Focaccia is an incredibly versatile food. It can be served as a main dish, an appetizer, table bread, as a side, a snack, and even used as sandwich bread.
It is often served with wine, however, when eaten for breakfast, it’s dipped in a cappuccino or milk.
Focaccia is an Italian flat bread.
In ancient Roman times it was baked on the hearth which is where it derived its name.
Focaccia in Latin was called “focacia,” feminine of “focacius” which means from the hearth.
I have to admit, focaccia is one of my favorite breakfasts to have. In particular, when I have friends over.
One of my favorite memories is of sitting and eating focaccia for breakfast with two roommates I was very close friends with.
We schmoozed, still in our pajamas, as we ate rectangular slices of bread dipped in garlic infused olive oil.
It was a great day.
History of Focaccia
In ancient times, Phoenicians and Greeks used cereal grain flours mixed with water and cooked over the fire to make focaccia.
Supposedly, by Romans it was considered so prized a food the flatbread was offered to the gods during celebrations.
In the Middle Ages , it was eaten during weddings ceremonies and even during funerals until a bishop of Genoa prohibited its consumption in the Church during his duties.
While in the Renaissance, it continued to be eaten at wedding banquets.
In the port area of Genoa, street vendors made the bread in wood-burning ovens and sold it cheap causing it to become a very popular street food. Over the years it became the breakfast of the dock workers.
The original focaccia, as we know it today, was made from a dough composed mainly of about a pound of white flour, a pinch of salt, quite a bit of olive oil, and water as needed.
The dough was spread on a low and oiled baking sheet, the surface of the dough with dimpled by fingers, a pinch of salt a few drops of oil were sprinkled over it.
The pan was then placed inside a hot oven to cook until the surface became golden brown.
Commercial yeast was not added, something like sourdough starter was used instead.
Types of Focaccia
Today, there are many varieties of focaccia all stemming from different regions.
Some sweet, most are savory.
Toppings such as tomatoes, olives, or cheese are not uncommon. In Tuscany, during the harvest season, it is even made with crushed grapes.
The most popular, however, is Genoese focaccia, focaccia with onions, and focaccia with rosemary and/or salt.
When you think of focaccia you are mostly likely thinking of Genoese focaccia. This is actually true for many Italians too.
In fact, when I looked up recipes in Italian, all I saw were the Genoese version. It is also where a number of variations originated.
It is light and airy but no taller than about half an inch or a centimeter.
This recipe is a rosemary and coarse salt version.
If you’d like, you can leave the bread just brushed with oil and do whatever variation you prefer.
I also really enjoy dipping slices of it into olive oil with minced garlic.
Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means that if you choose to make a purchase, I will earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. 10% of all profits are donated to charity.
What You Need
BREAD FLOUR VS ALL PURPOSE FLOUR
Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose, which helps with gluten development.
Some recipes call for it if an especially chewy texture is desired. It will also produce a heavier and denser loaf.
All-purpose flour has a lower protein content, but can generally be substituted for bread flour.
I almost never use anything other than all-purpose flour, including in bread recipes. I like it because it’s inexpensive and extremely versatile.
HOW TO MEASURE FLOUR AND OTHER DRY INGREDIENTS
Using a dry measuring cup, scoop ingredients from the bag or spoon them into the cup.
Next, level off the ingredient by removing the excess with an upside-down butter knife.
The one exception to this is brown sugar. Brown sugar should be packed down and then any excess should be scraped off as well.
DRY VS LIQUID MEASURING CUP
Ever wonder why measuring spoons often come with a set of measuring cups? I used to. I didn’t see why we needed a set when we could have one large measuring cup.
After a quick search, I had my answer. I discovered that the large measuring cup is used for liquids, whereas the set is used for dry ingredients.
As it turns out, if you try to measure dry ingredients with a liquid cup, the measurements get messed up.
First, you pour the flour or cocoa in, next you shake it around to get it level, and then you add more.
By shaking it, you are causing the powder to settle, and when you add more, you end up using more than called for.
WHY SIFT FLOUR and Other Powder Ingredients
There are a number of benefits to sifting flour and other ingredients like cocoa ingredients:
It removes any unwanted debris and you can get a more accurate measurement than when packed tightly in a bag.
It also removes any lumps that can get into the batter and be hard to break up later, or be missed altogether before baking.
If you sift the powdered ingredients together, it helps combine them and mix more evenly with other dry ingredients like sugar.
BAKING WITH OIL
In general, oil in baked goods makes for a superior texture than those made with butter.
