This will become a favorite recipe in your collection I promise!! FOCACCIA!!! that square or rectangular shaped Italian bread of varying thickness. Topped with nothing or with a variety of items, none more delicious as the simple and very traditional Olive Oil, fresh Chopped Rosemary, and Black Pepper topping. Are you looking at the picture? Take a look. There’s a white something on it too and that’s the scary sounding Italian LARDO. Now I did not title the blog with LARDO in it for a good reason, it’s simply another item to add to the top. More later on why it’s SO delicious, but to make this recipe accessible to as many as possible, it’s a basic focaccia that you can add on to if you like. Let’s talk a little about Italian Focaccia, baking, and my home memories. None of focaccia. Not sure when that became something here in America but the term generally at one time was used regarding the baked square breads of Central Italy. My heritage is southern Italian so the word was not used until one day when it was used everywhere. Same with Ciabatta bread..recent to me, but always fiercely Central Italian, not new. Bread baking or any YEAST baking can be scary to some. Get over it and you will be spinning your own Pizza doughs and coming up with your own types of focaccia. What is FOCACCIA?? It’s an Italian bread which generally contains more olive oil and yeast than a pizza dough. It’s usually baked in a square or rectangular pan, cut into squares and is served as a starter, part of an Antipasto with salumi, olives, and cheeses on the side. Or it is served as the bread with one’s meal, or as the meal itself. Rarely will you see Italians in Italy eating sandwiches using Focaccia as the bread as that practice is more of an American or out of Italy practice. Personally, ( you know I’m throwing my 2 Euros into the pot here) it’s too much bread and too much of a food on it’s own to make a sandwich out of it. It’s a great addition to a buffet table for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. One of the most popular forms is the Olive Oil rich Rosemary, Salt and Black Pepper Focaccia version. Similar breads are made through Italy with other names. SCHIACCIATA is a Tuscan bread many times made with grapes, rosemary, or just olive oil. Consider my version here, especially if you go that extra mile with the LARDO as a Tuscan Inspired version. Baking breads at home reminds me of a very DARK period in my parents’ kitchen growing up. They would from time to time get on these “kicks” or phases. Their bread baking phase was particularly hard for my sister and I . Their breads all tasted the same…almost saltless, dense and crumbly, overly yeasty, hard to cut, you get the picture. “HEY PETE, TODAY LET’S MAKE A HONEY WHEAT BREAD”..and my sister and I were running for the last slice of real out of the house made Brick oven Italian bread. Hated that period in their cooking experimentation. Basically everything they made tasted the same..everything. Most childhood kitchen memories for me are sentimental, heart warming…this one is not. Living in Staten Island we were never 5 minutes away from an amazing Italian bread bakery so…..no need to bake at home!! Focaccia falls into a different category than loaf bread does. Let get the flour out and start making some Focaccia together!!
SERVES: up to 8 TIME: 4 hours or so
2 CUPS WARM WATER (around 110 degrees, F)
2 TEASPOONS DRY YEAST
1/2 TEASPOON SUGAR
2 TEASPOON SALT
4 1/2 CUPS SIFTED FLOUR *All purpose works, but TIPO 00 from ITALY IS BETTER*
3 TABLESPOONS GOOD EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL *you want to taste the olive flavor in this*
2 TEASPOONS FINE CHOPPED FRESH ROSEMARY (do not use dried)
1 TABLESPOON FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER
SALT FOR TOP
OLIVE OIL FOR BRUSHING
6 STRIPS OF LARDO (OPTIONAL)
LARDO..don’t be scared…Lardo is an Italian Cured Pork Cut..It’s the Cured portion of FatBack, very little meat if any is included. Generally it’s snowy white. Cured with secret regional herbs and spices, Rosemary being one of them, so it’s a natural accompaniment to this Focaccia. Serve in thin slices as an antipasto, the most prized comes from Aosta in the Northwest of Italy, and Colonatta in Tuscany.
In a large bowl add the water, mix the salt and sugar till dissolved. Then sprinkle the yeast over the top and gently stir.. Let this sit for 15 minutes until it bubbles and froths on top. Now in slow batches, add the flour, 1 tablespoon olive oil and work the dough till it comes together. If it’s still too tacky gently add more flour in small increments. When it’s no longer sticky knead it on a floured board/surface for no less than 10 minutes. Now place in a large bowl, add 1 tbs of OliveOil making sure the whole ball of dough is covered in oil. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and leave in a warm area to raise for 2 hours. Punch down the dough and knead for 2 minutes and reform into a ball, back into the bowl, cover and let rise for 45 minutes. Oil a baking pan and press the dough into the pan (11 X13) or larger..the larger the pan the thinner your focaccia. Try to press the dough till all the sides, if it shriks back some what, it’s ok… Now with your finger poke the dough in random spots, do not rip through the dough. Brush the top of the focaccia with olive oil and sprinkle about 1 tsp. of coarse salt (like Kosher) over the top, the black pepper, and the rosemary (again, do not use dried rosemary for this..the flavor is wrong, the texture is wrong and it will only crisp up more in the heat…use FRESH). Let this sit on top of the stove for 20 minutes. Pre heat the oven to 475 degress F.
Bake the focaccia until it’s browned on the bottom and golden brown on the top, about 20-25 minutes. Some ovens might get it done sooner, just keep an eye on it. When it’s done it should look like this: If you are using the LARDO, drape the slices over the top after you’ve let the focaccia sit out of the oven for 10 minutes. The risidual heat will allow the lardo to melt into the bread. It’s out of this world. If you want to keep it VEGAN OR VEGETARIAN certainly omit the Lardo. Cut with a sharp knife. Enjoy.