Perfect Focaccia Bread From Your Kitchen
Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.
James Beard (1903-1985)— James Beard (American cookbook author, teacher, syndicated columnist and television personality)
A few weeks ago I helped you create a perfect loaf of bread. Today we are going to use those same easy techniques to make focaccia.
- a large, round, flat Italian bread.
- a flat oven-baked Italian bread product similar in style and texture to pizza dough.
- a beautiful golden Italian flat bread made of yeast, flour, water, fruity olive oil, and sea salt -- humble ingredients, the sum of which is much more magnificent than the individual parts.
What's in a Name?
Etymologists tell us that the name 'focaccia' is derived from focus, the hearth on which this popular flat bread was baked by ancient Romans. And because of the vast extent of the Roman Empire, panis focacius (hearth bread) spread all around the Mediterranean.
Yes, unleavened breads are even older (think of the Israelites under the thumb of Egyptian royals or manna in the desert), but focaccia, although flat is not an unleavened bread. Natural air-borne yeasts gave rise (literally) to the type of bread we recognize today.
So, Let's Start Baking
If you have read my post on making a perfect loaf of bread, none of this will be surprising to you. But if perchance this is your first thought of making bread at home, I think that you will find this recipe (1) most forgiving and (2) extremely easy and (even) fun.
The Basic Recipe
- dry and liquid measuring cups
- measuring spoons
- 1 small bowl (for proofing yeast)
- large sturdy mixing spoon
- 2 large mixing bowls
- rimmed baking sheet
- pastry brush
- sharp knife and cutting board
- cooling rack
Ingredients for the dough
- 1 cup warm water, divided
- 1/4 teaspoon sugar
- 1 envelope (2 teaspoons) dry yeast (not instant)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil plus additional for greasing bowl
Ingredients to complete the focaccia
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons coarse (Kosher) salt
Directions for making the dough
- In a small bowl combine 1/4 cup of the warm water, sugar, and yeast. Let sit 10 minutes or until bubbly.
- In a large mixing bowl combine flour and salt. Make a well in the flour; add the bubbly yeast mixture, the remaining 3/4 cup warm water, and the olive oil. Stir to combine.
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.
How to Knead Bread Dough
Fold the dough over and push down with the heels of your hands. Give the dough a quarter turn, then fold and push again. Repeat until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Proofing the Dough
4. When you have finished kneading, place the dough in a large, lightly greased mixing bowl. Turn the dough over in the bowl so that the entire ball of dough is greased. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm place, away from drafts.
5. Let the dough sit in this cozy safe place until doubled in size, about 1 hour. One way to test if the dough has risen enough is to lightly and quickily press two fingertips into the dough about 1/2 inch. If the indentation remains, the dough is ready for the next step.
6. Punch down the dough by pushing your fist into the center of the dough. Pull the edges of the dough to the center, and then place the dough on a lightly floured surface. It will be smooth and bubbles will be visible under the surface.
What is Proofing?
Proofing is what happens when you allow the yeast in dough to ferment, thus causing gas bubbles which inflate the dough. Why do we want "inflated" dough? It is the inflation, the formation of bubbles that create a sturdy crust, a tender crumb, chewiness, and flavor. If proofing (rising) does not occur, you will have a flat, and probably very dense and hard loaf of bread--something more akin to hardtack than bread.
Shaping and Baking the Focaccia
7. Brush baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Place the proofed (and punched down) dough onto the prepared baking sheet and pat into a 10-inch by 8-inch rectangle.
8. Brush the surface of the dough the the remaining olive oil; sprinkle with the rosemary and coarse salt. Dimple (indent) the surface of the dough with your fingertips.
9. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until puffed and doubled, about 45 minutes to an hour.
10. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until golden on top. Serve warm.
So, that's the basic recipe. Of course you can omit the rosemary if you desire a very simple, basic loaf.
Or you can add fruit, cheese, tomatoes, meat--whatever you want. Here are some recipes to help you expand focaccia from a simple bread to an appetizer, main dish, or dessert.
Aged Cheddar and Apple Focaccia
Jennifer is a food blogger in Ontario, Canada who loves to share simple, seasonal recipes, that don't take a lot of time but produce the most delicious results. One of her creations is this recipe for focaccia with sweet apples and salty/tangy aged Cheddar cheese. Wouldn't this be perfect as an appetizer with a glass of crisp white wine or some sparkling water?
Goat Cheese, Grape, Rosemary Focaccia
Allow me to introduce you to Jenn. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia and is the creator of this wonderful sweet/savory focaccia. Here is the "About Me" from her blog:
I have a background in food science and nutrition, and started Foodess as a creative outlet during a particularly heavy part of my degree. Science labs and chemistry textbooks were kind of sanitizing my reasons for choosing a food path in the first place: a love of cooking and a life spent obsessing about what I could eat next.
I began my career with a lovely little job developing recipes in a test kitchen and providing technical baking support for a flour company. I now work full time as a blogger, with a bit of freelance food photography, recipe development and food writing on the side.
Main Dish Focaccia
Best Ever Focaccia Pizza
Tessa Arias is everything I want to be when I grow up—she has a culinary degree, over 6 years experience in food writing, a blog, and a published cookbook. And she created this savory, meaty, cheesy pizza-like focaccia.
Beef Puttanesca Pizza
"Puttanesca" is a type of pasta—garlic, and tomatoes (of course), but brightened with the addition of briny capers. Brandy (aka Nutmegnanny) has taken those familiar flavors and plated them on a savory tomato-y flatbread.
Strawberry Focaccia Bread with Cinnamon Sugar
Anjana is located at the corner of "Happy and Harried", a sweet blog filled with crafts, pretty photographs, tasty foods, and sweet treats. She created this Strawberries and Focaccia recipe which I absolutely LOVE. The flavors remind me of a turnover my German-Russian mother baked years ago when I was a child—yeast dough filled with sugar-simmered strawberries.
Questions & Answers
© 2016 Linda Lum