Focaccia Genovese

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Breads | Focaccia Genovese

(Italian olive oil bread with sea salt and rosemary)

Focaccia is a rich Italian bread with roots in ancient Rome. It's name is derived from the Latin panis focacius, meaning "hearth bread," and authentic focaccia is still baked in wood-fired ovens. There are endless variations made in the Italy's various regions, but the most famous focaccia comes from the Ligurian town of Genoa on the northwest coast, where it's called a fugassa in the local dialect.

Image Creative Commons by canadacow

At its most basic, focaccia genovese gets a simple sprinkling of sea salt and sometimes rosemary. More elaborate toppings can turn focaccia into a mini meal (see Variations). Also known as schiacciata.

Makes 9 to 12 servings

Ingredients

  • Active dry yeast -- 1 (1/4-ounce) package
  • Lukewarm (110°F) water -- 1/4 cup
  • All-purpose flour -- 3 1/2 to 4 cups
  • Sea salt -- 1 1/2 teaspoons
  • Water --1 to 1 1/2 cups
  • Honey -- 1 tablespoon
  • Extra virgin olive oil -- 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup
  • Sea salt -- 2 teaspoons
  • Fresh rosemary (optional) -- 1 or 2 tablespoons

Method

  1. Add the yeast and lukewarm water to a small bowl and set aside for 5 minutes to activate the yeast.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together 3 1/2 cups of the flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the yeast mixture, 1 cup of the water, honey and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  3. Stir with a wooden spoon to bring the ingredients together. Add more flour or water as needed to form a soft, pliable, somewhat sticky dough. Remove to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth and elastic, around 8 to 10 minutes. (Steps 2 and 3 can also be done in a countertop mixer with a dough hook.)
  4. Set the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl and lightly oil the top of the dough. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and set in a draft-free area of the kitchen to rise for anywhere from 2 to 3 hours.
  5. Remove the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Punch down the dough and lightly knead it 3 or 4 times. Form into a rough rectangle.
  6. Preheat oven to 450°F. Oil a medium-sized baking pan and place the dough in the pan. Use your hands to push the dough out to the sides of the pan so that it fully and evenly covers the bottom. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  7. Use your fingers to press dimpled indentations all over the dough. Brush the dough all over with the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Sprinkle with the remaining sea salt and the fresh rosemary.
  8. Set the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 400°F and bake for another 20 to 25 minutes.
  9. Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes. Cut in to squares and serve immediately.

Variations

  • Use kosher salt if you don't have sea salt.
  • Focaccia con le Cipolle (Onion topping): Popular for breakfast in Liguria. Locals dip slices in their caffelattes. Thinly slice 1 or 2 red onions and sprinkle evenly over the dough after dimpling it. Drizzle the 1/4 cup olive oil over the onions and sprinkle with salt. Bake as instructed.
  • Focaccia Barese (Tomato topping): From Bari in the southern region of Puglia, Italy's boot heel. In Bari, cooked potatoes are added to the dough to tenderize it and the bread is usually baked in a circular pan. To make it with the dough recipe above, just slice cherry tomatoes in half horizontally and gently squeeze out the seeds. Instead of dimpling the dough, press the tomatoes, cut side up, into the dough. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with dried oregano and sea salt. Bake as instructed. Sometimes black olives are added.
  • Focaccia alle Patate (Potato topping): Top with thinly sliced potatoes and fresh rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and fresh rosemary and bake as instructed.
  • Other Toppings: Roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, caramelized onions, crumbled ricotta salata cheese, thinly sliced rounds of eggplant, chopped walnuts, sauteed mushrooms, chopped pancetta.
  • Some recipes call for whisking together 1/4 cup of olive oil with 1/4 cup of water and using this emulsion to top the dough before baking. Other cooks will sprinkle the dough with white wine before putting it in the oven.
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