Focaccia – The Classic Italian Bread

Focaccia

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Focaccia brings in the mental picture of a dimpled bread garnished with rosemary and sprinkled with salt, however the focaccia differs from region to region in Italy.

Focaccia is a flat oven-baked Italian bread, which is quite similar in style and texture to pizza dough. Focaccia can be used as a side to many meals or as sandwich bread.  The word is derived from the Latin focus meaning “hearth, place for baking.” The basic recipe is thought by some to have originated with the Etruscans, but today it is widely associated with Ligurian cuisine. Flour, water, yeast and olive oil are the essential ingredients. Focaccia can then be topped with coarse salt, rosemary, cherry tomatoes, onion or other vegetables and is considered to be a pizza prototype.

Focaccia al rosmarino is a popular style of flatbread in Italian cuisine prepared using focaccia dough, rosemary, olive oil and salt, sea salt or kosher salt. Whole or sliced fresh rosemary leaves may be used, as can dried rosemary. It may be garnished with sprigs of fresh rosemary after baking and sprinkled with salt.Focaccia al rosmarino may have a moist texture, and the ingredients used in its preparation and the shape it is formed in varies in different regions. It may be prepared as a savory or sweet dish. The dish is typically baked, although it is sometimes fried in oil.Additional ingredients such as garlic, or basil may be used.A very similar style is focaccia alla salvia (focaccia with sage), which is prepared by simply substituting sage for the rosemary. Pizza bianca is another similar style, which is prepared using pizza dough, olive oil, chopped rosemary and salt. The term “pizza bianca” refers to focaccia in some areas of Italy.

Regional Varieties of Focaccia

The focaccia varies in size, texture, and raw materials used & taste from region to region. Listed below are the regional varieties of the bread.

Liguria – Liguria is considered to be the birthplace of traditional Italian focaccia. Focaccia ligure or genovese is about 2 cm thick and is soft inside, sprinkled with salt and brushed with olive oil.

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Recco focaccia (also from Liguria) consists of two thin layers and soft fresh cheese in between. Sardenaira originates in Sanremo, and it is focaccia with anchovies or sardines.

Image courtesy: en.recettepro.info

Veneto – Venetian focaccia is sweet, baked for Easter and resembles the traditional Christmas cake panettone. Sugar and butter are used instead of olive oil and salt.

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Puglia – Focaccia barese, which is common in Puglia in southern Italy, is made with durum wheat flour and topped with salt, rosemary, tomatoes or olives. There is also a potato version.

Image Courtesy: www.italianfoodforever.com

Tuscany – Tuscan focaccia, schiacciata, which means, “squashed”. Fingers are used to flatten it; hence the attractive dimples, with a sprinkling of olive oil all over its surface. Traditionally Tuscan focaccia is medium thick and medium soft but crispy on the outside. Salt and rosemary are its usual companions. However, throughout Tuscany you can also find a thin and crispy version as well thick and very soft. Tuscan panini with cheese and cold cuts often use focaccia for a base.

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