Making Foccacia is easy if you have the right recipe. Searching the internet I found very little good information about making focaccia even though there are thousands of pages. I know that sounds odd but the problem is finding a recipe that isn’t an interpretation of.
To begin making focaccia you need to know where some of the best focaccia is made and of course its Italy. But where in Italy? Each person you ask has a different idea when you ask, and each person makes his/her claim about the best focaccia. From our point of view there are two kinds of focaccia, thin and thick, crusty and crispy or even chewy. In Florence there is a bakery Da forno named Cantinetta dei Verrazzano. They make a bread focaccia that is memorable and is not Ligurian.
I prefer the more meaty thick type which is more fluffy, whereas the thinner type is said to be more traditional, it is brushed with water oil emulsification and salt – brushed over the top at the last minutes. The style of focaccia is critical given the traditional aspects associated with its history. Howver it just so happens that the coast of Liguria has fragmented into countless variations from the biscuit-hard focaccia di Camogli, to the oily softness of the one made in Voltri, with some foccacia bearing little resemblance to its original form.
The most extreme example is a specialty called focaccia col formaggio, focaccia with cheese which is made in Recco, near Genoa. Other than the name, this Recco version bears no resemblance to other focaccia varieties, having a caillé and cheese filling sandwiched between two layers of paper-thin dough.
Never the less, focaccia made in Italy is exceptional, although there is one restaurant in Tokyo named Piccolo Grande, owned by a charming chef, and his focaccia is perfectly fluffy and has a perfect light crust flavoured with rosemary. I have never seen such a well made interpretation adapted for the local taste.
So what’s the ultimate focaccia? I am not sure given I am not a professional baker. In my mind perfection is based on tradition first and foremost. That’s not to say that all traditonal foods have evolved and are all equal.
The first steps are key in preparing the focaccia is in the dough – that’s where I begin. I cannt agree that Manitoba flour is the best. I would recommend Italian flours such as: https://mesubim.com/2015/09/22/best-flour-for-baking-flour-for-bread-italy/
The water is added with the dry yeast and heated to luke warm temperatures and some small quantity of sugar is added. Otherwise avoid using sugar and it will perhaps take a little longer to create the fermentation. I add sugar because I intend to shorten the process, or if you prefer to avoid using sugar, simply let the yeast find their food in the flour.
I use dried beige granules of yeast that come in packets of 8 grams each. The yeast is usually alive and is a single-celled fungus. This organism lies dormant until it comes into contact with warm water. Once reactivated, yeast begins feeding on the sugars in flour, or any sugars you add may help release the carbon dioxide that makes bread rise.
The virgin olive oil is certainly key but more than anything is how you kneed the dough and how long – and where it rests and rises. Be careful not to let the dough get dry on top and that’s where the oil comes into play. But then again you need to be cautious not to over oil or the rising of the dough becomes inhibited. Having said all this, I am not a baker so rely on your own trial and error.
The kneading takes place with a mixer and not by hand, certainly not given the time needed, energy and the mess. I find kneading bread by hand is just too difficult to obtain the correct consistency. Use the kitchen aid and mix in two cycles; the first is to bind the ingredients and let them meld together. The second stage is much much faster, you go to a speed of intensity to get the dough slightly heated with a silky texture.
When I was making my dough, a well known 3 star Michelin chef stuck his hand into the finished dough and tasted it – good idea. He has the experience to understand the texture and taste to make sure its right, so taste your dough.
The next steps are letting it rise, punching it down and then spreading it on the baking silt-pad. This is a time when you need oil and gloves and you lift it and spread it over the tray. The next steps again are important and for those who enjoy a soft top, not too crusty, the key is how you treat the focaccia in the oven. I attempted to use a lower heat this time, and while I think it helped in developing the crust, I am not 100% certain. I started at 170C° and moved down when it started to brown to 150C°.
I cannot recommend changing temperatures and it will come down to the thickness of the focaccia. I make it 5cm thick so its more like a bread and so it takes more cooking time. I also do not cook it in a pan or mould. If you use a mould the heat distribution at the bottom will be different and this is something to consider.
One of the keys to the focaccia are the dimples you’ll make with your finger. These depressions are not exposed to the high oven heat, and are filled with olive oil, so they should stay more white.
As for where everyone’s opinion is different and these 4 are taken from the internet. The choices we suggest are: Pinamonti in Santa Margherita and Mariangela in Portofino. This Ligurian bread has made its way around the world, and it’s meant to be eaten hot from the oven. It might be flavored with anything from just olive oil and salt to cheese and sausage.
1.“Panificio Claretta” – a small bakery family managed immersed in Genoa historical center (Via della Posta Vecchia). The focaccia here is very particular, crispy at the right point and salted on the top.
2.“Panificio Mario” – a famous bakery known among local people in Genoa (Via San Vincenzo). Focaccia here is golden, thin and crispy.
3.“Antico Forno della Casana” – a lovely bakery renovated in Genoa historical center (Vico Casana). Focaccia here is well cooked, crispy, golden and soft at the right point.
4.“Priano Bakery” – a famous and historic bakery at 15 minutes from Genoa historical center (Via Camozzini, Voltri). Here focaccia is a little bit different from the classic ones. In fact, the surface of focaccia is sprinkled with maize flour.
Focaccia recipe from Liguria off the internet and not tested. This recipe is another version of focaccia and it uses milk and potato which I have not tried. I wonder what the milk does and the potato is for texture.
1 110grams boiled potato
435 grams flour
13 grams salt
200 grams lukewarm water
25 grams fresh yeast
54 grams warm milk
1 tsp. honey
1.Mix the honey into the milk and add the yeast, then set it aside to proof.
2.Make a well in the flour on a board, and mash the boiled potato into the flour, working it in
with your fingers.
3.Add the salt, oil, and yeast mixture, and mix lightly.
4.radually add in the water and knead to obtain a smooth dough.
5.Cover the dough with a cloth and leave it to rise in a warm place until it has doubled in bulk.
6.Generously oil a sheet pan or cookie sheet with a rim, and sprinkle lightly with fine salt.
7.Press the risen dough into the sheet pan, then cover and leave it to rise in a warm place for 30
8.Make deep dents in the dough with your fingers, being careful not to make holes in the dough.
9.Cover the dough and let rise again for another 30 minutes.
10.Preheat the oven to 200°C.
11.Sprinkle the dough with salt – you can use either fine or rough salt.
12.Shake the water and oil for the top in a jar (or mix in a bowl) until it forms an emulsion, then
quickly pour it evenly over the top of the focaccia dough.
13.Bake in the oven at 200°C for 20 minutes, until crisp and brown.
14.Let cool somewhat on rack and slice into strips or squares.
50 or more virgin Olive oil – and add some when mixing if needed but very little.