Going Italian: Black Olive Rosemary Focaccia
Tamara Novacoviç thinks you should bake you own focaccia, and provides the recipe to persuade you.
By Tamara Novacoviç
I’m sure you’ve heard of focaccia, but have you ever tried making one? If you haven’t, this recipe might convince you to give it a go.
Focaccia is pizza’s sister, but more bread-like (thicker dough with less toppings). It’s a flat Italian bread topped with herbs and some other ingredients like olives. The name is thought to originate from ancient Roman panis focacius, a flat bread baked in the ashes of the fireplace.
I have a thing for Italy. Living in Croatia, which is Italy’s neighboring country, I’m very familiar with its culture and cuisine. I visited Italy a couple of times and enjoyed it every time. Italian and Croatian cultures are somewhat similar, which is especially obvious in Istria. There are many Italian features I like: Florence, streets full of people riding old-school bicycles, architecture, gelato, coffee, Boccaccio and Baricco, pizza and focaccia, just to name a few. Focaccia is filled with aromas typical for this part of Europe, such as olive oil, thyme, rosemary and it always takes me to the set of Roman Holiday, Letters to Juliet and Under the Tuscan sun. Just a few of Italy-related movies i personally like. I’m usually not a fan of this type of films, but there’s something so indulging, seductive and simply joyous about romantic comedies set in Italy and their celebration of food, flavors, love.
Throughout time I have tried many different recipes until I got to this one, for me the best so far. Beacuse there is focaccia, dry bread loaf, and focaccia, moist and flavorful piece of culinary art. My focaccia journey has been an eventful one. I have a thing for certain food and bake it and make it again and again until I find the perfect recipe for myself. There’s a cheesecake story I’ll be happy to share with you in one of my future articles and then there’s a focaccia story. The first thing I had problems with was spelling. It took me about ten written recipes and misplaced c letters until I learned that double c is at the end of the word. It’s the simplest thing to remember, but I somehow couldn’t get it right. I have a recipe notebook filled with misspelled focaccia (focacia, focaca, foccaccia, foccacia etc). Once I got that mastered, I struggled with obstacles like too dense and cakey focaccia, too dry versions, versions with little aroma. Throughout this fun process and many bad (and misspelled) focaccias, I somehow got to the recipe and ingredients that work great for me. The key is to make sticky dough and give it a long rise, in order to produce light, chewy texture and great flavour. This recipe calls for some time but is actually simple and you can make it ahead, freeze and bake when you need it. Don’t let the 24 hour rise make you a coward, approach it with confidence because once you do, you’ll realize how simple it is. You just let the dough work its way and you’ll get a dreamy fragrant focaccia. So worth it.
For the starter:
- 1 1/4 cups (140 g) all purpose flour
- 1 tsp dry yeast
- 1 cup (240 ml) lukewarm water
1. Using wooden spoon, combine flour and yeast. Add water and
beat until soft, sticky dough forms.
2. Cover with plastic wrap and leave it in warm place for 24 hours.
For the dough:
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) warm water
- 2 tsp dry yeast
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) warm water
- 5 tsp coarse sea salt
- 3 tbsp milk
- 3 2/3 cups (500 g) all purpose flour
- 2 tbsp black olives
- 2 tsp rosemary
1. In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup warm water with yeast and let stand for 5 minutes. Add starter and another 1/2 cup water to it and stir for a minute. Add oil, 4 tsp salt and milk. Add 3 1/3 cups bread flour (1 cup at a time), mixing until soft and sticky dough forms. Remove from bowl and knead on floured surface-this is where you’ll knead in the other 1/3 cup flour.
2. Put dough into oiled bowl (use olive oil), turn to coat and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for about two hours. Then punch it down gently and let rise for another two hours.
3. Knead dough on floured surface for about 5 minutes and put it into greased rectangle pan (you can make a free form focaccia, you can make round shapes, there really is no rule, this is the form I like to make). Spread it in the pan with your fingers, cover with clean kitchen towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
4. Preheat oven to 452 F (220 Celsius). Indent dough with fingertips (or the back of wooden spoon) and drizzle with some olive oil (this will keep it moist). Put one black olive into each indentation and sprinkle dough with remaining salt and rosemary.
5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until nicely golden.
Note: Flour measures may vary, you may need to use more/less flour, you’ll get the feeling and see while kneading it.