Like bread, but better. Focaccia is a yeasted flatbread that’s often topped with salt, olive oil and occasionally herbs or spices. As an early prototype of modern pizza, the basic focaccia recipe is thought to have Etruscan or Ancient Greek origins. Learn how to make homemade focaccia using 4 simple ingredients: flour, water, yeast and olive oil. Of paramount importance is the rising procedure and using quality ingredients.
Go for good quality “00” grade flour. Don’t skimp on cheap flour. A trick is looking on the label for the “strength” of the flour, that is, the amount of protein in it. Some labels list a letter W followed by a number. The higher the number, the stronger the flour will be, and more resistant to leavening.
How much water you add to your dough greatly depends on how the flour manages to absorb humidity. For 500 grams of flour, you should ideally add between 250 and 300 ml. For proper leavening, the water temperature should never be cold! Ideally it should be between 30° and 40° C.
Brewer’s, or baker’s yeast
Fresh yeast should be kept in the fridge and lasts up to 4 weeks. Fresh yeast has no artificial additives. To properly work, brewer’s yeast must be very fresh: appearing dry, crumbly and fragrant, not gummy, stained or sticky. If you prefer working with lievito madre, natural starter, go ahead and use that instead of brewer’s yeast.
Diastatic malt powder
Diastatic malt powder is the secret ingredient bread bakers use to promote a strong rise, great texture, and obtain the coveted typical brown crust. This ingredient is especially useful when flour is not added with barley malt, like most whole-wheat flour and many organic flours.
Extra virgin olive oil
It lends the focaccia intense aromatic notes, incredible texture and good nutritional value. Preferably cold pressed!
When in contact with yeast, salt will kill the leavening action, this is why when kneading dough, salt is always added later.
Now that you’ve sourced the best possible ingredients, here’s how to make homemade focaccia in 12 easy steps. Start by measuring out:
- 500 g (4 cups) “00” grade flour + more for the work surface
- 20 g (0,7 oz.) fresh yeast
- 30 g (1 fl oz.) extra virgin olive oil, preferably cold-pressed
- 300 ml (10 fl oz.) water at room temperature
- 5 g (½ tsp.) diastatic malt powder
Work on an unpolished wood or marble work surface. You’ll need two large bowls, a pastry brush, cling film and a standard 10×15” oven pan.
Tip flour and crumbled yeast into a large bowl
Add malt powder and olive oil.
Pour in the water. Remember, it should not be cold.
Mix the ingredients with your fingers and knead until well bound together. Add a pinch of salt and finish kneading into a heavy, satiny ball.
Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, pour a thread more olive oil, just enough to grease the surface.
Cover the bowl with plastic cling film and let the dough rise for 1,5 hours, preferably in a warm spot (I place mine above the refrigerator).
Upend the dough on a floured work surface and deflate. You can do this by poking a few holes in the dough with your fingertips.
Stretch and flatten the dough enough to fit a 10×15 cm oven pan. Do this with your fingers, not a rolling pin.
Blanket the dough in the greased oven pan.
Brush the surface with more olive oil. Let it rest and rise in the pan for another 30 minutes.
Poke lightly with your fingers, but don’t go all the way through to the bottom of the pan. Bake at 190° C (375° F) for 12-15 minutes.
Immediately after pulling the pan from the oven, drizzle more olive oil and sprinkle coarse sea salt on the baked focaccia. Let it cool and then dig in!
If you enjoyed this post, stay tuned for more focaccia recipes and toppings. Thank you and buon appetito!
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, freelance food and travel writer, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her shows “ABCheese” and “Uazz’america” are broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso Channel. Her podcast “iCheese” is recorded live on the Radio Food Live network.