One of my fondest memories of living in Italy is spending lazy summer days seaside where the biggest task on my "to do" list would be to take a midday break to walk to the bakery for a slice of sweet, salty, and olive oil drenched (in an amazing) way focaccia.
Though there are styles of bread called focaccia across Italy -- like the grape-studded schiacciata all'uva from Tuscany, the tomato and olive oil version from Bari, and the unleavened version with cheese from the town of Recco -- it's commonly agreed that the king of them all is the uber-classic style from Genoa.
Also known as Ligurian style as Genoa is in Liguria, this classic bread is about 1-inch high, dimpled all over, and topped with incredible (usually Ligurian!) extra virgin olive oil and salt.
There are a ton of recipes for classic focaccia bread across the internet but a lot are flavorless, some are tough, and others are overly complicated.
So, I took all the things I've learned over the years of being a recipe tester and combined it with the tips (do a long rise for more flavor!) and tricks (top it with an olive oil brine for best moisture and crust! bake it directly on a baking sheet! start the oven high then lower the temperature) I've picked up while traveling in Italy for our group trips and made this recipe.
Yes, it requires you wait a minute -- okay, more like 24 hours -- but that patience rewards you with a flavorful bread. So here it is: an easy recipe for a classic Genoa-style focaccia bread with golden brown crust, a soft crumb, and tons of olive oil and flaky sea salt.
Even if you've never made bread, you can make this focaccia!
or a mix of the two, plus more for rolling (3 1/2 cups if you're using just all purpose flour)
(between 90°F and 110°F), divided plus more for the "brine"
plus more for the "brine" and garnishing the bread
To Make The Focaccia Dough: In a small bowl, stir together the 1 1/2 teaspoons of yeast and 1/2 cup of the warm water and let sit until bubbly, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the 1 pound of flour, the remaining 1 cup of warm water, and the 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix on low speed until a shaggy dough forms, stopping a few times to scrape down the inside of the bowl to incorporate any dry flour.
Stop the mixer, add in the yeast and water mixture, and mix on low speed until the dough is evenly hydrated and moistened. Add the salt and the 1/4 cup olive oil, one tablespoon at a time, and mix on medium speed until the mixture comes together as a dough (when you add the oil it will look like it isn't going to combine with the dough but just let the mixer keep going -- it will all mix in!). Continue to mix on medium speed until the dough is smooth and does not stick to the sides of the bowl, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Remove the dough to a barely floured clean countertop and bring it together in a ball. Meanwhile, add a drizzle of oil to a large mixing bowl, add the dough and turn it to coat in the oil, then cover it with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set it aside at room temperature until it has doubled in size, about 90 minutes.
To help you confirm how much the dough has risen, put a piece of tape on the outside of the bowl at the approximate height of the dough at the start of the rise. Once it has risen to about twice, that you can start to form the focaccia.
To Shape The Focaccia Dough: Once the dough has risen, prepare the baking pans (either two (9-inch) round or square cake pans or one large 18-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet) by adding a few spoonfuls of oil then, with a pastry brush or clean hands, rubbing the oil all over the bottom and inside edges of the pans.
Turn the dough out of the bowl onto a barely floured clean countertop and fold the dough into itself like a book to help it deflate. If using a large baking sheet, place the dough in the middle. Or if using two cake pans, divide the dough in two and put each piece in each of the prepared pans. Let rest 10 to 15 minutes until the gluten has relaxed and the dough is easy to shape.
With well-oiled hands, gently press the dough (don't totally deflate it or tear it) so it is evenly in the pans (it's okay if its' not perfectly reaching to each edge but it should almost be the proper shape. Cover the pan (or pans) with clean kitchen towels or plastic wrap and refrigerate for 8 to 24 hours. (I know it's a long time but doing a long fermentation like this allows for way more flavor in your final focaccia!)
You could put all the dough in one cake pan but it will end up making a high, more fluffy focaccia that is more typically in the United States. To make a version that is more traditional to Genoa, you want the final height of the focaccia to be about 1 inch tall.
To Bake The Focaccia Bread: Once you are ready to bake the focaccia, bring it out of the refrigerator and let it sit in a warm place (like inside a gas oven with only the pilot light on or on the back burner of a stove where you have the oven on low heat (say 250°F) until the dough has come to room temperature and has doubled in height, about 60 to 90 minutes.
Once the dough has risen, place it on the countertop and remove the towel or plastic wrap. Heat the oven to 475°F, arrange a rack in the middle, and, place a baking stone, pizza stone, or two nested baking sheets on the rack (these will help make the bottom crust nice and golden brown!).
Meanwhile, make the "brine" for the top of the focaccia by combining 2 tablespoons of water with 3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil and a big pinch of salt then whisk until the water and oil are evenly combined. Just before baking, drizzle 2/3 of this mixture on the focaccia dough. Use your three middle fingers on each hand to create dimples in the dough (you should make indentations that go about 2/3 down but don't hit the bottom of the pan and don't tear the dough).
Place the focaccia in the oven on the baking stone or baking sheets, reduce the oven temperature to 450°F, and bake 25 to 35 minutes, turning halfway through baking, until it is golden brown.
If you're making two focaccia, you'll want to bake them one by one FYI.
To Finish The Focaccia Bread: Once the focaccia is golden brown on the top and bottom (it should have a minimum internal temperature of 190°F), remove it from the oven. Immediately remove the focaccia from the pan and place it on a cooling rack set inside a baking sheet to cool. Use a pastry brush to add the remaining olive oil-water "brine" mixture to the top of the focaccia then add a large pinch of flaky sea salt.
While you can eat the focaccia out of the oven, the flavor is best after it has cooled to room temperature.
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