Some people may think that focaccia is the poor cousin of the pizza, but they really are different beasts. Pizza has always been eaten as a dish in its own right, even though it may have morphed from the original Napoli version, though focaccia has always been an accompaniment to other dishes. The word focaccia is derived from ancient Rome, where a flat bread called ‘panis focacius’ was cooked on the hearth of a fire, which was called the ‘focus’.
Though most people will recognise a dimpled flat-bread as Italian Foccacia, there are very similar breads in other countries, probably introduced by the Romans, such as Fogassa, Fouaisse, Foisse, Fougasse, Hogaza and Fugazza in various parts of France, Spain and even Argentina.
The reason why there might be some confusion as to focaccia being a poor facsimile of a pizza, is that it comes with a variety of toppings, but unlike pizza, the topping are usually fairly plain and include such things as olive oil, garlic, rosemary, olives, onions, sage and other vegetables. Though you may find some small regional varieties with cheese or sweet toppings, these tend to be rare. My favourite is olive oil, garlic, olives and salt, served warm along with some antipasto.
Olive and garlic Focaccia
The Bread Dough
- 3 cups (380g) of strong white bread flour
- 1 cup (250ml) of warm water
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tbsp of sugar
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tsp of rapid-rise active yeast
- About 24 medium sized black olives
- 0.25 cup (60ml) of olive oil
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed or finely chopped
- some fine semolina for dusting (optional)
- Sea salt, kosher salt or some other coarse grained salt
- Mix together the water, olive oil, sugar and salt, then add the flour and the yeast. Mix together to form a dough and then kneed for at least 5 minutes. You could use a food mixer or bread machine for this stage if you wish. Cover and set aside the dough for a couple of hours to rise.
- Once the dough has risen, turn it onto a work surface sprinkled liberally with flour of fine semolina. Stretch the dough to the required shape (round or oblong) and place it into a well oiled baking pan. Sprinkle with some fine semolina and leave it to rise again for about 30 minutes.
- Using your fingers poke some evenly placed holes in the bread. Place a little garlic into each of the holes.
- Carefully pour some olive oil into each hole.
- Gently squeeze a black olive into each hole, being careful not to dislodge the olive oil.
- Sprinkle some coarse salt over the top of the bread and bake in 400F (200C) oven for about 25 mins until it is golden brown. It is best served warm, but it is equally nice cold too.