To me, foccacia is the glorious celebration of rustic Italian food. The Italians eat this for breakfast, with lunch or a meal in itself and moments in-between. The dimpled olive oil-flavoured flatbread can be dappled with tomatoes, sea salt and fresh herbs or made into a sandwich by filling it with prosciutto and cheese.
The term foccacia comes from the latin word ‘focus’ which means ‘hearth’ – Foccacia is thought to be originated from the Northern regions of Italy where they started baking these flatbreads in fire.
The charming little thing about foccacia is that you can vary its toppings so much and have it as antipasti, main, or dessert.
The traditional foccacia made in Liguria is drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and tucked with a basil leaf in each of its dimple. Imagine the cute mosaic pattern it makes – that would be classy to start off a dinner party.
Or how about something more decadent like silvers of potaoes with chopped rosemary for lunch as a meal on its own, perhaps, sliced and served with proscuitto.
End off a dinner a sweet flatbread by topping it with grapes and sugar – that’s the way they use up the leftover grapes from the grape harvest in Tuscany. Imagine the unexpected burst of natural sweetness from the juice of the grapes as you bite into it! Serve these sweet breads with a sweet Italian wine such as the Vin Santo. As Michelangelo famously said, “I feast on wine and bread and feast they are.”
I suppose the main thing about the toppings is to keep its palette clean and simple – having a few predominant flavours rather than to overwhelm and confuse your tastebuds with a truckload of flavours. Less is more, indeed.
Makes 2 flatbreads
500g Bread flour
9g Instant dry yeast
235ml Lukewarm water, approximately
40ml Olive oil
Herb and olive oil mix:
2 cloves of garlic, smashed
1 shallot, sliced
Dry chilli flakes
Pitted olives, sliced
- Put in all your dry ingredients in your mixer bowl and using a dough hook start to mix as you pour in the olive oil and water. Add in half of the water first and mix on slow speed. Add in the rest of the water or as much as you need until the dough comes together (and away from the bowl). You may not use all the water as this is dependent on many factors including the environment. Mix it for about 5 minutes before increasing the speed to medium-fast.
- Pick the dough out of the mixer bowl and round it until its top is smooth. Place the rounded dough into your lightly floured mixer and cling wrap the bowl. Place it in a warm and dark corner of your kitchen (I like to use my oven for this purpose). Let the dough ferment for about 1 hr or until about double in size.
- Take the dough out of the bowl and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knock back the air bubbles (by folding the dough over one-third back onto itself)
- Divide the dough into two equal portions. Working with one portion of the dough at a time, roll out the dough to a rectangle shape, size of an A4 paper. Place the loaves on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Cover the loaves with a clean tea towel and allow it to prove in a warm, dark area in your kitchen. This would take about 1 to 1.5hrs.
- To test the readiness of the foccacia, you can push your index finger lightly into them, and if the loaf springs back after a second, they are ready.
- In the meantime, prepare the herb and oil mixture. Warm the olive oil in a small pot/pan and place in garlic, shallots and herbs and allow the flavours to infuse. Make sure that you do not burn the garlic or shallots. You do not want to cook them. Turn of the heat and allow the herb and olive oil mixture to sit for about 10-15minutes.
- When the foccacia is ready, press fingers into dough to create dimples. Then sprinkle the herb and olive oil mixture over the foccacia.
- Bake them in a preheated oven at 225 degrees celcius. Before placing the baking tray in the oven, spray the oven with water to create steam. This will ensure that your foccacia are crusty. Bake for about 15- 20 minutes or until golden brown. To check if the foccacia is ready, tap the base of the foccacia with your finger – if it sounds hollow, the bread is ready.
- Allow the foccacia to cool before cutting into it.