Goldilocks didn’t really eat porridge at the home of the three bears. She ate focaccia. As the first bite of Mama Bear’s focaccia landed into her little mouth, she was heard to say “this focaccia is too soft.” As she grabbed the second piece off of Papa Bear’s plate, she gasped “this focaccia is too hard.” Just as she was about to go hungry, she took one more chance and ate a bite from the piece off of Baby Bear’s plate. And, it was just right.
At first she heard a little bit of crunch, and then she discovered the warm pillowy softness of the middle to be delighted by a crispy bottom. Goldlocks finished off the piece that was still warm. The aromatic rosemary sprinkled on top of extra virgin olive oil made her feel so good she decided to eat all the pieces from Baby Bear’s plate until she was so full, she had to take a nap. And, you know how that ends.
My point is that not all focaccia is created equally. Nor is it served appropriately. Focaccia is a rustic bread, best served right out of the oven, often losing its appeal when it sits and gets stale. It’s perfectly wonderful re-heated, but then takes on a different, crunchier texture. It’s not so good piled high under a glass cake dish and used for sandwiches. But, we’ve all seen that, right? Well, not if you are in Italy. Focaccia is not sandwich bread over there, but here in the States, it became trendy to take some meat and cheese and bury it between two mattress thick pieces of stale bread that you can’t get your mouth around. I’m wishing away this trend (along with everything being made with goat cheese), but that’s another post.
Focaccia is not pizza. It’s not sandwich bread. It’s focaccia, a rustic, flat bread glistening with olive oil and other savory ingredients, baked by very opinionated Italians, who each have their own way of approaching this bread.
Focaccia can be a bit finicky. A dry dough or too long of a cooking time and focaccia is toast. But a good focaccia has just the right crunch of a flat bread with a surprise of soft bread inside. It is baked with olive oil on top and then any kind of mediterranean topping you can think of, although I have a focaccia post coming that takes a walk on a different part of the globe.
The Process for Rosemary Focaccia
Never having made focaccia before, I set out to perfect it, although I was starting with a perfect teacher, Marcella Hazan. But, for some reason, my first focaccia, adhering to the recipe didn’t produce the expected result. It was a bit too crusty and that may be my own doing. However, after googling a few others who used the recipe, I found that other cooks had a hard time with the dough. One package of yeast for the 6 1/2 cups of flour does not an easy, soft dough make, and I should have known that.
So I set out to rework the recipe, looking for a softer dough. I increased the yeast and changed over to bread flour. The pictures you see are my second try. It rapidly disappeared, but I was still curious and made a third try.
Goldlocks Says this focaccia is “Just Right”
For focaccia number 3, I made it again, and allowed it to rise even longer from 90 minutes to 2 hours,
It was the focaccia that Goldlocks would be most drawn to, a perfect balance of crispy and soft. However, it is addicting, and most likely Baby Bear would have never left any on his plate for her to try.
What I learned about Rosemary Foccacia
There are many variations and recipes. The two most important things are “knowing your dough” and not going too thick. A good focaccia is about 2-3 inches thick once baked. The dough should be very workable and more to the softer side (just like good pizza dough). You may come to make it differently every time, depending on your mood. You can use the long cookie sheet, or try other baking vessels. My next focaccia will be in a cast iron pan, but that should come as no surprise.
Tell me, how would you top your focaccia? I’ll bet you have ideas I have never thought of.
Cooking Italy: Rosemary Focaccia with Olives, Roasted Tomatoes
- 1 1/2 package active dry yeast
- 2 cups warm water
- 6 cups bread flour
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- heavy duty rectangular baking pan about 18 x 14
- olive oil for pan
- pastry brush
- A mixture of 1/4 olive oil 2 tablespoons water, 1 t salt
- Roasted grape tomatoes (roasted in oven at 300 for 20 minutes with olive oil)
- Oil cured olives pitted and divided
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped rosemary
- Dissolve yeast into 1/2 cup lukewarm water. Rest 10 minutes.
- Add 1 cup flour, mix. Add olive oil 1 t salt, 3/4 cup water and half remaining flour. Mix well with hands. Add remaining water and flour. At this point you can put into mixer with dough hook, or food processor. If you knead by hand, slap down on counter several times and knead for 8 minutes or until the dough is very workable and soft.
- Rest in oiled bowl with covered damp towel for two hours.
- At end of this rising time, punch down, place on oiled baking sheets, stretch by hand to the edges.
- Preheat oven to 450.
- Allow to rise for two hours
- Using a wooden spoon, small ball or finger tip, make indentations.
- Using pastry brush, brush olive oil water mixture over top. Top with olive and tomatoes.
- Put in oven, reduce heat to 400 and bake for 15 minutes. Top with rosemary and bake for another 7-8 minutes.
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