Focaccia is one of the most popular types of bread in Italy, with a long history that reaches distant times of early Ancient Greek culture and Etruscans who lived in North Central Italy before the formation of Roman Empire. This flat bread topped with spices, olive oil and other products was in use for thousands of years, before it was gradually morphed into one of the most famous Italian meals – pizza.
One of the most important ingredients of focaccia was always olive oil, which was added to the top of the dough as a mean to preserve its moisture after coking. After the centuries of use, many regions of Italy have managed to slightly modify original focaccia recipe and adapt them to their regional tastes.
Blog checking lines: For the month of April Rachael of Pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch.
I’ve tried several Focaccia recipes and found a ‘perfect’ one after which I stopped looking 🙂 I hope you like it too.
The recipe requires a bit of time though. First you must make an overnight starter, and then the whole process will still take another ~3,5 hrs.
The recipe makes 2 x 10″ (25 cm) Focaccia breads.
The recipe by Nancy Silverton
For the sponge:
– pinch active dry yeast
– 110 ml/ 3.71 oz/ ½ cup lukewarm water
– 85 g/ 3.04 oz/ ½ cup + 3T all-purpose flour
In a small mixing bowl (preferably plastic or ceramic, – I do mine in a measuring cup), sprinkle the yeast over the water. Set the bowl aside for a few minutes to give the water time to absorb the yeast. Using a spoon, stir in the flour until all of the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Cover the bowl tightly with a sheet of plastic wrap. Set the bowl aside at room temperature (ideally 68-70ºF/ 20-22ºC) until the sponge becomes bubbly and thick, thicker than a pancake batter but thinner than dough, 12-24 hrs. I leave mine overnight.
– 330 ml/ 1 ¼ cups + 2T/ 11.04 oz water
– 12 ml/ 1T/ 0.39 oz olive oil
– Focaccia sponge
– 5 g/ 1¾ t/ 0.195 oz active dry yeast
– 16 g/ 2T + ¾ t/ 0.56 oz rye or wholewheat flour
– 450-500 g/ 3 ¹⁄2 to 4 cups/ 15.87-17.63 oz all-purpose flour, more if needed
– 10 g/ 1T 0.39 oz kosher salt
– 80-100 ml olive oil, for pans
– toppings of choice (optional)
About 3½ hours before you are ready to bake the focaccia, place the water, olive oil and sponge in the bowl of a stand mixer. Fit the mixer with a dough hook and, over low speed, add the yeast, rye flour and 450 g/ 15.87 oz flour. Mix the ingredients over low speed for 2 minutes to thoroughly combine and form the dough. With the mixer running, slowly add the salt, then increase the speed to medium. Continue mixing the dough until it is smooth and well-formed, and starts to pull away from the bowl, 6-8 min. Note that the dough will not pull so much that it “cleans” the bowl, but if the dough is too sticky and is not pulling away from the sides of the bowl at all, add a little more bread flour (a spoonful as needed at a time) to achieve the right consistency.
I prefer kneading my dough by hand. With focaccia it’s a bit hard, as the dough is very sticky, but I just like wirking with dough 🙂 I knead the dough until it comes together, then add the salt and continue kneading another 10-15 min. Actually, with this kind of dough, I’d rather call the process “stretch and fold” than kneading.
While the dough is mixing, lightly grease a bowl large enough to hold the dough when it doubles in size with olive oil. When the dough is ready, turn it out of the mixer into the oiled bowl. Wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap to seal the bowl. Set the dough aside at room temperature (ideally 68-70ºF/ 20-22ºC) until doubled, about 1½ hrs.
With lightly greased hands, acting as if the round has four sides, quickly fold the edges of the dough toward the center. Cover the bowl again with plastic wrap and set it aside at room temperature until it has doubled in volume, ~1 hour (the dough will be puffy and will feel alive, springy and resistant. It will not collapse under the touch of your fingertips).
Pour ~¼ cup olive oil into each of the cake pans (not spring forms!), and tilt the pans so the oil coats the bottom evenly. I had a ∅20 cm and a 20 cm square pans available, so I’ve used a little bit less oil (35-40 ml for each).
Divide the dough into two equal parts, taking care not to deflate the dough in the process. Place the dough parts in the prepared pans and very gently pull the edges just to obtain a roughly round shape. Sprinkle some olive oil over the dough. Cover the pans with a clean dishcloth and set aside at room temperature until relaxed and spread to cover about half of the surface of the pans, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile prepare the toppings (if using). Preheat the oven to 420ºF/ 200ºC.
For this batch I’ve used Italian herbs + kosher salt and pear slices + roasted onions + goat cheese + chopped walnuts.
Bake Focaccia in the preheated oven for ~30 min or until the tops are golden brown.
My other topping options:
Garlic + parsley + basil:
Tomato + olives + basil:
Strawberries + blueberries + honey-balsamic sauce (yes, sweet toppings work just great here!):