Focaccia barese

FrankPuglia, snack38 Comments

Focaccia barese

Neapolitan pizza has taken over the world, but Italy abounds with lesser known regional flatbreads like focaccia genovese from Liguria, schiacciata from Tuscany, sfincione from Sicily, just to name a few. Today I’d like to show you one of my personal favorites, from Puglia’s capital city Bari: focaccia barese, also known as focaccia pugliese.

Much simpler to make at home than pizza, focaccia barese uses an unusual dough made from a mix of finely ground semolina flour and the usual “00” flour used to make pizza, along with a bit of mashed potato, which the baresi say lends a particular fluffiness to dough. Laid out in a round metal baking pan, the dough is then topped with fresh uncooked tomato and olives, sprinkled with oregano and drizzled generously with olive oil.

After 30 minutes in a hot oven, you’ll have a beautiful focaccia barese, golden and crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, deliciously unctuous and packed full of flavors so typical of Puglia and southern Italy generally.

There’s no need for fancy equipment or special skills. So if you’re a fan of pizza and its cousins—and who isn’t?—focaccia barese is well worth adding to your repertoire. Just be careful as it can easily become addictive!

Ingredients

Makes two 30cm/12 inch focacce

For the dough:

  • 200g (7 oz) semola rimacinata (finely ground semolina flour)
  • 300g (10-1/2 oz) “00” flour (or all purpose flour)
  • 1 medium potato, boiled, peeled and mashed
  • 350ml (12 fl oz) water, or as much as you need to form a ball of dough
  • 2 tsp dry active yeast
  • Sugar, just a pinch
  • Salt, to taste
  • Olive oil

For the toppings:

  • 250-500g (1/2-1 lb) tomatoes, depending on tastes, broken into pieces
  • Green olives, q.b.
  • Olive oil
  • Oregano

Directions

Mix together the flours, salt, yeast and sugar. Incorporate the mashed potato and then the water and a drizzle of olive oil. Knead until you have a smooth, pliable ball of dough.

Let the dough rest, covered, for at least two hours, better three.

Grease a round metal baking pan (or paella pan) about 28-30cm/11-12 inches in diameter with olive oil. Take 1/2 the dough and place it in the pan, stretching it by with your well oiled fingers until the pocked dough covers the bottom of the dish. (Repeat with the other half of the dough in another pan or reserve for another day.)

Lay the tomatoes, broken with your hands into small pieces, all over the top of the dough. Then place the olives here and there, gingerly pressing them into the dough. Sprinkle with oregano and just a pinch of salt, then drizzle generously with olive oil. Let rest for a half hour.

Place the pan(s) in a very hot (250C/475F) preheated oven, either on the bottom of the oven or on a pizza steel placed on the lowest rack. After 15 minutes, take the dish and place it on a rack in the upper third of the oven. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the focaccia is cooked through and golden brown top and bottom.

Serve warm (not scalding hot) or at room temperature.

Focaccia barese

Notes

The dough varies quite a bit from recipe to recipe. Some recipes (including this one from the famous Panificio Fiore in Bari) call for 00 flour only like a Neapolitan pizza, but most traditional recipes call for a mix of 00 and semolina rimacinata, finely ground semolina flour. The mashed potato is optional but highly recommended. If you omit the potato, you may need a bit more water for the dough to come together.

The cognoscenti say that the tomatoes shouldn’t be too big or too small. Plum tomatoes are ideal. Tradition has it that the tomatoes should be broken up by hand as directed here. (But if you want to roughly chop them with a knife I certainly won’t stop you.) Cherry tomatoes are also a popular choice, typically cut in half, sometimes separately dressed with the olive oil and oregano before topping the pizza. The amount of tomato varies wildly—you can find focacce baresi that are totally covered with tomato, others where the tomatoes dot the surface here and there. So go with whatever suits your taste and mood.

Recipes for focaccia barese vary also on how long to let the dough rise. Some call for as little as an hour, but most range between 2 and 3 hours. I made the dough in the evening and let it rest overnight so it developed richer flavor. The dough will last up to three days stored in an air tight container or plastic bag in the fridge. Take it out about an hour before you want to bake.

I like to place the baking dish on the bottom of the oven—or just above it on a preheated pizza steel—for the first 15 minutes. This ensures that the bottom will come out beautifully golden and crispy. And if you’re baking two focacce at a time, you can save time by placing one on the lower rack and the other on the higher, then switching places. This is why it’s best to use a metal pan or dish, since ceramic may well crack. That said, don’t skip making focaccia barese if all you have is a ceramic baking pan. The bottom won’t tend to brown as well, but your focaccia will be quite tasty anyway.

I’ve specified a 250C/475F oven, because I know most people’s ovens will get that hot. But if your oven is able, you can go as high as 270C/520F for even better lift and a more golden crust. Either way, if the top isn’t done to your liking, you can pop it under a broiler for a minute or two.

When in Bari…

Bari’s old town has a number of bakeries famous for their focaccia barese, the Panificio Fiore perhaps being the best known. Visitors will typically do a “focaccia run”, visiting various panifici to compare and contrast their virtues. Expect long lines at the most famous places and, at least per some YouTubers I’ve seen, brusk service. When I was in Bari, I skipped this particular tourist ritual. I’m not big on queuing for my food. In any event, you can find perfectly delicious focaccia barese all over town, even at the most unassuming holes in the wall.

