Focaccia

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • Yield:

    2

    focaccias

Appears in

Bread

By Jeffrey Hamelman

Published 2004

  • About

Focaccia, Like Pizza, is a traditional rustic food made with whatever ingredients are at hand (whatever is seasonal is not only most readily available, it is usually the cheapest too). It may be flat or raised. It may have oil and herbs in the dough, or the dough may be plain, with ingredients spread on top. A simple focaccia may have just a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh rosemary and coarse salt. A popular one from Florence (where focaccia is called schiacciata) is topped with grapes and fennel seeds. Cheeses, meats, fruits, vegetables, oils, and herbs—combine them tastefully, and use a well-made dough, and you have one of the more pleasant baked products to eat out of hand.

Lightly sauté the vegetables first so they won’t scorch during baking. Season the toppings with salt and pepper, red pepper flakes, fresh herbs, and so on, to taste. When putting the topping on the dough, apply it so it covers the dough evenly, but avoid using an excessive amount of topping, which not only weighs the dough down, but also makes it difficult to identify the individual elements of the topping. Cheeses such as Parmesan and mozzarella add great flavor, but again they should be spread thoroughly but not thickly over the dough.

I like the foccacia described here because the dough is light but has a great crust. I like it because it so readily accommodates so many toppings. And I like it because it allows me to use a dough that I have at hand—in this case, ciabatta dough. Although it can be made freeform—the dough stretched flat, toppings put on, and baked on the hearth—my preference is to bake it in a cake pan. I think this not only enhances the flavor of the dough, but it also gives the focaccia a much better keeping quality. It can also be a good method from a selling perspective: It is easy to take a baked focaccia and divide it into 6 or 8 reliably even portions for sale, or simply to put the baked focaccias on cake circles and sell them whole.

Ingredients

Dough

2 Pounds (900 G) Ciabatta Dough, Bulk Fermented at Least Hours
4 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Optional Toppings

Onions, Thinly Sliced
Garlic, Thinly Sliced
Eggplant, Thinly Sliced
Potatoes, Thinly Sliced
Mushrooms, Thinly Sliced
Fennel, Thinly Sliced
Cured Meats, Thinly Sliced
Grated Cheese

Method

  1. Dividing and Shaping: Divide the dough into pieces weighing 1 pound. For each piece, you will need a 10-inch round cake pan. Lightly preshape the pieces into rounds and place them, seams down, on a floured work surface. Cover lightly with baker’s linen or plastic. Pour 2 tablespoons of good-quality extra-virgin olive oil into each of the cake pans and swirl it around to coat the sides and bottom. After a 20-minute rest, begin to stretch the dough into a disk, trying to keep it evenly thick. Do this either by hand or with a rolling pin. If the dough is reluctant to stretch fully, let it rest for a few more minutes. When the dough is fully 10 inches in diameter, place it in the oiled pans. Add the toppings.
  2. Baking: Once the dough has fully risen (the final fermentation usually takes about 1½ hours at room temperature), bake it in a 450°F oven for about 20 minutes. When the focaccias are done, the tops will be richly colored, and the dough will have pulled in slightly from the sides of the pans. I like to remove one from the pan when I think it’s done, just to check and be sure. The entire side and bottom should be brown, fragrant, and crusty thanks to the good olive oil that was spread in the pans. Within, the dough will have some give and softness, a sign that it is baked but not dried out. The bright crust and lovely dough, combined with the flavors of the topping, will be irresistible.