If I’d ask you what was the most amazing bread you’d been eaten on your travels, which one would you come up with? The world-famous French baguette? Polish bagels? Mexican tortilla? South Asia’s naan bread? All great choices. But if you’d ask me, there’s only one answer: Focaccia from Italy.
This Italian staple food is dating back all the way to the Romans panis focacius, a flatbread that was baked over open fire.
Today, focaccia is closely related to the Ligurian coast and a lot of recipes are based on focaccia genovese. Though, as typical with Italian food, there are countless variations of focaccia, the one from Genoa is perhaps the most classic one. It is characterized by the holes on the surface, sometimes filled with rosemary and sprinkled with olive oil and sea salt.
Locally it is eaten both for breakfast and during the day. Across Italy, however, it is not unusual focaccia will be eaten as antipasto or included in the bread basket.
Sometimes, focaccia might be called pizza bianca and it bears some similarities to pizza indeed. That said, focaccia is made letting the dough rise after being flattened while pizza is put in the oven immediately.
Many focaccia variations will be topped with cheese, ham, tomatoes, vegetables, or potatoes. But if you are new to focaccia, I’d recommend starting with the plain classic focaccia genovese.
The below recipe uses dried fact action yeast which I feel works well in most recipes. But of course you can substitute with live yeast if you prefer.
Focaccia Genovese Recipe
650 g all-purpose flour
300 g wheat semolina
10 g dried fast action yeast
500 – 600 ml warm water
5-6 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fine sea salt
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
5-6 stalks rosemary
In a large bowl, combine the flour and wheat semolina. Add one tablespoon of sea salt.
Dissolve the yeast in 3-4 tablespoons of warm water. Add 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the dissolved yeast and 500-600 ml warm water gradually until a slightly sticky dough has formed.
Dust a work surface with some flour and continue to knead the dough for 2-3 minutes. Transfer the dough into a clean bowl and cover with aluminium foil brushed with some olive oil. Let rise until double in size (about one hour).
Oil a baking tin (of about 25×35 cm).
Transfer the dough onto a work surface and start to stretch it until the size of the tin, then line the tin with it.
Cover again with aluminium foil or a tea towel and let rise for another 40 minutes.
Preheat oven to 220°C.
With your fingers, press dimples into the dough.
Mix together 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon coarse sea salt, then drizzle over the dough. Plug rosemary from the stems and distribute into the dimples.
Bake the focaccia for about 20 minutes until golden-brown.
Take out of the oven and while still hot, drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons olive oil.
Serve while still warm or cold with extra olive oil.