Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Focaccia Trials

Remember a while back when I said I wanted to take advantage of living in Italy by learning as much as I could while here? (Exact words were "Be a better Italian"). Well, one of the ways I'm striving to be a better donna italiana is to learn to cook some of my favorite dishes! I've been working on perfecting my focaccia recipe, and trying to do so without gaining 40 lbs of bread-weight in the process.

Focaccia is perfection. It is a Ligurian specialty, and is said to be similar to pizza dough. Personally, I find them very different. Focaccia is soft and squishy in the middle, crispy and golden on the outside, and full of the most wonderful olive oil flavor. 

This has been my first attempt at making any sort of bread, as well as with using yeast! Trying to decipher what's what in Italian has made it extra difficult, but is also adding to the fun. In my first attempt, I used Lievito Istantaneo for Pizzaiolo, Torte Salate, e Piadine. My thought is that it was dry, instant yeast. However, my first batch didn't rise, and I wonder now if yeast meant for pizza and sandwiches might have been made for... flatter breads? I don't know. For my second batch I used Lievito Fresco, or fresh yeast. This one came in a cube and I had to cut it down to size. It went much, much better!


  • 5 cups flour (in Italy, I'm using "0"), plus more for kneading
  • 2 cups water 
  • 2 teaspoons yeast (active seemed to work better)
  • 2 teaspoons + 1 salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Lots and lots of olive oil


  1. Combine the yeast and water, and let sit for about 10 minutes.
  2. While the yeast prepares, whisk together flour and 2 tbsp salt. Create a small well in the center, and pour in the yeast mixture. Add in about 2 TBS of olive oil. Combine with a wooden spoon until it forms a well-mixed ball of dough.
  3. Flour your surface and hands well. Begin kneading the dough, adding more flour as needed to keep the dough from getting too sticky. Knead for about 8-10 minutes, pulling the dough back and pushing it forward on itself until it forms a soft, smooth, squishy ball. 
  4. Create a dimple in the middle of the ball and pour in a teaspoon or so of olive oil. Knead into the dough. Repeat once or twice more until the dough is completely coated.
  5. Cover the dough ball either with an upside down bowl, or return to the bowl and cover in a warm place. Allow it to double in size (this can take 40 min - 2 hours. My second try took about 1 hour). 
  6. Once the dough has risen, knead for another few minutes before pressing it down with your fingers into a baking sheet coated in olive oil. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and leave the dough to rise, covered in plastic wrap, for another 15 minutes. 
  7. After 15 minutes, press your fingers into the dough to create dimples all over the surface. These will be wells for olive oil to pool, flavoring the bread, as well as create a surface that bakes evenly. If the dough is sticky and you're finding it difficult to poke, alternate pressing the dough with coating your fingertips in flour- it helps a lot! Drizzle the surface with olive oil again, allowing it to settle into the dimples, and sprinkle with rosemary and salt. Add any additional toppings now as well, such as tomatoes or olives. 
  8. Place baking sheet in the oven, immediately lowering the temperature to 350 degrees. Allow to bake for 20-25 minutes, checking after 15. When golden brown, remove from the oven and let sit for a few minutes on a cooling rack.
  9. Focaccia is best enjoyed warm with a glass of procecco. Buon appetite! 

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