You can find 1000+ of my kitchen-tested recipes using the Recipes tab, watch nearly 100 of my Kitchen Encounters/WHVL-TV segments using the TV Videos tab, join the discussion about all of my creations using the Facebook tab, or Email your questions and comments directly to me--none go unanswered. Have fun!


~ My Rosemary & Cracked Black Pepper Focaccia ~

IMG_1994Focaccia is not pizza and pizza is not focaccia!

Although the two resemble each other (they are both relatively flat breads), pizza dough, in comparison to focaccia dough, uses less leavening (yeast), resulting in a thinner, denser, flatter, somewhat flexible crust.  Even thick-crust, square-shaped, Sicilian-style pizzas are not as thick and firm as a properly-made focaccia.  Focaccia dough, which contains more yeast, rises quite a bit higher, enough for it to be sliced in half lengthwise and used as the bread for all sorts of great sandwich or panini combinations.  The added leavening firms the crust to the consistency of a conventional loaf of bread without becoming the height of a conventional loaf, which allows the dough to absorb olive oil before it is baked (it's delicicous dipped in fruity EVOO afterward too).

It's common to hear folks refer to fococcia as "olive oil bread".

IMG_1886Centuries before the the modern day oven, in Ancient Rome, freeform flatbreads were baked in a "hearth", or, in Latin:  a "panis focacius" (focus meaning "hearth" and "panis" meaning "bread"). The dough was flattened over a stone and covered with hot ashes to bake. Out of the ashes, focaccia, an Italian flatbread, evolved, and it varies from region to region and cook to cook.  

IMG_1914Traditional "salt focaccia" is flattened by hand and dimpled with small, well-like indentations (made using ones knuckle or the handle of a wooden spoon), then drizzled liberally with olive oil, sprinkled coarse salt and a simple herb.  Sometimes, the bread dough contains cheese, or cheese sandwiched between the dough, to make "focaccia con formaggio" (which I'm making today). "Fococcia dolce", popular at Easter, is focaccia sweetened with eggs, butter and sugar.

IMG_1966Occasionally, focaccia is sparingly topped with bits of thinly-sliced onion, cheese, meat, tomatoes or vegetables, but, nothing close to the lavish quantities that often adorn its cousin the pizza. Also, if topped, a focaccia will rarely have more than one or two items on it. Focaccia can be eaten for a snack, sliced lengthwise and filled with ingredients to make a sandwich, or served as an accompaniment to any meal.  It makes great croutons for soups and salads too!

IMG_6014A bit about flour and choosing flour for baking bread:  The reason well-written bread recipes specify a type or brand of flour has little to do with personal preference.  It is 99% food science.  All flour is not created equally.  To get the ~ Flour Facts: All-Purpose, Bread, Cake and Pastry ~ click into the Related Article link below. 

A bit about high-gluen/vital wheat gluten flour:   Made from a protein found in the wheat berry, this is an additive/gluten booster for all-purpose flour and weaker flours.   IMG_1761Boosting the gluten content is important when baking certain types of bread:  rustic loaves, like French baguettes and Italian ciabatta which require a long rising time in order to achieve the desired airy holes in their crumb and a chewy texture; breads made with coarse, whole grain flours and/or cereals, which contain little gluten on their own, and; flat breads like focaccia and some pizza doughs.

I like to add some of this to my focaccia dough, but, this recipe will work just fine without it.  If you don't have any vital wheat gluten, simply use 9 cups of all-purpose flour.

IMG_1571Olive olive oil plays a key roll in focaccia making.  It gets kneaded into the dough, as well as liberally brushed and drizzled over the top -- to fill those little "wells" that have been dimpled across the top.

I infuse my EVOO with garlic!

I just love the taste that garlic-flavored olive oil adds to this bread. Skip this step if you don't like garlic, but, I really hope you won't.

1  cup + 2  tablespoons olive oil

12-16 large fresh garlic cloves, cut into quarters

In a 2-cup measuring container, combine the oil and garlic.  Cover and refrigerate 24-48 hours.

IMG_1921Focaccia (foh-CAH-cha)!  

If you don't have a large-capacity food processor, cut this recipe in half.  

IMG_1765For the fococcia dough:

8  cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1  cup vital wheat gluten

4  packages dry yeast, not rapid-rise

2  tablespoons dried rosemary

2  tablespoons sugar

2  tablespoons sea salt

4  teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper

1  cup finely-grated Asiago cheese

9  tablespoons olive oil, preferably garlic-infused, plus enough hot tap water to total 3 cups liquid*

2  tablespoons additional olive oil, preferably garlic-infused, for preparing baking pans

8  tablespoons additional olive oil, preferably garlic-infused, for brushing over tops of focaccia

no-stick cooking spray

* Troubleshooting note:  In a perfect world on a perfect day, 3 cups of total liquid is all you'll need to add to turn the dry mixture into a dough.  BUT, this is bread baking.  Everything from the humidity outside to the brand of flour can cause a minor glitch.  Do not panic.  If, for any reason, the dry mixture, the wet mixture and the processor are resisting the dough forming a ball, simply add additional hot tap water, in 2-4 tablespoon increments until a ball of dough forms.

