Focaccia genovese

Frankantipasti, Liguria, snack35 Comments

Focaccia genovese

Back in the day, one of our favorite places for a nice affordable meal close by the apartment in central Rome was Taverna Parione. Located on a small side street off the tourist-mobbed piazza Navona, despite its location it was the real deal, with excellent food, especially the pizzas and pastas. But my very favorite part of the meal was the starter we never failed to order: focaccia genovese, the world-renowned flatbread from Genoa, served with sparkling fresh mozzarella shipped in daily from lower Lazio and velvety prosciutto, slice fresh to order right off the bone.

Taverna Parione (like many places in Rome, if you knew where to look for them) offered simple, genuine and affordable eating of the kind that’s nigh on impossible to find in restaurants in this country for love or money. But you can recreate that kind of experience, after a fashion, at home. Focaccia genovese, or fügassa in local dialect, is not at all hard to make, albeit a bit time-consuming with its multiple risings. Your patience will pay off with a delicious savory snack, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. And addictively delicious. I’m still amazed something so flavorful can come from just flour, water, salt and oil.

A well made focaccia is delicious on its own, just sprinkled with some coarse salt. But I usually like to enjoy it the way we used to back then, accompanied by sliced prosciutto and fresh mozzarella cheese. In Liguria itself, it is often baked with toppings—rosemary, sliced onion, cherry tomatoes or olives being some of the most common. However you choose to make it make a large portion. It will disappear quickly.

Ingredients

Makes one tray of focaccia, approximately 9″x13″

  • 225 ml (1 cup) lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 350 g (2-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour, or a bit more if needed
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 Tb salt
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

For finishing the focaccia:

  • 2-3 Tb water
  • 2-3 Tb olive oil
  • Coarse salt

Optional:

  • Rosemary leaves
  • Thinly sliced onions, moistened with a drizzle of olive oil
  • Olives
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes

Directions

Whisk the lukewarm water and yeast in the bottom of the bowl of a standing mixer. Let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes.

Add one cup of the flour and mix with the dough hook until you have a smooth paste. Then add the salt, honey and olive oil, and finally the rest of the flour.

Continue mixing with the dough hook until you have a nice, elastic and just slightly sticky ball of dough.

Slide the dough off the hook and into the mixing bowl. Form the dough into a ball and cover the bowl with a towel. Let the dough rest for a good 2 hours (or more) in a warm place until it has doubled in size. (If your kitchen is a bit cool, you can place the bowl inside a turned-off oven.)

Pour a bit of olive oil on a baking sheet. Then scoop the dough out of its bowl onto the oil. Flatten the dough out into a roughly rectangular shape and turn it over to grease both sides of the dough. Cover the dough with some plastic wrap or wax paper and then a light towel. Let the dough rest in the baking pan for about 20-30 minutes or so to soften.

Now spread the dough out with your hands, until it thinly and evenly covers the entire surface of the baking pan.

Cover the dough again and let it rest in a warm place for a good 45-60 minutes to rise.

Mix the oil and water in a measuring cup and pour it over the dough. Spread it out over the surface of the dough with the palms of your hands.

Now pressing the tips of your fingers, create little dimples all over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the coarse salt and, if using, the rosemary leaves.

Bake in a hot (200C/400F) pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes, until the focaccia is golden brown on top.

Let the focaccia cool on a baking grid.

Serve still warm or at room temperature.

Notes on focaccia genovese

Rising times may vary according to the weather. When the ambient temperature is cooler, your initial rise may take 3 hours rather than 2, in warmer weather, you may find 90 minutes sufficient. Of course, you can always let the dough go a bit longer if you like, no harm done.

In some recipes, you let the dough made with only the one cup of the flour ferment for 2 hours, before adding the rest of the flour and letting it rest another 2 hours. This initial fermented paste, referred to as a biga or “chariot” in Italian, not sure why. A biga does add character to your dough, but whether it’s worth an extra few hours of your time is up to you.

The same variability goes for the second and third rises in the baking pan. The second rise, though, is really more of a rest, serving to soften the dough up so it can easily be spread out to cover the whole pan. The third is an actual rise. You’ll want to see the dough rather nicely puffed up, the better to make those dimples, where the oil will puddle, giving your focaccia genovese its characteristic look and mouth feel.

Also important to that mouth feel: cooling your focaccia genovese on a baking grid. That will let air circulate above and below, so the bottom crust stays nice and crispy.

Focaccia genovese
Thick or thin?

