Focaccia is a standard bread in the homes of many Italians. We learned this when we stayed in Puglia, which is in the “heel of the boot” of Italy. Here, focaccia bread is made fresh every few days and used as a snack, with meal or sliced and stuffed to make delicious sandwiches.
And, focaccia has been around here for a long time. It traces back to pre-Roman times, when facaccia bread was cooked in the hot coals of open ovens. The name focaccia actually is derived from the Latin word for hearth.
Back in these times, the bread was made simply with a coarse flour, olive oil and salt. These days, however, Italian focaccia bread comes in many forms. Ingredients uch as onions, rosemary, Parmesan cheese, olives or leeks have made their way into popular Italian focaccia recipes.
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One of our favorites is potato facaccia bread. Mashed potatoes are incorporated with the flour, resulting in a light, fluffy and moist bread. The potato starches actually react with the wheat starches chemically. This reaction results in a lighter dough which can hold more moisture, and less rising time.
Our version uses lots of olive oil, which is a common technique in Puglia. The estra oil enhances moistness, and also allows it to get crispy on the outside and stay nice and soft in the middle when toasted or grilled.
You can add your favorite ingredient to this basic recipe, making a rosemary or onion faccacia. Or, enjoy it plain and piping hot from the oven.
- 3 Cups (384g) All-Purpose Flour
- 1 Medium Potato, Boiled and Peeled
- 1 Cup (237ml) Warm Water
- 1/2 Package (1 1/4 teaspoons or 3.5g) Dry Active Yeast
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons (9g) Sea Salt
- 4 Tablespoons (60ml) Olive Oil
- Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of warm water.
- Thoroughly mash the potato or run it through a potato ricer if possible.
- Place the flour on a dry clean cooking surface or the center of a large bowl.
- Made a well in the center.
- Add the potato to the well along with the yeast mixture and the olive oil.
- Begin to combine by pinching together the potatoes from the center with the surrounding flour.
- Add the remaining warm water and salt when about 1/2 of the potato and flour mixture are combined.
- Once a ball of dough is formed, kneed it for 10 minutes.
- Let the dough to rest for 30 minutes in a covered bowl in a warm place.
- Liberally coat the bottom of a deep 10" by 10" baking dish.
- Press the dough into the pan leaving some room around the edges for the bread to expand.
- Liberally coat the top of the dough with oil then place the pan in the center of a preheated 350 F (177 C) oven.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the bread is golden brown.
A special thank you to Chef Gianna Greco of Cooking Experience in Lecce, Italy. We adapted our recipe from her version that we sampled during a recent cooking class. More recipes and our story about our experience coming soon.