Focaccia barese

Classic "pizza" from Bari Italy
Total Time3 hours 30 minutes
Course: Snack
Cuisine: Puglia
Keyword: baked, vegan

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 200g 7 oz semola rimacinata (finely ground semolina flour)
  • 300g 10-1/2 oz “00” flour or all purpose flour
  • 1 medium potato boiled, peeled and mashed
  • 350ml 12 fl oz water or as much as you need to form a ball of dough
  • 2 tsp dry active yeast
  • Sugar, just a pinch
  • Salt, to taste
  • Olive oil

For the toppings

  • 250-500g 1/2 to 1 lb tomatoes depending on tastes, broken into pieces
  • Green olives to taste
  • Olive oil
  • Oregano
  • Salt

Instructions

  • Mix together the flours, salt, yeast and sugar. Incorporate the mashed potato and then the water and a drizzle of olive oil. Knead until you have a smooth, pliable ball of dough. 
  • Let the dough rest, covered, for at least two hours, better three. 
  • Grease a round metal baking pan (or paella pan) about 28-30cm/11-12 inches in diameter with olive oil. Take 1/2 the dough and place it in the pan, stretching it by with your well oiled fingers until the pocked dough covers the bottom of the dish. (Repeat with the other half of the dough in another pan or reserve for another day.)
  • Lay the tomatoes, broken with your hands into small pieces, all over the top of the dough. Then place the olives here and there, gingerly pressing them into the dough. Sprinkle with oregano and just a pinch of salt, then drizzle generously with olive oil. Let rest for a half hour.
  • Place the pan(s) in a very hot (250C/475F) preheated oven, either on the bottom of the oven or on a pizza steel placed on the lowest rack. After 15 minutes, take the dish and place it on a rack in the upper third of the oven. Bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the focaccia is cooked through and golden brown top and bottom. 
  • Serve warm (not scalding hot) or at room temperature. 

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38 Comments on “Focaccia barese”

  1. Frank, just found your terrific site via Marie at Proud Italian Cook, been enjoying her recipes for years. I’ll be spending my entire day enjoying browsing your site but want to make this focaccia first.
    For this recipe, should the pan have some depth, is a pizza pan too shallow? As a substitute would a 9×12 sheet pan be a successful alternative? Or possibly one large 13 x 18? I guess the round shape would be traditional. Re: the tomatoes, would campari tomatoes be too liquidy?

    1. Welcome, Den!

      To answer your questions, the typical pan is round and does have some depth. If you own a paella pan, that’s very close to the kind of thing they use in Puglia. If not, a sheet pan should also work fine. Yes, a focaccia barese is typically round but square/rectangular ones aren’t entirely unheard of.

  2. It’s wonderful to explore the lesser-known regional flatbreads of Italy, and focaccia barese, or focaccia pugliese, from Bari, Puglia, is definitely a standout. While Neapolitan pizza has gained worldwide fame, there are so many other delicious flatbreads to discover in Italy.

  3. What are the chances? I literally added Paneficio Fiore to my Google map like 2 hours ago (saw it on IG)! Wow! This looks absolutely scrumptious, Frank. I’m salivating here!

  4. We just returned from a fabulous trip to Italy and had our share of wonderful flatbreads and pizzas! This looks delicious and I can never resist the olives!

  5. Woah. Mind blown! I’ve made focaccia many times. I’ve made pizza dough many times. I’ve even made bread with potato flakes in it. But I’ve never combined them all into one as this recipe does. You know this will have to make an appearance in our kitchen at some point! And at some point, I also need to visit Bari!

    1. You surely should, David. It’s a fun town and much overlooked so unlike many other cities in Italy it’s not overrun with tourists.

  6. such an interesting idea to add mashed potato. I have made a chocolate cake with mashed potato; it gives an interesting taste and texture. This looks delish Frank.

  7. I can easily live on flatbreads or simply bread and vegetables all summer long – I mean what can you ask for more? I’ve never made focaccia barese, but this sounds like an ultimate summer flatbread, and it looks terrific!

    1. Carefully, lol! Actually the way to do is to open them on the bottom over the pizza, so the liquid drops on to the surface of the dough.

  8. As I mentioned on social media, we cannot wait to make this. I will give it a start with cherry tomatoes, as they have been so incredibly sweet at the market, and I liked the idea of dressing them with the olive oil and oregano first. Potato-wise – are you using russet or yellow-flesh? (I assume russet, but you never know.)

    1. Like you, I’d say go with russets, although I’ve seen at least one recipe that specifies “una patata a pasta gialla”—don’t ask me why. In the event, when I made this focaccia I didn’t have russets on hand so guess what my ploy was…

  9. My wife and I visited Bari a few years ago in early May, coinciding accidentally with the city’s annual festival celebrating San Nicola the patron saint of Bari. It’s a great religious folk festival, held every year in Bari, commemorates the May 9th, 1087, arrival of St. Nicholas’ bones (the Translation of the Relics from Myra to Bari) which were stolen by the Barese from their original location in Myra. Bari is a great place even outside festivals and we’d recommend it to everyone, especially the Old Town. We stayed in a place just a few hundred meters from Panificio Fiore and got focaccia from there several times. The Fiore more than deserves its reputation, easily the best focaccia we’ve ever had.

    1. It must have been a wonderful time to see the city. When I next go back I must try to catch that festival! Bari definitely is underrated, though I was glad in a way since it was one of the few places in Italy during our trip that wasn’t packed with tourists! Next time I may also hit Panificio Fiore. For reasons explained in the post I skipped it this time, though of course I did pass it by. Assuming the line’s not too long, that is..

  10. My father’s family is from Toritto(BA) and the foccacia was always baked in a deep dish pan and was about 5cm thick. Simple, oily & crispy. Just hand torn peeled tomatoes, black olives and oregano. Deliscious.
    As it baked and rose the tomato and olives sunk into the dough. Foccacia was moist and delectable.

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