Oil cakes tend to bake up taller with a better crumb. They also stay moist and tender far longer than recipes made with butter.
Furthermore, since oil is lighter than butter, the texture of oil cakes is lighter too.
Also, given that oil is 100% fat while most American butter is 15% water, it creates a more tender crumb.
This is due to the fact that the extra water strengthens the gluten, resulting in a crumb that’s more dense.
Which Type Of Oil to Use
I use neutral oils like canola oil, safflower oil, and vegetable oil. However, it’s not unheard of for oils with stronger flavors like olive oil or coconut oil to be used.
If using olive oil, I recommend using pure olive oil for its milder flavor and higher smoking point.
Baking with Oil Conversion Chart
If you want to convert your butter recipes to oil recipes, check out my baking with oil butter to oil conversion chart.
Types of YEAST
There are seven different types of yeast used for baking. However, only five are relevant to home bakers:
Wild yeast is found naturally in the air. This type of yeast is used for sourdough breads, and in order to use it, you need to make a sourdough starter.
Fresh yeast (a.k.a. cake yeast), block yeast, wet yeast, or compressed yeast is found in small, foil-wrapped cubes.
It is far less popular with home bakers because it’s highly perishable. However, it is still widely available for commercial use and is still used by home bakers in some countries.
The benefits of using it is that it’s easier to measure and has the most leavening power.
If you want to use fresh yeast in this recipe, for every 1 teaspoon instant dry yeast you’d need 17 grams (or .6 ounces) of fresh yeast.
Make sure to bloom it before using it in this recipe.
ACTIVE DRY YEAST
Active dry yeast looks like large grained powder mainly used by home bakers in the States.
It has a much longer lifespan than compressed yeast, lasting up to a year at room temperature and more than a decade if frozen.
Unlike other types of yeast, it needs to proof first. This means it is rehydrated in warm liquid such as water or milk to activate it.
The main downside of using this is that a lot of the yeast is already dead, so you need more of it than other yeasts. This can cause an undesired yeast flavor.
If you want to use active dry yeast in this recipe, for 1 teaspoon of instant dry yeast you need 1 1/4 teaspoons of active dry yeast.
Make sure to bloom it first before using it in this recipe.
Instant yeast looks the same as active dry yeast. However, it does not need to be proofed before using.
Instead of having to be activated in warm liquid first, it can be added as is when making the dough.
It is more perishable than active dry yeast, lasting only 2 to 4 months at room temperature and for years in the freezer.
This is my favorite type of yeast to use because it lasts longer than fresh yeast and you need less of it than active dry yeast.
Rapid-rise yeast is often specifically marketed toward users of bread machines. It’s essentially instant yeast with a smaller grain. The smaller granules allow it to dissolve faster in the dough and therefore rise faster.
While most baking experts believe that the bread flavors aren’t as developed by using this yeast, others feel it makes little difference.
WHY BlOOM INSTANT YEAST?
As mentioned above, active dry yeast needs to be bloomed (aka proofed) before use to activate it, but I also proof instant yeast. The reason for this is because it helps troubleshoot if any problems come up.
By blooming the yeast first, you know it is active. So, if the dough has trouble rising, you know it’s not the yeast.
This is particularly useful when you don’t have a “warm” place to let it rise.
How to Bloom Yeast
To bloom, place the yeast, warm water, and sugar together in the bowl. Stir and wait for it to activate.
You know the yeast is activated when foam appears on the surface. This can take up to 10 minutes.
Please note that hot water will kill the yeast and cool water won’t activate it. Lukewarm water is ideal.
If you are using fresh yeast, make sure to break it up with a fork once it is in the water.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE DOUGH TO RISE?
How quickly dough rises depends on how warm the place it is rising in is.
If you put it in the fridge for instance it could take 8 hours or so. In the summer in Israel, it rises very quickly.
If you leave it on the counter in a comfortably warm room, its usually 45 minutes.
HOW TO RISE BREAD FASTER
I often find myself running late and need to rise dough faster, or sometimes, in the winter, I don’t have a warm place and the dough take forever to rise. So, I let my dough rise in a warm oven.
What I do is preheat the oven to its lowest temperature and turn it off. Then, I cover the dough with a damp towel and place the oven.
This trick works for me every time. On occasion, I may need to remove the dough and preheat the oven another time or two, but usually just once does the trick.
The down side of this process is that some bakers feel it doesn’t allow for flavors to really develop. Personally, I never noticed much of a difference.
PUNCHING DOUGH DOWN
Punching is a bit of a strong word. Yeast is a delicate living thing so you actually need to treat it with care.
