Focaccia is one of the most famous Italian flatbreads.
Typical to Liguria and Genoa in particular it’s often called focaccia al olio or Fugassa in Genoese dialect.
And I bet, wherever in the world you might be, every time focaccia is mentioned this classic Focaccia generously coated with extra virgin olive oil and large coarse sea salt immediately comes to mind.
The word focaccia (pronounced “foh-KA–cha”) has Latin origin. Focus – means fire and Panis focacius literally means “a flatbread baked in the coals”.
Often, with the word focaccia people refer to all its possible variants. However, this term mainly refers to the classic Focaccia Genoese.
It’s about ½ inch thick, a little chewy but still soft inside with a delicious olive oil crust on top and on the bottom. For those of you guys who are serious into baking, traditional Focaccia Genovese has approx. 55% hydration ratio.
Focaccia as it’s known today dates back to 16th century.
Bakers were making focaccia early in the morning, before baking first loaves of bread, to test temperature in the wooden oven and munch on something hot and filling early morning.
But before I get to the authentic Genoese focaccia recipe let’s see some of the popular focaccia bread “cousins”. They are very similar to the staple focaccia but each with its unique characteristic.
You can find its variations all across Italy. Thin or tall, salty, salt free or even sweet; crunchy and oily or soft and friable, with topping, plain or stuffed with cured meat – just to name a few.
Interestingly, ingredients remain mainly the same for all types of focaccia: water, flour, yeast, extra virgin olive oil and salt. Pretty much as those for pizza.
But the recipe, the taste so as as the name changes when you move from one region of Italy to another.
In Rome, for example, it’s lighter and a bit taller (just enough to slice in in half and make a sandwich). Typical to Rome it’s called Pizza Bianca. The best and most classic way to enjoy it is cut in half and make mortadella sandwich (or mortazza).
In Tuscany “focaccia” or better to say focaccia type of flatbread is called schiacciata, ciaccia o schiaccia, which literaly means “pressed” due to its characteristic dimples. It’s less browned on the top and sometime might be even pale-ish with semi-crunchy crust.
About an inch thick it’s perfect for panini.
Both schiacciata and pizza bianca compared to classic focaccia have a higher percentage of water and high hydration results in a softer crumb.
There are also other types out there, less famous but still delicious.
Focaccia Barese stuffed with tomatoes.
Schiacciata catanese (schiacciate di Catania) stuffed with tuma cheese (first salt cheese) and anchovies.
Focaccia or schiacciata messinese (schiacciata di Messina) stuffed with potatoes, broccoli, tuma cheese, tomatoes and more.
Its origin seems to go back to the twelfth century. According to a document thin bread stuffed with fresh cheese was offered to the crusaders leaving towards the Holy Land.
Classic Focaccia Genovese is the mother to all flatbreads. It’s about ½ inch thick, a little chewy but still soft inside with a delicious olive oil crust on top and on the bottom.
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tbsp water
- Sea salt flakes
In a mixer bowl add lukewarm water and yeast.
Let sit for a few minutes until yeast is completely dissolved.
If you’re using a stand mixer use dough hook attachment.
Combine in a mixer bowl malt (or honey), flour, olive oil and salt. Give a quick stir with a spatula or a fork.
Start kneading on low speed. Once flour has been completely incorporated increase the speed and knead for about 10 minutes until the dough comes together around the kneading hook, becomes elastic and smooth.
Add a bit more flour if needed.
Place the dough in a large bowl greased with extra virgin olive oil.
Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and kitchen towel.
Let rise for 1.5 - 2 hours in a warm place (75-80F).
Past that time the dough should double or even triple in size.
Pour extra virgin olive oil on a quarter-sheet (9x13 inch) baking pan.
Let the dough come out from the bowl onto the pan. Turn it over to coat another side of the dough with olive oil.
Using your hands pat the dough down to fit the pan. Try to maintain the same thickness all over the pan.
Cover with a lid if you have a lid that fits the pan or with linen towel and let rise for another 30-60 minutes or until it has doubled in size.
Once your focaccia has doubled in size lightly oil your hands and using your fingers press down the dough to imprint typical dimples all over focaccia bread.
Beat quickly lukewarm water with extra virgin olive oil for salamoia and pour all over focaccia.
Sprinkle with coarse sea salt or sea salt flakes.
Bake in a preheated to 450F oven for 15-20 minutes (preferably in the lower part of the oven).
Once out of the oven brush your focaccia with extra virgin olive to taste.
NOTE 1: You can make focaccia without any tools combining all ingredients as stated in the process about and kneading the dough with your hands.
NOTE 2: Use 1 tsp yeast if you are not sure in the quality of your dry yeast or using it for the first time.
Also, if you need to slightly accelerate rising time of the dough.
TIP: If the dough had risen quickly the first time and you still have plenty of time for the second rise in the pan and before baking it (for example guests coming for dinner) punch the dough down in the bowl and let it rise again before arranging it in the pan.
PRO TIP: Cut focaccia in half and stuff with your favorite cured meat or cheese.
Heaven on Earth 😋