Made-from-scratch Focaccia topped with rosemary and garlic is simple yet delicious. Photo by Getty Images/Anna_Shepulova
Focaccia is a simple flatbread that, like pizza, varies in its ingredients and toppings from one region to another in Italy. According to Carol Field, author of The Italian Baker, as the Roman Empire extended through Western Europe, they brought their traditional flatbreads with them. The hearth breads of England and the French fougasse, then, share a common ancestry with the Italian focaccia.
Traditional focaccia is either a large round or rectangle, and can be thick or thin, soft or crisp, and have very few or more elaborate toppings. Olive oil, olives, and herbs can be stirred into the dough or scattered on the top before baking, if desired. Once the dough is in the pan, you can top it with just about anything on hand or in season. It’ll be different each time, but always delicious and easy to make.
While this recipe calls for baking the bread in a pan, you can set the pan on a preheated baking stone if you wish.
You’ll need to allow 10 to 15 minutes to measure the ingredients and mix the dough, 1-1/2 hours to ferment the dough, 40 minutes to shape the flatbread and let it rest, and 20 to 25 minutes to bake the focaccia.
You’ll need a large mixing bowl (stainless steel, glass, Pyrex, or ceramic), a wooden spoon, a large cutting board, and a jellyroll pan (or other baking sheet about 10-1/2 inches by 15-1/2 inches). Also helpful, but not absolutely necessary, are a kitchen scale, a 2-quart dough-rising bucket with lid, a pastry brush, and a baking stone.
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/4 cup unchlorinated water, warm
- 1 cup unchlorinated water, room temperature
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3-3/4 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- Toppings, as desired
In a large mixing bowl, stir the yeast into the warm water. Stir in the room temperature water and oil. Add about half the flour, along with the salt, and mix with a wooden spoon until the batter is smooth. Gradually stir in the remaining flour, continuing to stir until the dough comes together.
Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, taking a break in the middle for a few minutes, if needed. As with most breads, I like to dip my hand in a bowl of cool water while kneading, rather than flouring my hands, to keep the dough moist and less dense. But if you find it easier to knead dough on a floured board, that’s fine too.
Put the dough in the dough-rising bucket and add the lid, or leave it in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let it ferment at room temperature until the dough has doubled; if you’re using the bucket, it will fill the bucket when it has doubled.
Lightly oil a jellyroll pan with additional olive oil. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, and, using your hands, press the dough into a rough rectangle, then roll it out to fit the pan. Place the dough in the pan, cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel, and let it rest for 30 minutes.
Using your fingertips, dimple the entire surface of the dough; don’t be afraid to be enthusiastic! These little dimples will hold delicious little pools of olive oil and sea salt. Cover the dimpled dough, and let it ferment again for about 2 hours; it should double in bulk and fairly well fill up the pan.
While the dough is fermenting, line up your toppings. You can simply use olive oil and sea salt, or go on to add chopped fresh herbs, olives, cheeses, or whatever you have on hand that looks good at the time. I love using fresh rosemary on focaccia.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re using a baking stone, put it on the middle rack, and start preheating the oven 30 minutes before baking.
Using a pastry brush or your fingers, generously spread some additional extra-virgin olive oil over the focaccia. Sprinkle with additional sea salt, then add any additional toppings.
Place the pan either on the baking stone or on the oven rack, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes. The focaccia will puff up a bit and look golden brown. When it’s finished baking, take it out of the pan right away, so the bottom of the bread doesn’t get soggy.
Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Focaccia is best eaten when fresh. If you do have leftovers, reheat them on a cast-iron griddle.
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