What you’re really doing is lightly pressing down the dough through the center with first. This removes gasses that have formed during the first rise allowing for a better crumb.
By doing this you are also bring the yeast, sugar, and moisture back together which is important for the second rise as the yeast feeds on the sugar.
After you “punch” the dough you should pull edges of the dough to the center. Once you’re done, take dough out of bowl and place on lightly floured board, turn over, and shape your dough into a ball.
If desired, you can kneading the dough two or three times to release additional air bubbles.
LET THE DOUGH REST
While you don’t need to let the dough rest after punching it down, it is preferable to.
If you have the time, allow the dough to rest between 10 to 40 minutes. Ideally no less than 15 minutes.
This will allow the gluten to relax making the dough easier to roll out and shape.
I often allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes in the fridge with a damp towel. Chilled dough can be easier to work with.
THE SECOND RISE
The second rise allows the yeast to feed longer on the sugar. This allows the bread to become larger, have a better crumb, and develop a better flavor.
Also, if you were to let it rise only once, punch it down, shape it, and stick it in the oven, your bread would rise somewhat, but not enough for it to become fluffy.
Sugar may seem very basic if you’ve baked before, but I’ve been asked about it before, so I’m explaining.
There are many different types of sugar, including white sugar, brown sugar, vanilla sugar, powdered sugar, turbinado sugar, and demerara sugar.
When a recipe – any recipe, not just mine – says “sugar” without specifying anything else, it is regular white sugar.
White sugar (sometimes called granulated sugar, table sugar, or white granulated sugar) is made of either beet sugar or cane sugar, which has undergone a refining process.
It is the easiest to find and most commonly used.
Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses added to it.
It is commonly used in chocolate chip cookie recipes, and it’s rare for a recipe that calls for brown sugar not to also call for white sugar as well.
When a recipe calls for “brown sugar” but doesn’t specify what type (light or dark), it is referring to light brown sugar.
In my recipes, you can use whatever type of brown sugar you have on hand whether it is dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, or demerara sugar – which is very common in Israel.
Just keep in mind that the flavor and color will be slightly different depending on what you choose to use.
Turbinado sugar is better known as “raw sugar”. But, despite this name, the sugar is not really “raw.”
Instead, it’s partially refined sugar that retains some of the original molasses.
The term “raw sugar” may also give off the impression that it is somehow healthier.
In reality, turbinado sugar is nutritionally similar to white sugar.
Demerara sugar is very popular in Israel and is especially delicious in tea, but is also used for baking.
Unlike white sugar, demerara sugar undergoes minimal processing and retains some vitamins and mineral.
However, it is still not much healthier than white sugar.
Vanilla sugar is not very common in the States. However, it is common in Israel and parts of Europe.
This is sugar that sat for an extended period of time with vanilla beans, giving it a vanilla flavor.
This type of sugar is common in the United Kingdom.
It has a finer grain than white (granulated) sugar and larger than powdered sugar.
Caster sugar is often called for in recipes for delicate baked goods like meringues, souffles, and sponge cakes.
You can use a 1:1 conversion rate between caster sugar and white (granulated) sugar.
Powdered sugar, sometimes known as confectioners’ sugar, is a sugar with a powdered texture.
This sugar is rarely, if ever, used for baking. Instead, it is used for dusting desserts and making frosting and icings.
In some countries, you can also find powdered vanilla sugar.
It is made the exact same way regular vanilla sugar is made. However, the sugar used is powdered instead of granulated.
Vanilla Extract vs Vanilla sugar
In my recipes, I don’t specify what kind of vanilla to use.
The reason for this is that in the States, vanilla extract is exclusively used.
Meanwhile in Israel, along with many European countries, vanilla sugar is common.
In most, if not all recipes, both vanilla extract and vanilla sugar can be used.
In recipes where vanilla sugar can be used instead of extract, you can replace them 1:1.
Replacing Sugar with Honey
If you’d prefer to use honey instead of sugar, you can do so with pretty good results.
Honey can be two or even three times as sweet depending on the honey, so for every 1 cup of sugar, you can use 1/2 to 2/3 cup honey.
Since honey adds liquid, you need to remove some to balance it out. For every cup of honey remove a 1/4 cup of liquid.
Also, it burns faster than granulated sugar, so you want to lower the baking temperature by 25 F or 4 C. In addition, check it early and often to avoid burning or overbaking.
BAKING AT HIGH ALTITUDES
High altitude affects yeast doughs because the lower air pressure allows the yeast to rise 25 to 50 percent faster, and the drier air makes the flour drier.
