This classic bread might be the most popular Italian specialty around the globe. It might be one of the first bread consumed in the Latin countries, such as actual Italy and Greece.
Its ancient origins are believed to have started around the 2nd century BC. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks and tribes from the Levant baked the focaccia since then, using grains like millet, barkey or rye. But it all started with the Etruscan civilisation, people who were living in Rome and actual Italy before the Romans took over.
In Ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flat bread baked on the hearth. The word is derived from the focus and refers to cooking by a fireplace or hearth. Literally a focal point for the family, a place where dough was baked over hot stones, fire and ashes. Focacce were even offered to the gods by the Latins.
But it’s in Genova, starting from the 13th century that the focaccia gained in popularity. Fugassa is used to name bread in the capital of Liguria. And the following centuries will see new types and regional specialties of focaccia being born. Traces of its history tells us that it was eaten with olive oil almost all the time, even in church or at ceremonies like wedding and even funerals. It was also quite popular with port workers as a breakfast, when they didn’t have time or money to spend.
The focaccia got to travel with merchants to South France, Spain and Greece, changing the recipe, the look and the topping in the same time. For example, in France it’s called Fougasse and is topped with local ingredients.
The classic pan in which focaccia is cooked is called lama (blade), a large rectangular container with very low borders.
HERE’S DIFFERENTS TYPES OF FOCACCIA :
- Focaccia al rosmarino : rosemary focaccia.
- Focaccia alla salvia : sage focaccia.
- Focaccia col formaggio or focaccia di Recco : a typical variety of focaccia made in Recco using the local stracchino cheese.
- Focaccia di Voltri : which is know to contain more olive oil than the one from Genoa.
- Focaccia di Sardenaira : coming from Sanremo, traditionally flavored with sardines and anchovies.
- Focaccia di Puglia : Apulian focaccia which uses boiled potato in the dough and is topped with cherry tomato. It ressembles to the pizza.
- Farinata : a type of focaccia using chickpea flour which was popular among the low-class people.
- Focaccia dolce : meaning sweet focaccia, this one comes from the Northwest and is sprinkled lightly with sugar, honey, raisins or any other sweet ingredient.
- Focaccia veneta : Venitian focaccia. This is another sweet focaccia coming from the Northeast this time. It’s a typical cake of the Venetian Easter tradition: it is based on eggs, sugar and butter (instead of olive oil and salt) and it looks quite similar to Pannetone or to another Venetian cake like Pandoro.
- Focaccia di Camoglio : which is biscuit-hard.
HERE’S THE RECIPE :
- 250 g white bread flour
- 225 g water
- 25 g olive oil
- 25 g liquid starter
- 5 g salt
- dried herbs, fleur de sel and olive oil for the topping
Make an autolyse by mixing the flour, the water and the olive oil together without kneading. Let it rest for 1 hour.
Add the liquid starter and salt. Knead it by either making a “slap and fold” or a “stretch and fold”. I prefer the first one. I don’t really like working high hydration dough with a stand mixer so I do it by hand. This is gonna take a while like maybe 20 to 30 minutes. You want to get the gluten very hard. When you can perform the windowpane test, your dough is ready. Ball it gently and put the dough in a bowl then cover it.
Let it rest for about 1 hour and 30 minutes at room temperature (around 23°C for me). If your room is hotter than mine, lower the time by 15 minutes. If cooler, just the opposite.
Make a coil fold by wetting your hands and detach the dough from the sides of the bowl. Then take the dough in your hands and lift it up. Fold the dough onto itself. Repeat the same operation on each side so 4 times in total.
Cover and put in the fridge for 12 to 48 hours. Don’t hesitate to try longer fermentation. I left it for 30 hours.
When the fridge fermentation is done, take the bowl out. Grease a pan or a baking tray with some olive oil. Be generous! Let the dough fall onto the tray. Stretch it gently to cover all the surface. If the dough seems to kick back and you can’t stretch it all the way through, cover and let it rest 30 minutes, then try again.
Cover it and let it prove in a hot space, around 27°C for about 2 hours and a half, 3 hours. The timing is not carved in stone so just listen to your dough. If you think it needs more time, give it more, even if it needs 4 hours. The focaccia should have double and feel quite airy.
Spread some olive oil on the dough and sprinkle some dried herbs and fleur de sel (a kind of sea salt). Then wet your hands and press in the dough with your fingers to get some holes into the dough.
Bake it at 250°C for around 25 min.
Take it out and let it cool down on a wire rack. Cut it and dip it in some good quality olive oil.