Traditional Focaccia Bread
Traditional focaccia bread dates back to the 16th century, before pizza. While there are many variations and uses of focaccia, the true classic is rosemary focaccia bread. This is what you will typically find in grocery stores, markets, bakeries. It’s somewhat thin, about 3/4″ to 1 1/2″ thick, salted with a scattering of rosemary. This the perfect grab and eat snack.
What’s The Big Deal About Focaccia
Focaccia doesn’t just stop at being a snacking bread or a side meal to your pasta dish, it morphed into what is now known as pizza. Thankfully, the many uses of focaccia don’t stop there. In Florence and Firenze, they make amazing focaccia sandwiches slathered in a truffle spread that will consume your life. Rome has also adapted it to their own style of pizza. When you sit and eat at a trattoria or osteria, a basket of assorted bread will be brought to you to enjoy and will almost always include focaccia.
My favorite focaccia bread is rosemary focaccia bread. The aroma of rosemary-infused with the bread when it’s in the oven just brings a smile to my face. Combine that with some fresh Stracciatella cheese and you have a winning combination.
What is a Biga and Why Use It
A biga is a pre-ferment, and in a baker’s world, it’s key to flavor and texture. There are natural yeasts that occur in flour and by adding water and a little yeast, you develop fermentation and flavor faster than waiting weeks. It’s similar to sourdough starters except you make what you need the night before and you don’t keep it alive by feeding it.
Another key difference between poolish and biga vs sourdough starter is, with poolish and biga you add a little yeast to kick start things. With a sourdough starter, the fermentation happens naturally over time, and the longer the starter is kept alive the stronger the fermentation.
Uses of Focaccia Bread
Don’t just think of focaccia as bread to snack on or to scrape every ounce of sauce from your plate, it’s so much more.
- One of my favorites ways to have focaccia was from a tiny little Antica in Florence just before the Ponte Vecchio bridge. They had a sort of assembly line for sandwiches where you pick your sauce (ALWAYS BLACK TRUFFLE SPREAD), your meat (you can only chose ONE meat) and your cheese. And don’t even think to step in line ready to order and stutter, you’ll get skipped, kinda like the soup nazi.
- It’s Roman pizza; focaccia led up to the beginnings of pizza.
- You can make a Focaccia pocket stuff with, well whatever you want.
- My ALL time favorite is just with fresh Stracciatella cheese. This is next to impossible to find outside of Italy but when you do, savor it.
What better than to share my traditional focaccia recipe inspired by Genevese, Genoa. I say “inspired” because I make my biga a little wetter than normal. A wetter dough gives you a lighter “crumb”. Let’s face it, no one wants to chew on a dense piece of bread, which is what you would have if your flour to water ratio leans more to the flour side.
Here are a few tips on making perfect Genovese focaccia, also known as “Fugassa”.
- When stretching your dough to fit your sheet pan, don’t press and push. This crushes the air pockets that have been developing from fermentation and will make your focaccia dense. Instead, pull and stretch your dough.
- Don’t use too much olive oil on the bottom of the sheet pan or you’ll end up with a soggy mess.
- Find the perfect ratio of dough to achieve a 3/4″ thick final product. To do this, use enough dough to reach 1/3″ of thickness, but in the end it’s a matter of preference.
Traditional Focaccia Bread
- 1 cup Unbleached bread flour 160g by weight
- 1 cup Water, tepid or slightly warm 200ml, 230g
- ½ tsp Active dry yeast 2g by weight
- Poolish (see above)
- 1 ½ cup Unbleached bread flour 250g by weight
- ¼ cup water 50 ml
- ½ tsp Honey
- ½ tsp Salt
- 2 tbsp Olive oil
- ¼ tsp Yeast 1g by weight
- ¼ cup Olive oil
- 2 tbsp Rosemary
- 1 tsp Salt
- Using a fork or wire whisk, mix flour water and yeast together until there are no lumps.
- Cover loosely with a plastic wrap and set aside on the counter overnight, 10 hours.
Focaccia Dough Instructions
- Mix poolish and dough ingredients together in a large mixing bowl or Kitchen Aid bowl, if using stand mixer.
- Knead for 15 minutes by hand or 10 minutes using stand mixer at level 2 with dough hook.
- In a large bowl, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and move dough into that bowl. Roll dough around to evenly coat it with olive oil and cover with damp kitchen towel, plastic wrap or my favorite, a shower cap.
- Rest in warm area for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- In a 9 x 13 sheet pan, use half of the olive oil to coat the bottom and gently scrap the focaccia dough into the sheet pan. Pull the dough to stretch it to reach the edges of the pan.
- Pre-heat oven to 375°
- Pour the remainder of the olive oil on top and spread evenly. Add more if you need more but make sure to top is coated.
- Using your finger tips, press down into the dough to create dimples.
- Sprinkle with salt and rosemary
- Once, oven comes to temp, bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown on the and the internal temperature is 200°F