What is Focaccia?

What is focaccia?

If you love bread and you love pizza, then odds are you will love focaccia. But what is focaccia and is it easy to make?

In this post, you’ll learn everything you need to know, along with helpful tips so you can enjoy the perfect focaccia every time.  

What is Focaccia?

Pronounced foh-kaht-tchah, 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 unique flat bread isn’t thin and crispy, its dough is about an inch thick, and it is soft and chewy inside and harder outside.

This flat bread can easily resemble a pizza depending on what toppings you choose, however it’s important not to confuse the two.  It is also often baked on a cookie sheet and cut into squares or wedges for serving.

Focaccia is meant to be simple, and it sounds much more elaborate than it really is. To make focaccia, you need very minimal ingredients, along with a very basic pizza dough.

Is Focaccia a Type of Pizza?

So, if we’re using pizza dough, wouldn’t this be considered a pizza? The answer is, not exactly. Although focaccia uses a pizza dough, it is how the dough is treated before baking that makes it different from a pizza.

With pizza we roll out the dough and bake it immediately.

But with focaccia, we have an extra step. After rolling the dough out, we let it rise in the pan and then we bake it. It can rise from a few hours to even a day. I recommend letting it rise until it is an inch thick.

In my recipe, you have the option to let it rise twice – which makes it even airier while baking.

Another reason for what makes focaccia different from pizza is that it doesn’t use a sauce. It only has toppings, including the liberally applied olive oil.

What’s the Difference Between Focaccia and Ciabatta?

What is focaccia if it’s not a pizza? Many people wonder if it’s like ciabatta bread, but like pizza, it is close but not the same.

Focaccia and ciabatta bread are each uniquely different. Focaccia is oilier and salty and has a softer and chewier texture.

However, ciabatta bread has an airy texture with air holes in the dough.

Ciabatta bread is an excellent bread for dipping in a sauce or slicing open and adding toppings or even turning into a ciabatta bread pizza. You don’t add toppings to the outside of the ciabatta dough either.

Focaccia on the other hand is not to be sliced and is baked with the toppings on top.  It is eaten like a pizza, you don’t slice it open or dip it in a thick sauce.

Ingredients Used for Focaccia

There are many ways to make focaccia, mostly due to the toppings chosen. However, there are three main ingredients you’ll need every time – dough, olive oil, and salt.

  • Basic pizza dough – you can use regular white flour, or any other flour you enjoy. This recipe uses white flour so I can’t guarantee results if you start mixing whole wheat, or gluten free flour.
  • Olive oil – I recommend using a good quality extra virgin olive oil for maximum flavor.
  • Coarse salt – Do not use table salt as that is too fine. Use a course salt such as pink salt or kosher salt.
  • Toppings – these can be herbs or vegetables, or thin meats such as prosciutto.
  • Let’s talk about topping ideas next.

Best Toppings for Focaccia

What is focaccia if you don’t have the right toppings?

The first time I saw focaccia in the store vs a restaurant, it had large chunks of onion, green pepper and roasted red pepper, and garlic. It was love at first sight for me and I knew I had to try and replicate it at home.

Prior to that, I had only ever eaten it served with just olive oil and rosemary, the most common toppings used.

So, I want to devote a whole section to toppings simply because I want to encourage you to get more creative as you become familiar with this particular focaccia recipe.

Best toppings for focaccia are ones that are healthy and won’t overpower the bread.

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 is often the herb-of-choice in many Italian restaurants.

For this recipe, you want to use about 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary that will be sprinkled on top of the dough before it rises in the pan. Most toppings are added right before baking after rising, however rosemary is not.

Olives

You can use a mix of olives, or a specific type such as green olives which are common in Italian cooking, or my favorite, kalamata olives. 

You can use the Spanish olives in the jar that are used for martinis – 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.

Olive oil

What is focaccia without olive oil, right? Olive oil is essential to focaccia. Do not use any other type of oil.

Onions

Onions always add lots of flavor as a topping. You can slice them very thinly and saute them in olive oil until they are soft. You can also add onions cut in large pieces, but only a single ‘skin’ layer thick. 

Cheese

Sometimes only cheese is used as a focaccia topping, such as  Romano or Parmesan. Romano has a stronger flavor and therefore I think it is a better choice if you have it on hand. Otherwise, Parmesan will suffice. Do not use mozzarella, we don’t want a stringy cheese.

Fennel seeds

These seeds give a sausage aroma and can be lightly sprinkled on top prior to baking.

Vegetables

Other ideas for toppings are fresh vegetables such as green and red peppers, and sundried tomatoes. I do not recommend regular tomatoes, due to the moisture content.

What is Herb Focaccia

So, what is focaccia when it has herbs in the dough itself? Herb focaccia!

Herbs can be used as part of the dough itself, or as the primary herb topping.

Use fresh herbs, especially rosemary since when it is dry it can be very sharp and hard.

Chop the fresh herbs and add them when kneading the dough for those 3 or 4 minutes after it has risen. Make sure the herbs are evenly mixed in throughout the dough.

