|Place of origin||Italy|
|Main ingredients||High-gluten flour, oil, water, salt, yeast|
|Cookbook: Focaccia Media: Focaccia|
Focaccia is popular in Italy and is usually seasoned with olive oil, salt, sometimes herbs, and may at times be topped with onion, cheese and meat. It might also be flavored with a number of vegetables.
Focaccia can be used as a side to many meals, as a base for pizza, or as sandwich bread.
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The common-known focaccia is salt focaccia. Focaccia doughs are similar in style and texture to pizza doughs, consisting of high-gluten flour, oil, water, salt and yeast. It is typically rolled out or pressed by hand into a thick layer of dough and then baked in a stone-bottom or hearth oven. Bakers often puncture the bread with a knife to relieve bubbling on the surface of the bread.
Also common is the practice of dotting the bread. This creates multiple wells in the bread by using a finger or the handle of a utensil to poke the unbaked dough. As a way to preserve moisture in the bread, olive oil is then spread over the dough, by hand or with a pastry brush prior to rising and baking. In the northern part of Italy, lard will sometimes be added to the dough, giving the focaccia a softer, slightly flakier texture. Focaccia recipes are widely available, and with the popularity of bread machines, many cookbooks now provide versions of dough recipes that do not require hand kneading.
Comparison with pizza
The primary difference between conventional pizza (round, Neapolitan pizza) and focaccia is that pizza dough uses very little leavening (baker’s yeast), resulting in a very thin, flat and flexible crust, while focaccia dough uses more leavening, causing the dough to rise significantly higher. The added leavening firms the crust and gives focaccia the capacity to absorb large amounts of olive oil. Unleavened pizza dough is already too dense to absorb much olive oil. A conventional loaf of bread is too tall to absorb olive oil all the way through to its center. Being shorter in height than a conventional loaf and less dense than a pizza dough, focaccia can indeed absorb olive oil all the way to its center or at least nearly so. As such, focaccia might well be thought of as "olive oil bread".
Focaccia is most often square whereas conventional pizza is more commonly round. Focaccia most often employs more salt than pizza.
There exist traditional Italian pizza recipes, incorporating more leavening, in amounts similar to focaccia, especially in southern Italy, and specifically sfinciuni (Sicilian pizza). If these leavened pizzas were to incorporate equivalent amounts of olive oil in the dough, they would be very similar to a focaccia, except perhaps for the herbs or toppings used. Similarly any "thick-crust" pizza that incorporates large amounts of olive oil would be very similar to focaccia, again except for the variance in the herbs and toppings employed.
Contrary to pizza where more than one topping is often found mixed on the same pizza, toppings are not commonly mixed on one focaccia although one topping and one herb might be mixed. Whereas pizza often has toppings peppered only intermittently on its surface, on focaccia, a single topping is often layered more uniformly and thick.
Etymology and regional variants
In Ancient Rome, panis focacius was a flat bread baked on the hearth. The word is derived from the Latin focus meaning "hearth, place for baking." The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans or ancient Greeks, but today it is widely associated with Ligurian cuisine.
As the tradition spread, the different dialects and diverse local ingredients resulted in a large variety of bread (some may even be considered cake). Due to the number of small towns and hamlets dotting the coast of Liguria, the focaccia recipe has fragmented into countless variations (from the biscuit-hard focaccia di Camogli to the oily softness of the one made in Voltri), with some bearing little resemblance to its original form. The most extreme example is a specialty called focaccia col formaggio ("focaccia with cheese") which is made in Recco, near Genoa. Other than the name, this Recco version bears no resemblance to other focaccia varieties, having a caillé and cheese filling sandwiched between two layers of paper-thin dough. It is even being considered for European Union PGI status.
Out of Liguria, focaccia comes in many regional variations and its recipe, its texture, its flavor remarkably varies from north to south of Italy. In some parts of the Northwest, for example, a popular recipe is focaccia dolce ("sweet focaccia"), consisting of a basic focaccia base and sprinkled lightly with sugar, or including raisins, honey, or other sweet ingredients. Another sweet focaccia from the Northeast is focaccia veneta ("Venetian focaccia"), a typical cake of thee Venetian Easter tradition: it is based on eggs, sugar and butter (instead of olive oil and salt) and it looks quite similar to panettone or to another Venetian cake like pandoro.
In westernmost regions of Italy, across the French border, so-called focaccia, fougasse or tarte glacée ("glazed cake" in French) is a Christmas and New Year's Eve cake topped by a sugar and egg-white glaze, commercially known as focaccia di Susa. A ciambella shaped version is called tarte couronne or couroun.
In South Tyrol and in the small village of Krimml in Austria, the so-called Osterfochaz (in Krimml Fochiz) is the traditional Easter gift of the Godparents to their Godchildren. Therefore, the bread is slightly thinner in the middle, in order to put in the coloured Easter eggs.
Back to olive oil- and salt-based focacce (e.g. focaccia alla genovese, originated in Genoa), the Southern Italian cuisine has its own specialties as well. Focaccia alla messinese is a typical focaccia from Messina, while focaccia barese or focaccia alla barese is common in the provinces of Bari, Brindisi, Lecce and Taranto. This latest focaccia is at least partially made with durum wheat flour and usually comes in three variations: classic focaccia with fresh tomatoes and often olives, potato focaccia with potato slices 5 mm thick and white focaccia with salt grains and rosemary. Some other variations include peppers, onions, eggplant or other vegetables, while the Sicilian-style pizza and the Roman pizza bianca ("white pizza") can be extensively considered as variants of focaccia as well.
Elsewhere in Europe, fougasse is a typical bread from Provence and from the French cuisine as a whole, also known as fogassa, foisse or fouaisse in local variations (e.g. in Burgundy and Languedoc); the name fogassa is also used in Catalonia, while Spaniards call this bread hogaza.
As an aftermath of the Italian diaspora in the Americas, focaccia is also consumed in the United States, where it sometimes referred to as focaccia bread. In Argentina, it is widely known under the name of fugazza, derived from fugàssa in the native language of Argentina's many Ligurian immigrants.
Outside of Italy, focaccia is used extensively as a sandwich bread.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Focaccia.|
- Panis focacius
- "A Short History of Focaccia Bread". Big History. WordPress. Retrieved 2012-03-22.
- Oxford Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1982, 1985 reprinting, p. 718.
- "History of Focaccia Bread". Abigail's Bakery. Retrieved 2012-03-22.
- "Focaccia Bread". Retrieved 22 March 2012.