Focaccia is the perfect bread for home baking. This simple Italian yeast bread has a thin, crunchy crust from high-heat baking and rich olive oil, and a soft, open crumb. While the basic recipe is simple, you can build upon it to make the focaccia your own. Top with anything from herbs and garlic to pesto and pine nuts. With a few simple ingredients and steps, you can enjoy this flavorful and versatile bread at home.
Focaccia needs a pan wide and shallow enough for the ideal crumb-to-crust ratio; using a standard 18-by-13-inch sheet pan offers the best results for this recipe. Ingredients include 6 ¼ cups bread flour, 10 grams of a leavening agent, a pinch of sugar, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, 5 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil, and flaky sea salt for final touches. For the best focaccia, use a locally sourced organic flour that has both wheat germ and bran. Begin by combining flour with 2 ½ cups room-temperature water and mixing them together either by hand or on low speed with an electric mixer. Then add the other ingredients to the mix, including the leavening agent.
Cover your dough and allow it to rest on its own. Rise times and methods vary, depending on the recipe. However, refrigerating your dough yields the best results as it improves the crumb and allows for a slow fermentation process that will develop a richer flavor. It's best to let your dough chill in the refrigerator for at least 8 to 24 hours.
Remove your dough from the refrigerator. Prepare your pan by drizzling at least 2 tablespoons of olive oil on the pan and massaging it into nooks and crannies with your fingers or a kitchen cloth. Take your dough and, using a large spatula, fold the dough to deflate it. Repeat several times before transferring to prepared pan.
Lift dough onto your prepared pan and fold it over onto itself. Cover your dough with olive oil and allow it to rest for 10 minutes at room temperature. This allows the gluten to relax, giving the moist inner texture you want in your focaccia. Once the dough has rested, pour another tablespoon of olive oil over your dough and gently press done with your fingertips, poking straight down to create dimples. Bake the focaccia immediately after creating the dimples at 450 degrees for 25-35 minutes. You want to achieve a deep, golden color on top and a dark bottom. This allows for the desired crispy exterior.
The longer the rise, the better for your bread. Long rises build richer, deeper flavors. The overnight fridge rise is the sweet spot between quick and easy and slow and steady. However, some allow the dough to rest for up to 48 hours after the initial kneading. This allows flavors to develop and sugars to ferment.
Check in with your dough throughout the process. You want the gluten to develop enough to give a light, spongy texture. However, the kneading steps for focaccia are limited. This keeps the bread from completely deflating. When adding new ingredients, note the differences in texture and moisture, and adjust water content accordingly.
The above recipe did not specify a leavening agent, and with good reason. You have the option of using a packaged yeast or a sourdough starter. Using a sourdough starter requires a longer rise, but gives depth and complexity to the flavor of your bread. Sourdough starter makes your focaccia sturdy and flavorful, while packaged yeast gives a light, mild flavor. It all depends on your taste preference, but a sourdough starter can give your focaccia a pinch of delicious authenticity.
Focaccia was originally intended to be a grab-and-go snack for rural Italians, but it has transformed into a versatile staple in many meals. Consider cutting the focaccia length-wise to make long strips for dipping into hummus and other dips, or cubing focaccia for an easy bite-sized cocktail snack. Focaccia can be eaten alone, but pairs well with a seasonal crudité of fresh veggies. You can also serve with soups or saucy dishes, using the focaccia to sop up other tasty flavors.
Focaccia can be made with any bread flour. It’s great for experimentation. Though regular all-purpose flour will do, consider mixing with other flours to change the focaccia flavor profile. Enkir or einkorn flour is an ancient grain that adds nutty, deep flavor to your focaccia. It is also a good source of protein. Other ancient grains include farro and kamut. Both are wheat species with origins in the Mediterranean and Middle East.
Here’s where you can really get creative. Add any toppings that tickle your fancy. Make the bread herby. Make it savory. Make it sweet. Some popular toppings include olives, rosemary, vegetables, pancetta, sage, turmeric, and other spices. Remember that focaccia is a canvas, and decorate accordingly. Buon appetito!
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