To fix this, decrease the amount of yeast in the recipe by 25%, and adjust the water and flour as necessary to get a dough with the correct consistency.
Rising times are also much shorter at higher altitudes, so do not go by rising times; rather, by sight.
You can also give the dough one extra rise by punching it down twice before forming it.
Or, if you want to slow the rise, you can cover the dough and place it in the refrigerator for its first rise, giving the dough more time to develop. However, it will rise much slower.
Adjustment for 3000 feet
- Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 1 tablespoon.
- Increase liquid: for each cup, add 1 to 2 tablespoons.
Adjustment for 5000 feet
- Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 0 to 2 tablespoons.
- Increase liquid: for each cup, add 2 to 4 tablespoons.
Adjustment for 7000+ feet
- Reduce sugar: for each cup, decrease 1 to 3 tablespoons.
- Increase liquid: for each cup, add 3 to 4 tablespoons.
Baking with Humidity
Humidity can have a big impact on how your baked goods come out.
This is because when humidity is extremely high (think 70 percent or more), baking ingredients like flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda soak up moisture from the air.
This can negatively impact the outcome of your cakes, cookies, yeast breads, and quick breads.
There are some things you can do to try to save your baking.
Try to counterbalance the additional moisture
To help counterbalance the additional moisture your dry ingredients soak up from the air, try reducing the amount of liquid in the recipe by about one-quarter.
If the batter or dough looks too dry once all the ingredients are mixed together, add additional liquid tablespoon at a time until you have the desired consistency.
This is not usually possible to do for cookies, but it does work for cakes and breads.
Store Ingredients in the Fridge
If flour and sugar are stored in the refrigerator or freezer rather than in a cupboard or pantry, they are better protected from humidity.
As an added benefit, keeping these ingredients cool also helps keep them fresher longer, in addition to helping them stay bug-free.
For best results, let them warm to room temperature before using.
Bake for Longer
If you bake your goodies for a few extra minutes, it can help the liquid to cook off.
To avoid overbaking, continue testing for doneness every couple of minutes for breads, quick breads, cakes, cupcakes, and muffins. Cookies, on the other hand, need to be checked every minute.
Use Air Conditioning
To help lower humidity levels on humid summer days, air condition the room for at least an hour before you start baking.
Cooler air isn’t able to hold as much moisture as warm air.
Store your baked goods in an airtight container
Humidity can also ruin your fresh-baked goods because when they are left out they can absorb moisture.
To avoid this, store them in an air tight container or resealable bag.
WHY IS IT TAKING LONGER THAN DESCRIBED TO BAKE?
Over time the thermostat on ovens gets a little off causing some ovens to run hot and others to run cool. This is why recipes tend to say things like “10 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.”
So, if it takes you longer than expected that’s fine, don’t worry about it, just keep baking until ready.
WHY DID MY RECIPE COME OUT TOO DRY?
Just like some ovens run cool, others run hot. If you’re oven runs hot bake these at a lower temperature. Ideally, you should get an oven thermometer to know what temperature you’re really baking at.
HOW TO STORE BREAD
Breads, like challah and brioche, take longer to go stale while sourdough bread, is more resilient against mold than other types of bread.
On the other hand there are breads, like baguettes, which should be eaten same day. Most breads can be stored.
DO NOT REFRIGERATE BREAD
Unlike commercial bread that has preservatives, homemade bread will become stale much faster in the fridge. Instead you want to leave it out on the counter.
STORING BREAD IN A BAG
Storing bread in a bag may seem like a good idea, and it’s not exactly a bad idea, but it will make the crust softer due to trapped moisture.
If you do this, it is best to use it for toast.
STORING BREAD IN A BREAD BOX
Storing bread in a bread box will create an environment with balanced humidity and the air circulation.
A large box is better because it will allow for maximum air circulation.
Make sure not to crowd your bread because the more bread you put in the bread box, the higher the humidity level.
The downside of a breadbox is that bread is prone to molding, especially in hot weather.
How To Freeze Bread
Let bread completely.
Wrap each loaf tightly in plastic wrap and again in foil or freezer paper. Or, use a zip-top freezer bag with all of the air removed.
Freeze for up to six months. After that, the bread may become freezer burnt.
If You do leave bread in the freezer too long and it becomes a little stale or slightly freezer burnt don’t throw it out.
How to Defrost Bread
Defrosted bread in the oven at 325°F or 260°C for 20 to 30 minutes, until soft and fully thawed in the middle.