Making Focaccia Using Pizza Dough

Let’s now talk about how to prepare and make the focaccia. I’ll explain the various steps in detail with added tips. If you’re already familiar with all this and just want the recipe, scroll down and you’ll see the focaccia recipe card.

Prepare the Dough

Focaccia uses pizza dough so you can either use store-bought dough which is sometimes sold in the freezer section. Or you can easily make your own as detailed out in my simple pizza dough recipe.

Follow this process for the dough:

  • Let the pizza dough rise covered in an oiled bowl, just like you would for pizza.
  • Once the dough has risen in the bowl, punch the dough down and knead it for 3 or 4 minutes.
  • Then place the kneaded dough in a well-oiled, shallow baking pan or cookie sheet and spread it out to the edges. You want it close to an inch thick.
  • Cover with a cloth and let it rise (this is called the 2nd rising) for at least 30 minutes. Some people let it rise for a few hours. I let it rise until it’s an inch thick.

At this point, we are now making focaccia with pizza dough.

Here’s the process in detail used in my recipe.

Prepare your toppings

While the dough is rising in the pan get your toppings prepared and set aside.

Brush with olive oil

Once the dough has risen, and before you add the toppings, use your fingers to make slight indentations throughout the dough.

Then brush liberally with the remaining olive oil and then sprinkle the coarse salt on top.

Add the focaccia toppings

Once oiled, add the toppings to the focaccia right before baking in the oven.

Remember that less is more when it comes to focaccia, don’t overload the toppings, this is like a flat bread, not a pizza.

Bake the Focaccia  

Now it’s time to bake the focaccia.

Make sure the oven has been preheated to 400F and place on a middle rack. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until it is golden brown.

TIP: If you have thick toppings, then I recommend reducing the temperature to 375F and lengthening the baking time by 10 minutes.

Ways to Serve Focaccia

So now we’ve got this amazing Italian flat bread, but how do we serve it? Focaccia is generally served as an appetizer or a hearty snack. It is not meant to be a meal.

It is eaten the same way as bread or pizza– held with the hand. Sometimes depending on a particular Italian region, they are served folded in half – a practice more common with street vendors.

What to Eat with Focaccia?

Now the question is what to eat with focaccia, especially since it’s generally not the main dish and we want it to be filling. I’d recommend the following accompanying side dish ideas to round out the meal.

Choosing side dishes that are healthy and fresh will help balance the carbohydrates from the bread. You’ll notice I did not include pasta as a side dish for this very reason.

How to Store Focaccia

The best way to store fresh focaccia bread is wrapped in parchment and foil in the refrigerator for up to three days.

To store focaccia in the freezer, allow it to cool to room temperature first. Wrap it in parchment and foil and store in a freezer bag for added protection. Mark the bag with the date and name of the contents.

Focaccia will last in the freezer for up to 6 months, but 3 months is the best practice.

How to Reheat Focaccia

To reheat focaccia, place it in a warm oven or toaster oven at 350F and warm it up until it is heated through, about 5 to 10 minutes. If frozen, thaw it before reheating.

Common Questions about Focaccia

Here are some common questions about focaccia that you may have. I’ve done my best to answer them as much as I can.

Why is my focaccia dense?

Since we are making focaccia with pizza dough, it is important to ensure you’re doing all the proper steps, such as making sure the dough is rising properly. If the yeast is old, it may not rise. If it is still dense, then try letting the dough rise a second time in the pan.

Also, sometimes dough can have a max point in rising, and the yeast will stop doing what it’s meant to do and will actually deflate. This is called over-proofing, here’s a good article by Masterclass on that topic.  

How far in advance can you make focaccia?

Good news, focaccia can be made in advance up to 3 days if stored in the refrigerator, or 3 months if stored in the freezer. If stored longer, it may lose the fresh flavor of the toppings.

My recommendation is to freeze the dough in advance and then make the focaccia the day of.

What type of flour to use for focaccia?

Although we are using pizza dough, we want to use regular white flour. Do not use 00 flour. Sift the white flour as that will help incorporate air into the dough allowing it to interact better with the gluten.

Knowing how to make focaccia, really comes down to knowing what focaccia is and how it’s different from pizza or other breads. Ask 10 people what it is, or even what the best toppings are and you’ll get 10 different answers.

One thing we can be confident about is that making focaccia from pizza dough is super easy. I gave you as much information as I possibly could, plus ideas for what to eat with the focaccia so you can plan a whole meal. 

Just remember that it’s okay to experiment and discover how you like it best!

Focaccia

Making Focaccia is as easy as making a simple pizza!
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Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian

Ingredients

  • ball of pizza dough
  • fresh rosemary
  • coarse salt
  • olive oil

Instructions

  • Use a basic pizza dough recipe for the dough
  • 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.  
  • Once it is risen, do the part we all secretly love…. punch it down!  
  • Then knead it for 3 or 4 minutes 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. 
  • 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.
  • Sprinkle fresh rosemary and the coarse salt.
  • Make indents in the dough.
  • Drizzle or brush with olive oil.
  • Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Let me know how you enjoy this recipe in the comments below.

Grazie!

Liz

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What is Focaccia?

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