The Focaccia, (pronounced fo·cac·cia | \fō-ˈkä-ch(ē-)ə\) from the latin focus – fire – is a flat, rustic, but delicious bread originally from Genoa, in the region of Liguria northern Italy, made with very simple ingredients – flour, salt, sugar, water, olive oil and yeast – and cooked over a fire, from where its name derives or in the oven.
Its origins date well back in Ancient Rome, probably invented by peasants due to its simplistic and rustic appearance. In Ancient Roman times, the focaccia one of the original Italian street food, was offered to the Latin Gods, taken during long trips, and eaten by fishermen while out on the sea, as it was not only a versatile bread, it lasted for longer.
In Genoa around the 500 AD, well into the renaissance, the focaccia with olive oil – focaccia all’olio – was consumed at church with wine (the predecessor of the modern communion wafer) especially at weddings.
There are many versions of the focaccia, and each region adds its own seasonal touch. Salty, or sweet, with olives, onions, rosemary, tomatoes, grapes and even chocolate, for breakfast, or lunch there is a recipe for every taste.
From the focaccia a variation was born during Roman times in Naples, known today on every corner of the world as the Italian pizza.
Originally the focaccia is eaten for breakfast, or lunch, but never for dinner. This rule is no longer followed in modern Italy, so now we get to enjoy this pane rustico at all times of the day.
The two most famous recipes for focaccia are the Focaccia Genovese, which is the original, and the Focaccia al Formaggio di Recco, the second most important in the ligurian region where it was born.
Because of its high fat content this bread isn’t recommended for people counting calories. 100g of this bread can easily have 350-400 calories – 30 to 50% more than regular bread. Neither is a bread to eat daily, or you will see the scale picking up those extra pounds. But it’s certainly a bread that is fulfilling, which makes it great for picnics, a day at beach with some mortadela and pecorino or to take along during long hikes.
The secret to Italian food and why it tastes so good is in the ingredients. They must be fresh and of high quality always
My recipe renders a softer, spongier bread than the traditional recipe, due to the extra butter, which makes it a perfect bread for a panino or sandwich.
NOTE: When working in the kitchen we use grams not oz, for accuracy. All or most of my recipes are written with the metric system, using grams, kilograms, liters and milliliters. If a dual scale isn’t available in your kitchen, google can convert them for you. Simply entering 470 g to oz and hitting enter will provide the conversion for this.
For the dough….
470 g of all purpose flour without any additives (no self rising)
5 g of yeast
16 g of sugar
12 g of salt
230 g of lukewarm water
115 g of milk
25 g of extra virgin olive oil (a good authentic one is the organic extra virgin sold at Costco)
20 g of melted butter (pick a good one or make your own and don’t use margarine as it’s not the same) + an extra piece to cover the backing tray. I prefer Kerrygold Irish salted butter if I have no time to make my own.
For the top…
Fresh (preferred) or dried Rosemary leaves to taste
Fiocchi di sale (salt flakes), rock salt or regular table salt to taste
40 g of extra virgin olive oil
Prepare your mixer by attaching the flat beater blade. Add all the flour to the bowl and turn on your mixer to low. Add the sugar and yeast letting the dry ingredients incorporate for a few minutes. Mix water and milk together and add it slowly to the flour in a very thin stream until fully incorporated. Mix the butter and olive oil together. Add it slowly just like you did with the water/milk. Continue mixing until the dough starts showing some consistency or when all the liquids are fully incorporated. At that point turn off your mixer and switch the flat blade for the hook. Add the salt and turn on the mixer to the recommended speed for the hook. Let the mixer work the dough for about 15 – 20 minutes. (Aren’t you glad you have a kitchenaid?!).
After the 15-20 minutes, turn off your machine, remove the bowl and now this is important so pay attention. Do not remove the dough from the bowl. Picture the dough as a square. With a spatula or a wooden spoon, pick one edge of the dough and fold it in the center. Pick the opposite edge of the dough and fold it in. Do the same on the other 2 edges and repeat the process one more time. Cover with a cloth and place in the oven with the light turn on. *If your oven is equipped with an LED light no warmth will be generated. Instead warm your oven to about 50oC (122oF), turn off and place the bowl in for 2 hours.
In the meantime butter a 9″ x 13″ pyrex baking sheet for a thicker bread great for sandwiches or a 11″ x 14″ or larger for a thinner bread, do not add any flour. Set aside.
After the 2 hours have passed, you should have a dough about three times the size, very fluffy and moist. Remove the dough from the bowl with the help of a spatula and place in the baking sheet. Oil your fingers with a bit of olive oil to prevent the dough to stick to your fingers and stretch the dough filling the tray completely making sure it’s about the same thickness throughout. Cover with a towel and place again in the oven for about an hour for a second rise.
After the hour has passed place an oven rack on the lower level and preheat to 180oC (356oF). Oil your fingers and poke the dough gently to create the characteristic indentations or holes in the dough, typical of this type of bread like shown in the picture below. Time to dress the bread. Sprinkle the olive oil reserved for the top making sure to cover all the surface, sprinkle the rosemary and the fiocchi di sale.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the top is golden and crispy. Do not open the oven to check on it. Once done remove the bread from the tray immediately and place on a cutting board. Cut in squares and let cool for a bit before eating.
Ricetta: Make a sandwich with prosciutto ham, provolone cheese, fresh tomato slices, arugula, red onions and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pop in the oven until the cheese melts.