07 Feb From Rome With Love
I’ve always been a fan of focaccia but didn’t consider making my own—I’ve always bought it. With the fashion for baking breads at home growing, I recently found a recipe for one from Sheela Prakash of thekitchn which was so easy and required no kneading that I made it straightaway. And wow! What great results. As I was out of rosemary I topped mine with oregano.
Focaccia, with its wonderful flavor and texture, is a classic bread with ancient origins. Perfect on its own for dipping in rich olive oil or to hold the contents of a sandwich, it is an ideal palate pleaser with its slightly crunchy exterior and soft interior. With myriad options for toppings, it is also a bread that is completely customizable.
The name focaccia comes from the Roman “panis focacius,” referencing that it was traditionally baked in coals. The word is derived from the Latin “focus,” which means “hearth, place for baking.”
Its recipe back then consisted of rough flour, olive oil, water, a very small quantity of yeast and salt. It was most likely quite plain at the time as it was customarily torn apart by hand and used as a dipping bread for salty soups made from water, vinegar, and possibly olive oil.
Over time, as the Romans expanded their empire to France and Spain, they brought focaccia with them and its popularity spread across continental Europe. While the basic recipe is thought to have originated with the Etruscans, it is now most associated with Ligurian cuisine and it’s simply impressive that this staple of Roman meals remains just as relevant and well-loved today.
This version is something you can make during the afternoon while working from home and have it ready for the evening meal (not to mention that nothing beats the aroma of fresh, baking bread wafting through the home!). Buon appetito!
No-Knead Skillet Focaccia (Serves 8-10)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dry instant yeast
- 3/4 cup lukewarm water
- 3 tablespoons plus 3 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 2 teaspoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt
- Place the flour, salt, and yeast in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and pulse to combine. Add the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Pulse until a rough ball of dough forms, about 15 (2-second) pulses.
- Drizzle 2 teaspoons of the oil in a large bowl. Flour your hands, scoop the dough out of the food processor, and form into a smooth ball. Place the ball of dough in the oiled bowl and turn it so it’s coated on all sides. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let it sit at warm room temperature until doubled in size, 2 to 3 hours.
- Drizzle 1 teaspoon of the oil in a 10-inch cast iron or other ovenproof skillet and rub it over the bottom and sides. Punch down the dough and place the dough in the skillet. Using your fingertips, coax and stretch the dough to cover the bottom of the skillet and reach all the way to the edges. Cover with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and let rest at warm room temperature until puffed and slightly risen, 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 450°F.
- Use your fingertips to gently dimple the surface of the dough. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil over the dough so that it pools in some of the indentations. Sprinkle with the rosemary and flaky salt.
- Place in the oven and immediately turn the heat down to 400°F. Bake until lightly golden-brown, 20 to 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven and cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving. Focaccia is best eaten when warm, but is also good at room temperature. If the crust gets too soft, reheat in a 350°F oven to crisp it up.
Make ahead: The dough can also be left in the covered bowl to rise overnight in the refrigerator — the slower rise actually provides extra flavor. In the morning, transfer the cold dough to the skillet and allow it to warm up a little, about 20 minutes, before stretching it and proceeding with the recipe.
Storage: The focaccia is best the day it is made but can be stored, well-wrapped, at room temperature for up to 1 day. The crust will soften, but it can be warmed and crisped in a 350°F oven for a few minutes. Leftover focaccia also freezes exceptionally well. Let it defrost at room temperature and then reheat in a 350°F oven for a few minutes.
Topping options: There is tons of experimentation to be had when it comes to focaccia toppings. Aside from rosemary, other herbs like thyme and oregano, thinly sliced lemons, pitted chopped olives, thick slices of fresh garlic or shallots, a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, and even everything bagel seasoning are great topping options.
Special Note: Feature Image for this blog post courtesy of Gordon Johnson at Pixabay.