Focaccia five ways

Ah, focaccia!
While you bake I like to waccia.
I’m so glad I gaccia–
My dear focaccia…

OK, blame it on the upcoming long weekend: it’s got me feeling footloose and fancy-free already. What better way to celebrate summer than with an ode to my favorite flatbread, focaccia? Or, make that doggerel, rather than ode. Whatever. I just had to sing this simple bread’s praises.

“Simple?” Yes, simple. As in both “basic” and “easy.” Even if you’re not a dyed-in-the-wool bread-baker, you can make a great focaccia. After all, there’s no tricky shaping involved; no nerve-wracking wait for an ultra-high rise in a loaf pan. This friendly flatbread is content to rise just about an inch before it goes into the oven. And even if it deflates somewhere along the way, the only downside is bread that’s more chewy than airy.

If you think focaccia looks suspiciously like pizza, you’re right. The only difference between focaccia and thick-crust pizza, in my book, is that focaccia doesn’t have to carry the ungainly load of tomato sauce and melted cheese and pepperoni and all that other stuff we heap on pizza. Instead, focaccia is almost bare-naked, save for a minimalist’s sprinkle of dried rosemary and cracked pepper, or maybe some Italian herbs. And a drizzle of olive oil. A heavy drizzle. More on that later.

My most recent focaccia discovery involves its place in the pantheon of breakfast breads. I mean, who knew this simple, crusty bread could enclose golden raisins, don a coat of crunchy sugar, and become morning toast? Not I… till I thought outside the savory box. And now I’m a convert. Don’t like raisins? Stuff it with dried cranberries, or whatever dried fruit you DO like.

And then there’s cheese-stuffed focaccia. Instead of raisins inside—melting cheese. Herbs on top. Be still, my heart! Are you beginning to see why focaccia makes me break into song?

If you find yourself with some lazy down time this long weekend, consider a foray into focaccia. I guarantee, you’ll be singing its praises as loudly as I do.

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First, let’s make an overnight starter. This particular starter will look like a very thick batter or a very wet dough.

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Overnight, it’ll rise nicely.

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Mix it with the remaining dough ingredients.

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Here’s the dough as it’s just coming together.

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Seven minutes of kneading in a stand mixer turns it soft, silky, and sinuous; not overwhelmingly sticky, but nice and elastic.

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Put it in a covered container to rise for 1 hour.

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After 1 hour, deflate it, and let it rise again. Look how vigorous this second rise is! The dough has just about tripled in bulk from its original volume. That’s because the yeast has had that much longer to grow and reproduce.

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Lightly grease a half-sheet pan (18” x 13”, the baker’s best friend). Drizzle olive oil into the bottom of the pan. Greasing the pan will keep the bread from sticking; olive oil will give it a tasty bottom crust.

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Let the dough rise, covered, for 2 to 3 hours, until it gets REALLY billowy. It’s kind of problematic finding something to cover it with when it’s in this large a pan. I’ve been able to use some really big plastic covers from supermarket deli trays. You can also used well-greased plastic wrap—and I mean WELL-greased. You don’t want the wrap to stick to your risen dough.

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Dimple the dough with your fingers. Press down firmly, but gently. You don’t want to deflate the dough. It’ll settle a little bit, but shouldn’t look like a popped balloon.

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Spritz with warm water, then drizzle with more oil. That’s why you’ve dimpled the dough; so oil can collect in its pockets. Sprinkle with pizza seasoning, Italian herbs, rosemary and cracked black pepper, or your favorite dried herbs.

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Bake till golden brown. Remove from the pan, and cool on a rack…

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…then cut into squares to serve. Or just rip it apart, if you’re with friends.

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You can also make focaccia sticks. Once the loaf is cool—and especially if you’ve only eaten part of it, and the rest is getting a bit stale—cut it into 1/3” strips.

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Place the strips on an ungreased baking sheet, and drizzle or spray with olive oil. Yes, I like olive oil. A lot. Can you tell?

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Bake in a 325°F to 350°F oven till light golden brown and crisp. 10 minutes? 15 minutes? Somewhere in that range, probably. Pretty elegant, huh?

