I usually make some type of focaccia every week as my family loves to snack on it throughout the day, use it to make a panini at lunch, or use it as our bread for dinner. While we were in Italy a couple of months ago, we went to Perugia to a food fair, and there was one stand from Liguria selling focaccia of every description.
Focaccia originated in Genova, and can actually be traced back to the 11th century. Although focaccia in some description is now made in every region across Italy, the focaccia from Genova is fantastic and brings back special memories for me.
When we lived in Milan for eight years, just outside our subdivision was a Genovese bakery that made the absolute best focaccia. My kids and I often visited the bakery in the morning when their focaccia was hot from the oven. Our favorite focaccia had to be Focaccia di Recco, which consists of two thin slices of dough that is filled with a tangy, creamy cheese called Stracchino or Crescenza.
The stand selling focaccia in Perugia had one version of focaccia that was the usual type of focaccia topped with dollops of stracchino cheese before baking. Of course, I had to try it, and it was delicious, and I knew I had to make my own version at home.
Stracchino, also known as crescenza, is a type of Italian cow’s milk cheese, typical of Lombardy, Piedmont, Veneto, and Liguria. It is eaten very young, is rindless, and has a very soft, creamy texture and usually a mild and delicate, slightly tangy flavor. This cheese is not so easy to find outside of Italy, but BelGioioso Cheese Inc. is an American company that produces an excellent version here.
Check your local Italian specialty store, or cheese store to locate it. If you cannot find stracchino in your area, Brie is probably the best substitute, particularly a young, mild flavored Brie. This focaccia is best served warm, and is terrific cut into squares and served as an appetizer with salumi.
- 5 Cups All-purpose Unbleached Flour
- 2 Teaspoons Instant Active Dry Yeast
- 2 – 3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Plus 2 Additional Tablespoons To Oil Bowl)
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 2+ Cups Warm Water
- 6 Ounces Stracchino (Crescenza) Cheese (See Notes Above)
- Coarse Sea Salt
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 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 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 of dough 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.
- Lightly oil a 13 x 9 inch baking pan.
- Dump your risen dough into the pan punching it down to deflate it.
- Press the dough with your fingers to fit into the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Use a spoon to break up the cheese and place on top of the focaccia in multiple places on top. (See Photo Above)
- Drizzle about 1/4 of a cup of olive oil over the top of the dough, and sprinkle with a teaspoon of sea salt.
- Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown and bubbly.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 2 squares
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 371Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 17mgSodium: 383mgCarbohydrates: 49gFiber: 2gSugar: 0gProtein: 11g