IMG_1819For the topping mixture:

1  tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary leaves, no stems

1  tablespoon dried rosemary leaves

4  teaspoons coarse sea salt

1  tablespoon coarsely-ground black pepper

6  tablespoons finely-grated Asiago cheese

Note:  Feel free to adjust these  proportions to suit your taste.

IMG_1777 IMG_1776~ Step 1. You'll need 1 3/4  cups of grated Asiago cheese for this recipe.  I always process more than I need, to have on hand for future use.  Today, I placed a 2-pound piece, cut into 1" chunks, in the work bowl of a large-capacity food processor fitted with a steel blade.  In about 45 seconds, all of my cheese was grated.  Transfer to a food storage bag and refrigerate.

IMG_1796~ Step 2.  In work bowl of same processor fitted with the steel blade, place the flour, vital gluten, yeast, rosemary, sugar, salt, pepper and 1 cup of the cheese.  Using a series of about 10-12 on-off pulses, combine the ingredients.

IMG_1792~ Step 3. With motor running, slowly and in a thin stream, drizzle the oil/water mixture through the feed tube, into the dry IMG_1832 IMG_1804mixture, until a large ball forms. Continue to knead the dough ball in the processor for 45-60 seconds (revolutions).

~ Step 4.  Spray the inside of a 2-gallon food storage bag with cooking spray.  Place dough in bag, close, and let rise until dough is doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes.

IMG_1838 IMG_1811~ Step 5. Using a few paper towels, oil the bottoms of two 15 1/2" x 10 1/2" baking pans with 2 tablespoons of oil each.

~ Step 6.  Open the bag of dough (I IMG_1856use a pair of kitchen shears) and divide it in half.  You will have about 76 total ounces of dough, and, 38 ounces in each half (I always use a kitchen scale to weigh my dough). Form each half into a "hefty" oval, place one on each pan, and, allow to rest for 10-12 minutes.

~ Step 7.  Pat, press and push each piece of dough evenly to the bottom of and toward the sides of pans. Unlike a pizza crust, the focaccia will be about 1/2" thick (prior to rising again) w/no sides formed around the perimeter of the pan.

IMG_1873 IMG_1866~ Step 8. Using your knuckle or a round-handled spoon, and a light touch, carefully make indentations into the dough, about 1" apart and slightly less than 1/2" thick.  You do not want to break through the bottom of the dough.

Drizzle 4 tablespoons of EVOO on the center of each focaccia, and, using a pastry brush, evenly brush the tops with the oil, allowing the excess to drizzle into the IMG_1889indentations as you brush your way to the outside of each loaf.  Allow the dough to rise until almost double in bulk, about 1 hour.

~ Step 9.  While the dough is rising, prep & toss the topping ingredients together in a small bowl.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

IMG_1892 IMG_1828~ Step 10. Just prior to baking the first focaccia, sprinkle 1/2 of the topping ingredients over the top.

IMG_1912~ Step 11. Bake on center rack of preheated IMG_1935oven 6-8 minutes, or until crust is lightly browned on the top.  Using a large metal spatula, slide the focaccia from the pan to the oven rack and continue to bake  an additional 2-4 minutes, until bottom crust is golden.  Using the spatula, slide focaccia from oven rack to cooling rack to cool completely. Repeat with second focaccia.

IMG_1978Slice and serve warm or at room temperature:

IMG_2004My Rosemary & Cracked Black Pepper Focaccia:  Recipe yields 2, 15 1/2" x 10 1/2" flat, squarish but freeform loaves.

Special Equipment List:  2-cup measuring container; large-capacity food processor; 1-quart measuring container; 2-gallon food storage bag; kitchen shears; paper towels; 2, 15 1/2" x 10 1/2" baking pans; kitchen scale (optional); round-handled spoon or wooden spoon; pastry brush; large, long-handled metal spatula; 2 large cooling racks; serrated bread knife

PICT0004Cook's Note:  This flavor-packed foccacia, on the same day it is baked, is the perfect accompaniment to ~ Melanie's Bolognese Sauce & Bolognese Lasagna:  Veal & Rosemary-Tomato Cream Sauce & Lasagna ~.  You can find the recipe in Categories, 3, 11, 12, 14, 21 or 22. I also have a few ways favorite ways to use 1-2 day old foccacia, so stay tuned:  I'm going to be posting them all this this week!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2014) 


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment