My first approaches to focaccia were somewhat disappointing, although I didn’t find out about that until much later. Long portions of dry bread dough, covered in indeterminate cheese, in some mediocre pizzeria intrigued me to make it at home, when I still knew little about this marvel of Italian bakery.
Later I learned that a good focaccia should be tender and crunchy at the same time, juicy and aromatic, with a crumb riddled with air eyes. It is a very moist dough in which it is not worth being fussy when it comes to adding oil and getting a little dirty, but it is surprisingly easy to prepare at home and to combine with every type of food.
Emigrated from Italy and popularized in thousands of kitchens, the focaccia comes in the same bag that we have welcomed the baguette, the pizza calzone, the burrata, brioches —although they are French— and paninis.
Perhaps it is not the best recipe to start in the home bakery, although it is not a bad idea to jump into the pool with it. I like using sourdough and delayed fermentations, but Australian chef David Lovett‘s guide encouraged us to try a recipe suitable for novice home bakers, too. Ready in a few hours and without the need to resort to robots or mixers -although they can help us-.
Hands at the table
You just have to get rid of the fear of working with wet and soft dough , and since we won’t have to form any loaf or bar, the final work is greatly simplified. The focaccia basically just needs a proper well-greased pan to give it room to expand on its own, pressing its surface with your fingers, no bannetons or anything like that.
The first time we recommend not getting too complicated with the coverage: you only need good and abundant extra virgin olive oil , some aromatic herb (rosemary is fabulous) and salt. But we also suggest the following ingredients to try
- Dried tomato previously hydrated in oil (it is important that it is hydrated or it will burn). A good idea is to hydrate them at home in our favorite oil, overnight, and use that oil for the focaccia.
- Good quality black or green olives.
- Fresh not very ripe tomato, better if they are cherry.
- Onion or leek sliced not very thin.
- Buffalo mozzarella, queso azul, feta or goat roll.
- Anchovies, ham, pancetta, chorizo, chistorra.
- Roasted pepper, cooked or roasted pumpkin, thinly sliced zucchini…
- Grape, cherries, orange, peach, blueberries…
Combine the flours with the salt in a bowl. Make a hole and add the water with the sugar and yeast. Start mixing until homogeneous , cover with a cloth and wait 10-15 minutes.
Start kneading. As it is a wet dough, you can use a mixer or robot with a dough hook (about 8-10 minutes), or you can do it by hand. It is easier if the first few minutes fold the dough on itself using a lightly oiled scraper. Be careful not to add more flour.
Grease the work table, pour the dough and knead by hand, greasing them from time to time with oil or moistening them with water, working continuously or with short kneading and resting for 15-30 minutesWhen the dough is smooth, elastic and soft , cover it with a damp cloth or kitchen film in a greased bowl, and let it rise until it almost doubles in size. It shouldn’t take more than an hour, but it depends a lot on the yeast, the kneading and the temperature.
Grease well with oil a rectangular tray of about 15×25 cm (approximately) and about 3 cm high. Gently pour the risen dough and spread it slightly without crushing it , extending it from the bottom with greased hands. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it will expand itself. Brush with oil and let rise for 20-30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 250-240ºC. Roll out the dough again very gently, picking it up from below and stretching it out with your fingers, without quite reaching the edges of the dish. Brush it again with oil and make some holes all over the surface, sinking your fingers. Water again with a little more oil and let rest for 10 minutes.
Season with the desired ingredients, without overloading it. In this case, chopped dried tomatoes and Provencal herbs. Press them gently, add more oil and leave to rest again for 10 minutes. Do not let it rise more than 3 cm in height.
Finally season with another stream of oil, add coarse salt and place in the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, lower the temperature to 220ºC and continue baking until well browned, about 15-20 minutes in total. Drizzle with oil as soon as it comes out of the oven, wait 5 minutes, unmold and let cool on a wire rack.Zenker Large Kitchen Bearings and Side Handles for Fine Kneading, Rolling Pin for Baking or Pastry, 1 pc, Natural Wood, Ø6.5x25cm
With what to accompany the focaccia
By itself, a good basic focaccia is already a delight that does not need more than a good beer or any other cool drink, since it is also perfect for an aperitif. It is not the most canonical, but we can serve it with a light meal, as long as it is not pizza or pasta. A cold salad or soup would be the ideal partner to complete a summer dinner, for example. It also seems perfect to serve on a snack menu or on a barbecue. And it even appeals as a late breakfast, brunch or snack.
It is richer the day it is baked , but it lasts well for one or two days, well wrapped and without cutting it completely. If it is reserved, it can be dipped in oil, grilled or eaten with cheese and sausages. Cut into fresh portions they freeze extremely well.