Basics of Focaccia Bread

Focaccia Bread

Focaccia bread, with its fragrant aroma and delightful textural nuances, is an Italian staple that has found a cherished place in the hearts (and ovens) of bakers worldwide. But, achieving that signature airy crumb and crisp crust can sometimes seem like a gourmet feat. Here’s where we introduce a dash of baked wisdom – essential tips for mastering the art of focaccia.

Practice Tips for Amazing Focaccia Bread

Before we leap into the baking process, there are several “bread jewels” of advice that can take your focaccia from good to great:

  • Use Quality Ingredients: Select high-quality flour, fresh yeast or active dry yeast, and a top-notch extra-virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
  • Hydration Matters: Focaccia dough should be slightly sticky and more hydrated than typical bread doughs; this is key for a light and airy bread.
  • Temperature Control: Yeast thrives at warm temperatures. Ensure your water is lukewarm to activate the yeast properly, and consider the ambient temperature while your dough is rising.
  • Patience with Proofing: Resist the temptation to rush the proofing stage. A slow rise, particularly for the second proofing, can enhance flavor and texture.
  • Artful Dimpling: Don’t be shy with your fingertips when creating those characteristic dimples on the bread surface. This isn’t just for aesthetics; it also helps in creating pockets to trap moisture and olive oil.
  • Infused Oils: Elevate your focaccia by infusing the olive oil with herbs, garlic, or chili flakes, which will imbue the bread with aromatic subtleness.
  • Generous Salt: After dimpling, be generous with sprinkling coarse sea salt; it’s not just seasoning, it’s a crusty, flavorful feature of the focaccia.
  • Hot Oven: A high oven temperature results in a better rise and the much-desired golden-brown crust.

What is Focaccia Bread?

If we look closely at the ingredients of focaccia bread they are similar to making pizza dough. The basics include water, sugar, yeast, flour, olive oil, and salt. After that whatever happens, to go into the final bread depends on regional taste. It’s baked in a flat rectangular pan that is known in Italy as a ‘lama’ or blade. Because it doesn’t rise so much, the bread itself is flat and crispy while the inside is softer.

Focaccia Bread

Popular tradition has made focaccia bread perfect before a meal but long ago it was also a source of breakfast. It’s a cheap bread to make and added ingredients help make it tastier and enjoyable. Italians are famous for their exact rituals making pizza and focaccia bread, so the line between them is often blurred. One thing for sure is that Focaccia bread has grown into a name that is bigger than the bread itself.

Many people will remark that the distinct flavor is from the olive oil that’s used. Others are drawn in by the crunch crust and texture. Most people might not know that the older recipes used cooked potato in the dough to make the bread softer. This was evident since bread ovens were extremely hot places that could dry-out water and oil very fast. The potato helped preserve the softness and added to the overall taste and texture.

What focaccia has become is a readily made bread snack that appeals to everyone for several reasons. Depending on what toppings are mixed in or put on top, it has a whole other appeal to even more bread fans.

History of Focaccia Bread

Ask anyone about Focaccia bread and they’ll tell you its distinctly Italian. The history behind this simple bread happens to go back much further as most history stories usually do. The origin began in Greece as most of our ancient civilizations had. This type of bread is also very closely related to what would become modern pizza. It is also an invention of the ancient Greeks that have been proven through the buried remains of Pompey.

The exact origin is said to have developed along the Northern Mediterranean coast, spreading into the heart of Greek culture. From there it was welcomed into the Roman Empire. The culinary culture of the Etruscans and ancient Greeks was shared as this simple recipe passed through time. But as most history lessons go, the most recent places where Focaccia bread became famous in the 15th century.

Focaccia contains the Latin words ‘Focus’ and ‘Cooked on Fire’ that was around since the 2nd century BC. The Phoenicians, Carthaginians, and Greeks were making this recipe from rye, barley, and millet grain. Often this simple bread was offered to the Greek gods as a simple offering. It later became a food that was consumed at weddings in the Renaissance. Once it became the traditional bread in Genova, many additions started to be added for flavor.

These include olives and nuts, onions, and bacon, and many kinds of herbs were added. Much like Pizza, both of these types of bread morphed into their specific class based on rules how it was made. The proof borders with Apulian focaccia that’s made with various types of olive oil and cherry tomatoes. It’s the bread that shares similarities to pizza for so many reasons. No matter what goes into focaccia to make it taste special, the recipe hasn’t changed much since the old days.

Final Tips for Authentic Focaccia Bread

Every cooking tip is going to vary from the next but I assure you these are worth every penny. When making any kind of authentic recipe the secret isn’t what goes into the focaccia bread but how it’s made! Now if you have noticed earlier that the Italians in Genova are using a rectangular shallow pan. They use shallow pizza pans too, as it makes sense; since this changes the texture slightly.

The bottom of the pan is coated with a generous amount of olive oil. If you’re into this oil you know that extra virgin olive oil is the way to go. At least ¼ inch to be fair for the amount you put in that pizza pan. After mixing and proofing your dough you then cut it up to place in each pan intended for cooking. The dough itself will form into this pan and start to do its second rise while absorbing the oil for 20 minutes.

At that time you add your toppings such as cherry tomato halves. Don’t just leave them on top, set them into the dough like sunken footprints. Add some basil or rosemary or olives, whatever you like, and pop it into the oven for 20 minutes at 425 degrees. The result will be incredible with a crispy bottom crust and soft bread-like dough on top. Because you didn’t mash it into a rectangle pan, the air inside the dough wasn’t lost.

This gives you a rather authentic Italian focaccia that isn’t hard to chew but still has plenty of taste. You’ll have to try it for yourself to believe how fool-proof this is.