Focaccia, oh focaccia.

No my dear friends. This is not a character from a Shakespearean play.

Focaccia, derived from the Roman ‘panis focacius’, meaning ‘hearth bread’,  was traditionally baked in coals during Roman times. Back then, it was a plain flat bread made with rough flour, yeast, water, oil and salt.

It’s also called ‘pizza bianca’ in Italy since it resembles a flat pizza. It is similar in style and texture to a pizza. While pizza is baked after one cycle of fermentation, a focaccia is put aside for a second rise or proving. This second proving causes the bread to rise more and makes it extremely fluffy. This is why it is ideal for sandwiches.

One of my whole-wheat Focaccia breads — notice the rise, depressions, the pockets in the cross-section and the crisp top. This is cut along the base to make a sandwich.

Focaccia is no longer as plain and humble as it was when it was first baked during Roman times. Now it is one of the most fashionable and ‘decorated’ bread, as it is a base for cheese, olives, veggies, meat, herbs and is made both as a savoury and sweet bread. The sweet ones can be topped with honey, raisins, sugar, grapes and lemon or orange peels etc.

In fact, this bread is quite popular in our group.

By Leena Paliwal, a keen baker from our group.
Designed Focaccia with bell peppers and olives, by Gurmeet.
Cherry Tomato Focaccia with herbs by Shikha — a new member of our baking group.
Our fellow baker, Kavita Gupta’s first focaccia!

Recipe

The dough for this bread is similar to our bun dough. The only difference is that as the recipe requires olive oil for texture and flavour, the butter or vegetable oil is substituted by olive oil.

Ingredients

Primary

  • Whole wheat flour – 1&½ cup (210 grams)
  • Maida – 1&½ cup (180 grams)
  • Yeast – 2 tsp
  • Warm water – 2 cups (480 ml)
  • Olive Oil – 3 to 4 tbsp (¼ cup or 50 ml) for kneading & 2 tbsp for drizzling before baking
  • Salt – 1 tsp
  • Coarse sea salt (optional)
  • Toppings of your choice-peppers, herbs, onion, cheese,cold cuts, berries, grapes, nuts etc.

Optional

  • Sugar or honey – 1 tbsp
  • Baking soda – ¼ tsp
  • 1 egg (beat well) OR thick curd – 2 tbsp (optional)
  • White vinegar – 1 tsp OR Lemon juice – 1 tsp

Why the Optional ingredients

Whole wheat flour needs some assistance as gluten development is slow and limited. The optional ingredients enhance the gluten development.

These ingredients are not required if you are using AP flour and/or Bread flour or ONLY maida. In India maida is used as a substitute for bread flour and AP flour.

Step 1

Mix all the dry ingredients and sift the flour well, as aeration helps in baking well structured breads. Do not add salt now, as it interferes with the activity of yeast and onset of fermentation process. We will add it later.

Step 2

Add the wet ingredients gradually, stir well and keep the dough aside for ½ an hour or so. This process is called autolyse. It helps in breaking down the enzymes and aids gluten formation for well structured and flavoured breads. 

Now you can add salt to the dough.

Step 3

Add salt and knead well for 10 minutes or so. Resist adding flour. It will take shape. Remember, the hydration in Focaccias is higher than other breads — the dough will be a bit more malleable. But it will come together — just keep folding it onto itself, as show in the clip.

Stretch and fold the dough onto itself.

You could choose to add a bit of olive oil to make the dough soft and smooth, but it will become smooth over time — it takes about 10 minutes of kneading for the gluten to develop.

Step 4

After the dough becomes smooth, start molding the dough in a large ball. As shown in the clip, place the ball on the kneading surface and drag it towards yourself. Repeat this a few times. 

Pull the dough towards yourself.

Place the ball in a large greased bowl (preferably a glass bowl). Cover and keep the bowl in a dark and warm place. The fermentation process will double the dough in size, so make sure your bowl is large enough. The dough should not over ferment (i.e. the dough should not rise more than double its original size, else it then sinks).

Step 5

To test whether the dough has fermented and risen well, the dough should spring back after a gentle press. In my experience, fermentation time in an Indian kitchen in warm weather (when kitchen temperature is about 35 degrees celsius)  would be around 45 minutes to 1 hour. In cool weather (when kitchen temperature is about 15 to 20 degrees celsius), it would be about 1&½ to 2 hours ( that too in a closed warm cupboard or oven).

Gently take the dough out from the bowl. Because of the greasing, it should slide out. Do not pull it out, else you will disturb the activity of the yeast. Again, gently deflate the dough with your fingertips. Don’t punch it down.

Step 6

Once deflated, pull the dough from the edges towards the center, so that the smooth side is out. Place it seam side down.

Step 7

Gently stretch the dough into a rectangular shape, like a pizza. Do not thin it completely — keep the thickness to about 1 inch. Use your hands to spread it on a greased baking tray with small edges. If that seems like too much work, use a rolling pin — but this might be too harsh on the dough.

Start with smooth side up, and stretch outwards.
Keep stretching it outwards — you don’t have to fill all the gaps; the 2nd rise will do that.

Now keep the dough aside for proving. Prove for about 20 minutes in summers (when the kitchen temperature is about 35℃) and for about 45 minutes in cool weather (when kitchen temperature is about 15 to 20 degrees celsius). The proving time for focaccia is slightly less than bread and buns as this gives the bread a better oven spring.

Step 8

When proving is done, make indents/dimples with your fingertips all over the surface.

Add depressions, gently.

Put your favourite topping of cheese, tomatoes, bell peppers, herbs or meat, and drizzle olive oil in the dimples and along the edges. Sprinkle sea salt at this step.

