Focaccia bread is one, if not the most, famous of Italian flatbreads. The word focaccia (pronounced “foh-KA–cha”) has Latin origin. The translation is “baked in coals”. Many believe that pizza evolved from focaccia and came later.
There are many kinds of focaccia in Italy which vary in terms of toppings, stuffings, sweetness, etc. but the most classic and familiar is the version made in Liguria and its capital Genoa. It’s about 1/2 inch thick, a little chewy but still soft and spongy inside. It’s generously coated with extra virgin olive oil and coarse sea salt that helps create the perfect crust. For those bread geeks out there, traditional Focaccia Genovese has a 55% hydration ratio.
Focaccia has many variations which is typical of Italy. Most of us mainly have had experience to the classic Focaccia Genoese or Fugassa in the Genovese dialect.
Focaccia as it’s known today dates to at least the 16th century. Bakers made focaccia early in the morning, before baking first loaves of bread, to test temperature in the wood fired oven and munch on something hot and filling early in the morning.
Though ingredients remain basically for all types of focaccias: water, flour, yeast, extra virgin olive oil and salt. Pretty much the same as those for pizza, there are a couple of variations worth mentioning. The names change as you move from one region of Italy to another.
- In Rome, it’s lighter and a bit taller (just enough to slice in in half and make a sandwich). In Rome it’s called Pizza Bianca.The best and most classic way to enjoy it is cut in half and make a mortadella sandwich (or mortazza).
- In Tuscany“focaccia” is called schiaccia, which literally means “pressed” because of its characteristic dimples.
There are also many other types out there, less famous but still delicious. One of my favorites:
- Schiacciata con l’uva in Tuscany with often a slightly sweetened dough topped with fresh wine grapes. A recipe follows.
I’ve included 2 similar recipes for the classic Genovese version. The first made the same day and the second a slow rise/no knead version. Both are delicious but the slow rise gives the dough a chance to develop more flavor.
Slow rise/no knead breads were made popular by Jim Lahey, owner of New York’s Sullivan Street Bakery, in his book My Bread which completely changed bread making in America for home bakers, making bread baking simpler and pretty foolproof. His no-knead bread recipe is still one of the most popular that the New York Times ever offered.
BASIC FOCACCIA GENOVESE
SLOW RISE/NO KNEAD FOCACCIA
GRAPE AND ROSEMARY FOCACCIA
Schiacciata con l’uva
SPAGHETTI WITH BREADCRUMBS
PANZANELLA WITH MOZZARELLA
This article was published in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat on 9-22-21