All over Italy, you can find different versions of this famous flatbread.
Sometimes thin and crispy, sometimes thick and fluffy, plain or topped with your favourite ingredient, there is one version for everyone.
According to Wikipedia, the word is derived from the Latin focus meaning “hearth, place for baking.” Focus, in Latin, also means ”fire” and the adjective ”focacius” means ”cooked with fire”. The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or ancient Greeks, but no one really knows where or when it comes from.
Since there is not really a warm spot in my kitchen for my bread to rise in a reasonable amount of time, I usually give it a bit of help. I turn the oven on at the lowest setting (mine is 170°F) and, as soon as it hits temperature, I turn it off and open the door just a bit. This creates a warm environment for the yeast to work its magic.
This is a basic recipe for focaccia but remember, you can top it with anything you like: tomatoes, black olives, herbs, caramelized onions, cheese. The possibilities are endless. A favourite of mine is potato and rosemary, a cousin of a pizza bianca. I often add small cubes of raw pancetta and finely chopped rosemary mixed in the dough. This is a memorable combination.
Remember that focaccia makes the perfect sandwich. Just slice it and fill it with whatever you have on hand: tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella is quite popular in Italy. Fill it with a frittata like I did with my basil, ham and zucchini frittata.
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water
3/4 cup unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 1/4 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for the baking sheet
coarse sea salt
1. Make the sponge: in a mixing bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water and whisk it in. Let it rest for about 10 minutes, until it becomes bubbly. Add the flour and mix with a wooden spoon. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 45 minutes, until it has doubled in size.
2. Make the dough: whisk the yeast in the warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fixed with a paddle attachment and let it rest for 10 minutes, until bubbly. Add the olive oil and mix until well blended. On low-speed, add the flour and salt gradually. Change to the dough hook and knead on medium speed for 6 to 7 minutes, until the dough is formed and does not stick to the bowl.
3. Take the dough out of the bowl and, on a floured surface, finish kneading the dough by hand for a few minutes, until it is soft and does not stick to your hands.
4. Put the dough in a lightly oiled glass bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap and put in a warm place for the first rise (see text), until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
5. Take the dough out of the bowl. Punch it down to remove a bit of bubbles. Stretch it on an oiled baking sheet with your hands until it reaches the edges. If the dough is too tough, let it rest for 10 minutes and stretch again. Cover with a towel and let it rise again for one hour.
6. Just before baking it, make indentations all over the surface of the dough with your fingertips. Brush olive oil all over it and sprinkle with coarse sea salt.
7. Preheat the oven to 425°F and bake on the bottom of the oven until the top is golden, about 30 minutes. During the first 10 minutes of cooking, use a spray bottle and spray the inside walls of the oven a few times.
8. Remove the focaccia from the baking sheet and put on a rack to cool. Eat warm or at room temperature.