The thickness of a focaccia can vary, too, but an authentic focaccia genovese should be rather thin, even if it needn’t be quite as thin as my version presented here. So many non-Italian renditions of “focaccia” are more like bread in their thickness. And the most disappointing ones lack the characteristic undulating crispy crust. At that point, you are are no longer dealing with focaccia, it’s just oily bread. You lose the whole charm of dish: the balance between the crispiness of the crust and the tenderness of the crumb.

Focaccia genovese

Course: Antipasto, Snack
Cuisine: Italian, Liguria
Keyword: vegan

Ingredients

  • 225 ml (1 cup) lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 350 g (2-1/2 cups) all-purpose flour or more as needed to form the dough
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 Tb salt
  • 2 Tbs olive oil

For finishing the focaccia:

  • 2 or 3 Tb water
  • 2 or 3 Tb olive oil
  • coarse salt

Optional:

  • Rosemary leaves
  • Thinly sliced onions moistened with a drizzle of olive oil
  • Olives
  • Cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Rosemary leaves

Instructions

  • Whisk the lukewarm water and yeast in the bottom of the bowl of a standing mixer. Let the mixture rest for 5-10 minutes.
  • Add one cup of the flour and mix with the dough hook until you have a smooth paste. Then add the salt, honey and olive oil, and finally the rest of the flour.
  • Continue mixing with the dough hook until you have a nice, elastic and just slightly sticky ball of dough.
  • Slide the dough off the hook and into the mixing bowl. Form the dough into a ball and cover the bowl with a towel. Let the dough rest for a good 2 hours (or more) in a warm place until it has doubled in size. (If your kitchen is a bit cool, you can place the bowl inside a turned-off oven.)
  • Pour a bit of olive oil on a baking sheet. Then scoop the dough out of its bowl onto the oil. Flatten the dough out into a roughly rectangular shape and turn it over to grease both sides of the dough. Cover the dough with some plastic wrap or wax paper and then a light towel. Let the dough rest in the baking pan for about 20-30 minutes or so to soften.
  • Now spread the dough out with your hands, until it thinly and evenly covers the entire surface of the baking pan.
  • Cover the dough again and let it rest in a warm place for a good 45-60 minutes to rise.
  • Mix the oil and water in a measuring cup and pour it over the dough. Spread it out over the surface of the dough with the palms of your hands.
  • Now pressing the tips of your fingers, create little dimples all over the surface of the dough. Sprinkle the dough with the coarse salt and, if using, the rosemary leaves.
  • Bake in a hot (200C/400F) pre-heated oven for 20-30 minutes, until the focaccia is golden brown on top.
  • Let the focaccia cool on a baking grid.
  • Serve still warm or at room temperature.

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35 Comments on “Focaccia genovese”

  1. Great recipe! Turned out amazing – flavorful, great crust and soft inside. However I have to confirm the comment above that 300g flour was way too little for me and there dough was still liquid; that although I used (what is considered at my part of the world) high-quality flour specifically for pizza. I didnt measure how much I added but probably 100g more to be able to take it out of the mixer and then to form a ball.

    1. Thanks for your comment Eliza. I’ve revised the measurements a bit to show more flour. I think things got a bit off as I converted the measurements..

  2. Making focaccia is an art and you have seemed to master that to perfection! A good focaccia is just impossible to resist. I went to Rome last year and the food was excellent there, you can visit the city so many times and never get bored of it. I want to make Focaccia Genovese too now!

  3. It looks very yummy. Focaccia is a classic, every one loves it. Sometimes I add origan or sliced onions on top. Thanks for sharing your recipe. I prefer to use fresh yeast and let it rest for 24-36 hours in the fridge before baking it. Paola

  4. Focaccia s a wonderful bread. I love to dip it into a dish with good olive oil drizzled with balsamic and with a sprinkle of coarse sea salt.
    I’ve not made focaccia in ages and your Focaccia Genovese sounds like the perfect recipe to get me back baking focaccia.

  5. This is so beautiful, Frank! And, it makes me want to go back to Rome right now. The first time I ever had focaccia, it was in the Cinque Terre – a panino of sliced focaccia filled with mozzarella and prosciutto. So simple but the flavors were amazing.

  6. Hi Frank,
    My question is regarding the farinata genovese (chickpea focaccia). Can you suggest an amount for “a good pour of olive oil”?

