If you’ve ever enjoyed freshly baked Italian focaccia straight out of the oven, then you know just how amazing this flatbread is. Focaccia is a flat oven-baked bread that has been made in Italy for centuries. It’s similar to pizza dough but has many more versatile uses. This bread is commonly served as part of a sandwich or enjoyed plain as an antipasto or addition to a meal.
One of the main distinct ingredients is extra virgin olive oil. It is not only incorporated into the dough to create a rich, delicious flavor but also added to the top to preserve the moisture. People throughout the world enjoy focaccia breads today but the most popular recipe comes from Italy.
The History of Focaccia
Focaccia originated from the northern shores of the Mediterranean and has managed to keep its original recipe intact. The exact date of its origin is unknown, but it has become a staple in Italian cuisine. The recipe people use today still incorporates similar techniques and ingredients, so you know you’re enjoying a bread that is authentically made. While focaccia got its start in the north, it quickly gained popularity throughout Italy and Greece. Today, you see this delicious bread just as often in cafes in Rome as you do throughout the rest of Italy.
Italy is famous for its staple foods- pasta, pizza, gelato, etc. People love to taste authentic traditional flavors. That’s why many recipes remain true to their original form with very few (if any) adjustments. Focaccia was the precursor for pizza but because of its unique flavors and baking methods, it remains a staple in the Italian food scene.
Throughout the years, each region of Italy has taken traditional focaccia recipes and added their own twists. Regional cuisines in Italy are incredibly distinct. Focaccia’s base recipe is so versatile that it can really embrace ingredients from across Italy. Traditionally you make it with rosemary, garlic, olive oil, and sea salt. Some regions have introduced sweeter ingredients like raisins and honey. Others have gone the savory route with sun-dried tomatoes and various herbs. Something amazing about Italy is that even with these new flavors, the base recipe always remains the same.
Making Focaccia at Home
The recipe for making focaccia is very similar to making many doughs. It uses flour, water, fresh yeast, olive oil, and salt.
1. Place water in a mixer bowl & melt the yeast
2. Add 70% of the flour at slow speed and incorporate salt and then the rest of the flour gradually
3. Mix for 5 minutes and then gradually add the oil (total mixing time should be ~15 min)
4. Divide the dough into your desired size and brush lightly with EVOO
5. Let these dough balls ferment in a cooler for 24-72 hours
6. Take the dough out when you’re ready and let proof at room temp until it’s double in size
7. Add your dough to a small sheet pan or baking dish, dot the bread*, and then top with oil, any desired herbs, and sea salt
8. Bake until golden brown and enjoy!
*Dotting the bread gives you the distinct look and taste that focaccia is famous for. You create small wells for the olive oil to settle into. Some bakers choose to use utensils but traditionally these holes are made by hand.
Sansone market carries many authentic Italian brands so you can perfect your culinary skills at home. The best flour to use for this focaccia recipe is absolutely Caputo Americana flour. Caputo’s flours are made with love from Naples and are the perfect addition to your recipes to bring the flavors of Italy to your kitchen table.
Best Pairings and Flavors
Some regions of Italy have adapted their own flavors into the dough itself. You will find focaccia in many shapes and flavors. From the traditional recipe to sweet and savory versions, all pairings and flavors complement the original recipe perfectly.
Olive oil and sea salt are the traditional distinct ingredients in focaccia. If you try one of these flatbreads right out of the oven, you can tell how these flavors marry together perfectly. Rosemary is added so frequently that many people consider it to be part of the traditional recipe.
In Northwest Italy, sweet focaccia recipes are incredibly popular. They love to incorporate raisins, honey, and other sweet ingredients and sprinkle it with sugar.
Some regions like to incorporate savory flavors into the dough. Olives, mushrooms, tomatoes, and green onions are all popular and give the dough another dimension of flavor.
Focaccia is an incredibly versatile flatbread. Often enjoyed plain you can find it served in many shapes and sizes. Traditionally focaccia is served as a dinner bread sliced into long rectangles. Other times you might find it served as squares and triangles. Since it is a thicker bread, some chefs opt to slice it in half and use it as the outer layers of a delicious sandwich. The possibilities are endless for enjoying focaccia.
The beauty of Italy is that Italians really understand flavor. In all of their traditional recipes and staple foods, you can tell they respect all ingredients. Every single bread is baked with love and in their purest form, you’ll fall in love with their cuisine.