If you love bread, and you love pizza, then odds are you will love focaccia.
First, what is focaccaia (pronounced foh-kaht-tchah)?
Focaccia with rosemary
Focaccia is in my own words, a thick pizza bread seasoned with herbs and/or vegetables. It’s often described as a flat bread, or Italian flat bread.
However, this flat bread can easily resemble a pizza depending on what toppings you choose.
Well, so be it as it may, when we make it at home, we use pizza dough… thus I prefer to call it a pizza bread without the “pizza”.
It doesn’t use a sauce and isn’t covered with cheese – thus it can’t be called a white pizza either.
Focaccia is meant to be simple and it sounds much more elaborate than it really is.
Let’s first address the dough. You can use basic pizza dough.
I have a pizza book that has every variation of pizza or pizza-like dough you could want, but when it comes down to it for the average person like me (I think I’m average), we just want a dough that tastes good. We aren’t trying to act like dough snobs here, right?
Let’s Talk about Toppings
Focaccia with multiple toppings.
This is where it gets more subjective, meaning everyone has their own preferences.
Basically here are the general rules of thumb:
- Don’t overload it with toppings
- Simple is best
- Use fresh herbs if using herbs such as rosemary
- Always rub olive oil over the dough before baking
- Let it rise at least an inch thick
I first had focaccia believe it or not by walking through the bakery section of our generic grocery store. It looked really good and I bought some. I liked it and realized it was so simple, why couldn’t I make this?
This particular one I bought had large chopped green peppers, onions, red onion, red pepper and lots of olive oil.
When we make it at home, we pretty much use what we have on hand which usually consists of:
- Roasted red pepper (from the jar – I don’t do the whole roasting thing, don’t have time and never learned).
- Kalamata olives
- Onion slices
- Banana peppers
See… pretty simple and that’s why I love Italian food!
Let’s talk Rosemary
Rosemary is a great herb that also makes for a great landscape bush on your patio or porch. Focaccia with rosemary is very common and oftentimes what is served in restaurants.
In a nutshell, get your dough ready (I’ll explain that part later), sprinkle with fresh rosemary (always use fresh because the dried will be too hard), let rise for 30 minutes, then using your clean fingers make indents in the dough and drizzle or brush olive oil around the whole dough.
Sprinkle course salt and bake. Always use course salt b/c regular table salt will be too salty since it spreads out much more per square inch. With course salt you can use less and just lightly sprinkle it.
Let’s talk Olives
I’ve only met one person in my life that doesn’t like olives. When she told me I didn’t know what to say, I wanted to ask if she had some horrible childhood experience with olives. I mean, who doesn’t like olives? Especially Mediterranean olives?!
So if you like olives, you can use a mix of olives, or just green olives (pitted and cut in half lengthwise), or my favorite kalamata olives. When I need to use green olives for recipes like this, I don’t actually by the real raw green Italian olives, these don’t have the right flavor out of the jar. I use those for baking dishes.
So I buy the Spanish olives in the jar that are used for martini’s – the kind my father would always keep in the fridge and spear with his fancy toothpicks. Don’t worry about the pimento in the middle, it’s just red cherry peppers!
The best part… the dough…
As I stated, a regular pizza dough will work. If you don’t know how to make pizza dough, use a simple recipe here or to make it even easier, check your local grocery store to see if they sell frozen pizza dough balls. It can be hit or miss but I’ve seen them at places like Martins, Walmart, and BJs.
Now you have the dough in a nice ball on your counter. What now?
Let the dough rise until it is approximately twice its size or a little less… just bigger. If it’s room temperature, it should take about 30 minutes covered with a cloth draped over the bowl. Put up high where it’s warmer or preheat the oven to 200 then turn it off and put the dough in there. Don’t let the cloth touch anything but the bowl!
Once it is risen, do the part we all secretly love…. punch it down! Then knead it for a minute or two and place it in a very well greased (using olive oil) baking pan and spread it around making sure it is about one inch thick all around.
Cover it again with the cloth and let it rise again for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400F and right before putting the bread in the oven add the toppings.
NOTE: At this point you have the option to either let it rise again or not. We’ve done both ways. Sometimes I add the toppings as soon as I add the dough to the pan.
If however, you actually let it rise a final third time, then it may produce a more airy and thick pizza like texture. Since according to the experts out there, this is more of a bread than pizza, you aren’t doing anything wrong by putting the toppings on right before baking.
How many toppings?
My husband likes more toppings, I like less. Who is right? Eh, who knows, we just want a good dinner. Keep in mind however that the more toppings, and especially if they are thick, the longer it takes to bake. I would recommend cutting the temperature back some to around 365F and bake for longer. You don’t want the tops to burn and everything else be undercooked.
Why 365F? Who cooks at that temp? I do. When I can’t decide if 350F is too low but 375F might be too high, I find a middle ground and I end up at 365. Then I can adjust as I monitor its progress.
Focaccia makes for a great simple dinner along with a nice salad, whether its antipasto or greens. Add in a nice glass of red wine to sip on and you’re all set. I do find the more simple the focaccia toppings, the more it will take the place of a flat bread. However the more toppings, the more it seems like a pizza.
Experiment, find out what you like the most and give it a try! If I can do it… so can anyone!
Note: Since I don’t have any good images of my own of our focaccia adventures, I am using these images from flickr. Creative license link is below.