Next up: Sweet Breakfast Focaccia.

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Flatten the risen focaccia dough. Pile about 1 2/3 cups of raisins on top.

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Enfold the raisins as though you were making an envelope. Tuck them in so none are showing.

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Put the raisin-stuffed dough on a lightly greased half-sheet pan (no olive oil—fooled you!).

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Press to the edges of the pan as well as you can, without exposing too many of the raisins. Some will pop through; don’t stress about it. Let the dough rise, covered.

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Once it’s risen, dimple it, spritz it with warm water, and sprinkle with coarse sparkling sugar or Demerara sugar.

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Bake till golden brown; the sugar will partially melt, forming a crackly/crunchy topping.

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Cut in squares to serve. Toast briefly, for best flavor. I say briefly, because if you let it stay in the toaster too long the sugar melts and makes a mess. But then again, that’s what toaster bags are for.

OK, we’re not done yet: how about cheese-stuffed focaccia? Just knead 1 cup of crumbled feta cheese (or your favorite cheese) into the dough after it’s been through its initial rises, then pat it into the pan.

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Sprinkle a bit more feta on top. Bake, and enjoy hot, melty-cheesy focaccia. Oo-la-la!

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If you like, cut it in strips for dipping in olive oil (there it is again!).

And there you have it: focaccia five ways. Plain, sticks, breakfast, cheese-stuffed, and dipping strips.

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Golden Focaccia.

Buy vs. Bake

Buy: Supermarket Rosemary Focaccia, 36¢/ounce

Bake at home: Rosemary-topped plain focaccia, 7¢/ounce.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. Breadmaking Addict

    Is it possible to freeze this? I made it today and it’s heavenly. I’d like to make it a few days before a party I’m having because I don’t think I’ll have enough time on the day.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Baked focaccia can be wrapped tightly in plastic and then frozen for up to 1 month in advance. Let it thaw at room temperature for a few hours, and then refresh it in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes until it’s warm all the way through before serving. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  2. Claire

    Question: Has anyone made the Light as Air Focaccia recipe from the Italian Style Dough package? I’d like to try it but it seems way too easy to be good.
    Thanks for your feedback.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That’s a good question, Claire. We think it’s worth experimenting with for sure. Our Italian Style Flour is fairly low in protein, so it would result in a flatter, more crisp loaf rather than taller and chewy. Happy baking! Annabelle@KAF

  3. Nancy

    Links to both recipes are broken. I’ve emailed customer service as well.

    I was really looking forward to trying one of these today! Ah, well.

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Nancy. We’ve fixed the broken links, and they should be working correctly. You can also click here to see our Golden Focaccia recipe. Happy baking! Kye@KAF

  4. Al Wagner

    Should focaccia with cheese be refrigerated after baking for storage. Won’t the cheese or other toppings spoil if left at room temperature for an extended period?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      When in doubt, refrigerate and then refresh (or reheat) when you are ready for “fresh” focaccia. Happy Baking – Irene@KAF

  5. kgmom

    Meant to ask another question on my previous post – is there any reason I can’t use other dried fruits, chopped, in place of the raisins?

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      There is no reason why you can’t use another dried fruit in place of the raisins. ~Jaydl@KAF

  6. kgmom

    Any wisdom on how to incorporate some whole wheat flour in this recipe. I feel less guilty chowing down on bread if I can get some whole grain incorporated. I appreciate any input!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      If you want to experiment with whole wheat in this focaccia recipe, you might start by substituting whole wheat for 25% of the all-purpose flour. Whole wheat tends to absorb more liquid than all-purpose, and so you may want to use just a little more water.~Jaydl@KAF

    2. Susan Reid

      Foccaccias are pretty wet, and as such are great candidates for whole wheat flour. You can substitute 1/4 to 1/3 of the flour’s volume for the first try; the dough may need an extra tablespoon of water. It will be pretty slack at first but as it sits and the bran takes up the liquid it will behave more like a white flour. And yes, of course, you can use other dried fruits instead: apricots, cranberries, anything you like.

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