jalapeños or other hot peppers for different flavor profiles!
Let’s talk yeast
Most new bread bakers find yeast to be intimidating, but have no fear! Yeast is super easy to use once you understand it. If you’re new to baking, I recommend you read my explanations of the different types of yeast in this post. For this recipe, we will be using Instant Dry Yeast.
How to make this focaccia with apples, sage, and hot honey
Making this focaccia couldn’t be easier. First, we mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. Then we perform our strength building folds. This is actually an alternative to kneading commonly used in sourdough baking. By stretching the dough, we build gluten strength in the dough, which helps give us that flight and airy crumb structure that we want. We will do two types of folds: stretch and folds, and coil folds. Because this focaccia calls for a cold proof, I like to start it at night, around 7 or 8 PM, so I can cold proof it in the fridge overnight and bake it in the morning.
To do the first stretch and fold, grab one edge of your shaggy dough and pull it upwards towards you. Give it a little wiggle so it does not rip while you do this. Pull the dough over the middle. Grab another section and repeat this stretch and fold until you have gone all the way around the dough and it resembles a large dumpling. Let rest for 5 minutes.
Next up are our coil folds. We will do two sets of them. Coil folds are my favorite because they develop a lot of dough strength, and help to even out the air bubbles in the dough to create a lovely crumb structure. To perform a coil fold, gently lift the dough with both hands from the middle until one end releases from the bowl. Gently lower the dough to allow the loosened end to tuck under the middle, and repeat with the other side. The dough should now look coiled over itself, kind of like a chocolate croissant. Repeat this process until your dough has built enough strength that it easily holds its shape during the coil fold process, and feels aerated and smooth. Rest for 5 minutes, before performing one more set of coil folds.
After your coil folds, your dough should look very smooth on top, and be able to hold its shape.
Then we let the dough proof at room temperature for about an hour, before cold proofing it in the fridge overnight. A cold proof slows down the yeast so that it doesn’t rise too much, but helps to develop flavor. The next morning, we’ll let the dough come to room temperature, dimple it, top it, and bake it!
Troubleshooting this autumn focaccia
Bread baking can be a little more finicky than other types of things, but that’s no reason to fret! Here are some common issues with using yeast, and how to fix them:
My bread isn’t rising
This usually comes down to two factors: temperature, or your yeast. If your home is particularly cool, you may need to proof your dough in a TURNED OFF oven with the light on, or another warm spot. You may need to let it rise for a bit longer if your kitchen is on the cooler side. If you are using dry active yeast, this could also mean that your yeast is dead, or losing potency.
My bread is rising too fast
This is also usually due to temperature. If you live in a very warm place, this can make your yeast hyper active and rise very quickly. To combat this, mix your dough with cool water, and keep a close eye on the dough. If it doubles in less than an hour, that’s perfectly ok: just put it in the fridge early. Remember, the fridge is your friend, and you are in charge of the yeast, not the other way around! A big part of bread baking is being flexible and adjusting to your environment as needed.
My dough is really sticky
The dough for this recipe is a little sticky at first, but will stop being sticky as you perform your strength building folds. Whenever you work with dough, I recommend always handling the dough with damp hands, as this prevents the dough from sticking to them. Do not use floured hands, as this can introduce too much extra flour to the dough and make it dry.
How to store this autumn focaccia
After the first day, this focaccia keeps well in the fridge, wrapped tightly, for about a week. Simply reheat in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes before enjoying, or toast under the broiler.
I hope you give this Autumn Focaccia with Apples, Sage, and Hot Honey a try! Be sure to tag me on instagram so I can see your bakes, and leave me a comment below! Your feedback helps other bakers who are giving this recipe a try, and I love hearing about your bakes!