Focaccia is one of the most popular and most ancient of the breads of Italy and is very easy to make. I have created this step by step primer to show everyone just how simple it is to make really great focaccia, and what a versatile bread it truly is. Basic focaccia dough requires only five ingredients, flour, water, olive oil, salt, and yeast. A simple focaccia dough lends itself to so many variations that once you master the dough, your options are endless. You can flavor the focaccia dough itself, add a myriad of different seasonal toppings both sweet and savory, create a crisp crusted focaccia that is great for dipping or spreading with creamy toppings, or make a thicker crusted focaccia that is perfect to use for sandwiches or panini. This easy flat bread is also a great option for novice bread bakers as it can be prepared easily and does not require any fancy shaping.
I have been making focaccia of one type or another for over 30 years and presently probably make it at least twice a week in one form or another. I have learned over the years what ingredients work best for my focaccia dough but you may prefer to make some changes. For my flour, I use plain old All-purpose flour, or tipo 0 flour here in Italy. Many recipes call for tipo 00 flour which is much softer flour, but I find the focaccia made with this flour gets a little tough after it has sat for any length of time. I feel the focaccia made with all-purpose flour holds up better, and makes better sandwiches as well. I use only instant active dry yeast, and prefer the Saf-instant brand. This yeast never lets me down, and I can add it dry to my other ingredients as it does not require proofing first. I add fine sea salt for flavor, and I always add a little extra virgin olive oil for both flavor and texture. I use basic tap water that feels warm to the touch which helps promote early rising, but do not use very hot water as it may kill your yeast. Of course, no matter what other topping ingredients I plan to use, I always add extra virgin olive oil and coarse sea salt before I bake my focaccia as well.
The trick to making great focaccia is to ensure you create lots of dimples with your finger tips into your dough and then drizzle enough olive oil into those dimples which will then get absorbed while the focaccia bakes creating a flavorful bread with a crisp crust and tender interior. To make a thicker dough, let the dough rise three times as shown below. If you prefer a thin, crisp crust, let the dough rise just twice and bake immediately after you drizzle on your olive oil. The recipe below is for a plain, basic olive oil and salt focaccia.
by Deborah Mele
Measure and assemble your flour, oil, salt, yeast, and water.
Add everything but the water into a large bowl and stir.
Add half the water and stir.
Continue to add water until the dough begins to come together into a shaggy ball.
Dump the dough mixture onto a lightly floured surface surface and begin to knead with the heels of your hand.
Knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and pliant.
Add a little oil (2 tablespoons) to the bottom of a large bowl and place your ball of dough inside. Roll the ball around in the oil, ensuring the sides of the bowl, and ball of dough are both lightly oiled.
Cover your bowl with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot to rise.
I cover mine with a kitchen towel on top of the plastic wrap and sit it on a large sunny windowsill.
Let the dough rise until it is doubled in size, about an hour or an hour and a half depending on ambient temperature.
You can see how pillowy and soft the dough becomes.
To make a large rectangular focaccia, lightly oil a 13 X 9 inch baking sheet with sides.
Dump your risen dough into the pan punching it down to deflate it.
Use your fingers to push and press the dough evenly over the bottom of the pan. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for another 20 or 30 minutes or until the dough dimples when pushed with your fingertip.
Use the tips of your fingers to dimple the entire top of the focaccia.
Drizzle olive oil over the top turning the pan carefully to allow the oil to roll into the indentations.
Sprinkle coarse sea salt over the top of your focaccia and then let it sit and rise for another 15 minutes while you preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Cool to room temperature before slicing.
To make round loaves, divide your ball of dough after the first rise into three equal parts. I actually weigh mine and these balls weighed 400g (About 14 ounces) each.
Sprinkle cornmeal over three baking sheets. Take one ball art a time and use your hands to begin to press into a flat disc.
Use the heel of your hand pushing from the center out, turning the circle of dough as you go until you create a circle about 12 inches across. Place each round on a prepared baking sheet, cover with kitchen towels and let rise for 20 to 30 minutes until soft.
Dimple the dough with fingers as shown with the rectangular focaccia above, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, and add any additional toppings you prefer. Above I used halved, pitted Kalamata olives. Let prepared dough sit and rise for another 15 minutes while you preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Bake for about 20 minutes until golden brown. Cool to room temperature before slicing.
Three different focaccia breads made from one basic dough recipe.