    Thanks so much
    Pegi Fletcher

  7. how utterly delicious Frank, I always look forward to the cooler weather (just arrived here in Umbria) because I can finally bake and make all the focaccia I want. Thank you for reminding me of this fabulous version!

  8. We are having a chilly autumn so the bread baking and soup simmering has begun. I will put this on my rotation. Especially good now while my rosemary continues to thrive.

  9. You totally nailed it with your description of Italian cuisine here, Frank. Simple, but quite amazing when done right. And you’re right that American food just isn’t the same. That’s why I usually end up making Italian here at home. This focaccia looks amazing, and I appreciate the tips you shared. The idea of baking this on a rack is intriguing. We’re having a dinner party in a few weeks, and I’m thinking this focaccia could be a good appetizer during drinks…served with olives and prosciutto of course!

    1. I bet it would be a big hit, David!

      (Btw, just to be 100% clear, you bake the focaccia in a baking pan or sheet, then let it cool on a rack.)

  10. The first focaccia I’ve ever made was a recipe I had copied down by hand while watching Biba’s Italian Kitchen (Biba Caggiano) on the very early Food Network. It was more bready, like you described above but she did use a sponge which made the inside super soft and chewy. I had no idea there are truer versions of this tasty dish but I am very happy to find out. I will try your version for sure, it really looks wonderful.

    1. Thanks, Eva! I wonder if you used that recipe but simply spread the dough out thinner, and of course topped it with water and oil before dimpling and baking? I bet that would get you a similar result. A soft and chewy inside is indeed what you want, but coupled with a nice crispy undulating crust…

    1. Well, it’s quite wet, yes. But you should still be able to work with it with your hands. And it should be only slightly sticky to the touch.

          1. Yes..i made the recipe again, going with my gut on flour amount..added quite a bit more and it worked out very nicely! I like the thin crust…as i have mostly made a thicker crust. I did attend Alma Culinary School in Italy and they used a much thicker crust as their norm.

  11. Oh dear, is it allowed to admit I have been one of those tourists who could not wait to get onto the Piazza Navona each year to feel oneself really in Rome 🙂 ! No, have not made focaccia, yes, I know I can manage this – and shall definitely try, and that before our 40C + days !! Definitely thin and having visited my rosemary bush outside the kitchen door . . .

    1. I tend to forget that as we enter into autumn, down under you’re going into spring. Well, focaccia is actually fabulous in the summer, if you can stand the oven’s heat in the kitchen… Enjoy!

      And by the way, nothing against piazza Navona per se. It’s amazing. But it does attract tourists (for good reasons) so one needs to be careful about where one eats in that area.

  12. Hi Frank,
    I love focaccia, but it seems the only way to get it in the US is make your own. Every time I’ve seen it here it was thick and dry (never enough oil!) without dimples . When I used to buy it in Italy, the bag would be spotted with oil before you got it home!

    I used to make it once in a while back here in the US – a little thicker than yours, though. One thing I did, that I believe I read in an Italian website, was to bake it with STEAM. This gives a little extra crunch to the crust. Just put a flat baking pan in the bottom of the oven and preheat it to its hottest. Put in the focaccia, and quickly dump a cup or so of water in the hot pan (careful), quickly close the oven, and turn the temp down to your baking one (400F). It works great for most breads.

    Here’s a pic – https://i.imgur.com/rKF8F.jpg

    1. Thanks, Jim! I’ll try that steam trick next time and see. Baked goods really do benefit from a moist environment. The use of the water on top of the dough just before baking is meant to do something similar, I believe.

  13. I love the looks of the crust on this — so, so pretty. Focaccia is something I’ve never made, and I can see I’m going to have to — I’ve often been served the really thick version of Focaccia in restaurants (not always or even typically, but way too often). And I love the idea of serving this with fresh mozzarella and prosciutto. Sounds like heaven!

  14. I love focaccia, but I’ve never made it at home. Yours looks so delicious! What a fantastic way to start a meal, or a sandwich! Hey, by the way, is that a new profile picture? I like it!

    1. Thanks, Jeff! Nice of you to say. I’ve got the same profile picture as always, I think. But the ways of the internet can be mysterious….

  15. Frank, thanks for the Focaccio recipe. It reminded me of what we enjoyed in a small restaurant in the historic area of Rome this Spring. Straight to the kitchen and turned out a large full size baking sheet. Thirty minutes have passed since it left the oven and 3 of us have polished off 1/2 the sheet with a Caprese salad and a bottle of Montepulciano. Fantastic recipe.

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