Ensure you drizzle oil along the edges as well!

We can also make sweet focaccia bread with honey, nuts, berries, grapes etc. Then let it rise for 10 minutes again.

Step 9

Preheat the oven to 190℃. Bake at 190℃ for 20 minutes. If making a rosemary or sage or basil focaccia, for the last 5 mins, cover the dish with foil so that the herbs don’t get burnt.

In the oven; almost there 🙂

You can also brush the focaccia with olive oil once done. Please, please, let it cool to room temperature before cutting — the bread will be extremely soft.

Done! Bell bepper and Rosemary Focaccia.
Sliced and ready for sandwich making!

Baker’s Tips

  • Baking soda, egg, curd, lemon juice, if added, will help to make a very soft dough and also help in raising the bread. These are needed as half the flour used is wholewheat flour due to which the gluten formation is less (remember we are not using the Bread or AP flour mentioned in the recipes in the baking diaries of Pro bakers).
  • Olive oil in this recipe is important but it is not sacrosanct. It is a norm in Italy and other European countries to use only olive oil for this bread, as olive oil is regularly used in their cooking and baking. In India, we rarely use olive oil. In case you don’t have olive oil and still want to bake it, go for it. It will still be just as good with any other oil or butter only  that you will miss out on the flavour.
  • When baking your first focaccia, top it with herbs and olive oil for the authentic taste. Later, having some experience, you can get more creative with the recipe. It can be savoury or spicy or sweet, or have whatever topping you like.
  • The dimples should be made gently and not very deep, else the last proving and baking process will be disturbed.
  • Beginners can use 2 cups of maida and 1 cup of atta for soft and fluffy focaccias. They can later graduate to 50% each of wholewheat and maida, once they start feeling confident.
  • Saute the onion and bell peppers before adding on top of the bread for baking, for best results.
  • Add fresh herbs to the dough while kneading for flavour. While kneading you can add dried herbs too. Keep aside some fresh herbs to be added after the baking is done for aroma and flavour. 
  • More hydration ( upto 75 %) in this recipe is good, as it gives a soft dough and a fluffy, spongy focaccia.
  • You can store it in a bread box wrapped in cotton cloth for 3 to 4 days. Just warm it before eating.
  • The dough can be made and kept overnight in the refrigerator for proving, for baking a fresh focaccia in the morning.

Closing thoughts

Focaccia is my personal favourite! It comes in handy for breakfast, lunch or dinner; as a side dish or sandwich and at times a complete mini meal by itself. And of course, the choice of toppings and sandwich combinations are endless.

Try it out on Sunday, and share your experience!

25 thoughts on “Focaccia, oh focaccia.

  1. Archana bhagat

    Wonderfully written article ma’am..
    Inspiring me to take up baking as a hobby…haven’t thought that I will be able to make something like this but after reading this article having some expectations from me that I can make it..
    You made it look so simple..
    And its looking very tasty Ma’am 👏👏

  2. Susan

    The steps are explained so well! And the varied focaccias made by your group look artistic as well as delicious. I am inspired to try making one 😊

  3. Kavita

    I have tried this recipe… it came out perfect …it’s an amazing recipe . 💯… My family just loves it . And it’s healthy too 👍🏼🙏🏼 Just follow the steps and it’s done. Thanks ma’am for being our inspiration always 🙏🏼

  4. Manmeet Kar

    I eagerly wait for posts in your blog
    So well explained
    Thank you Renuji
    Focaccia was so soft absolutely yummy
    My family and friends I shared with just loved it💕

  5. Smita Rawat

    This Sunday I planned to give your recipe a try and discussed it with my help, my girl Sapna. I always forward your blog to her to go through and as she is also learning English, it serves the dual purpose of teaching a new recipe and also improving her English!
    I was amazed and thrilled to find that this young lady had baked two Focaccia loafs, all on her own, religiously following your recipe to a T!
    Thank you Renu for making baking so easy that anyone can bake.

  6. Shikha Sabharwal Nijhawan

    Wonderful recipe and detail explaination of each steps with purpose was quite helpful.Providing its origin and how it started made the recipe more interesting.Seeing the bread and recipe my daughter and me are excited to try it and will sure share it here.👍👍

  7. Pooja Sabharwal

    Fantastic recipe.. So good to see details you have provided here. Videos helps amateurs like us to understand the kneading process well! Look forward to back this soon and have Foccacia sandwich!

    1. Pooja Sabharwal

      Fantastic recipe.. So good to see details you have provided here. Videos helps amateurs like us to understand the kneading process well! Look forward to bake this soon and have Foccacia sandwich!

  8. Romita

    This is a very good explanation for focacia and i use the process snd recipe explained here regularly !!!

  9. Shalini.

    So well explained. Next time I’m sure I’ll do better than what I made today without seeing this. 👍👍💕💕

  10. Shubha Narayanan

    I baked a foccacia following g this lovely recipe, and it came out quite tasty, though a bit spongier than I had expected. I plan to do it again for better results as I am now feeling already addicted to baking, thanks to Renu’s beautiful and perfect point by point instructions. I have still not figured out how to attach a photo to the blog though 😓😓

  11. Shubha Narayanan

    I made a second attempt at foccacia today and I must say it is getting better and better! No words to thanks you, Renu 💕 You could motivate a 68 year old, never used to baking, into venturing into a beautiful world of baking !

  12. Shubha Narayanan

    I am so addicted now to baking focaccia that I made again today. It not only looked better than my previous attempts but actually tasted delicious! No words to thank you Renu! What a fantastic new world you have introduced me too! Thanks due to Veena Joshi for referring me to you ❤️❤️ Lots of love and hugs to both of you 🥰

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