making focaccia the ligurian way

I’ve made focaccia many times over the years, recreating recipes from magazines, cookbooks, and blogs. Any focaccia made with rosemary is super loved by my older daughter. But recently, given our stay home statuses, I really wanted to try and recreate the focaccia that comes from the Liguria region of Italy. This focaccia is considered by Italians to be the original. For guidance, I turned to a former colleague, Carlo, who is from Camogli, a beautiful village in Liguria. Carlo promptly shared the recipe he had from the master focaccia maker in his village and I set about creating the same thousands of miles away. The process was time consuming (primarily due to the number of rises), but the result was the specified 1 cm thick focaccia with a crusty exterior and a chewy interior. I made so much, that we not only enjoyed the focaccia by itself, but we also made some lovely sandwiches the day after.

Ingredients:

  • 250 ml of water at room temperature
  • 25 gms extra virgin olive oil (best quality you can buy)
  • 10 gms dry yeast
  • 500 gms of flour (Since Carlo instructed that the flour have a protein content of 9-11%, I used a 50/50 mix of all purpose and 00 flour. The focaccia turns out well with just all purpose flour as well)
  • 10 gms salt
  • 10 gms sugar
  • Extra virgin olive oil for pouring on top
  • Kosher salt for topping
  • Fresh rosemary, or finely sliced onions or olives (optional) for topping the focaccia

How to:

1. Put the water, oil, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix well using a spatula.

2. Add a couple of spoons of flour and mix at low speed for just a couple of minutes. Then, using your hand, dissolve any lumps of flour that have formed. If you do it at the beginning, no lumps will form afterwards.

3. Add the remaining flour one spoon at a time, rather quickly, while the mixer is still at low speed. Increase the speed to a higher setting and let the dough work for another couple of minutes. Let it rest in the bowl for 10 minutes.

4. Now sprinkle the salt and sugar and mix for another two to three minutes at a higher speed until the dough is well formed.

5. Take the dough out of the bowl and work it a bit on the work surface of your kitchen (marble or granite is better than wood, so it doesn’t stick too much). To work it well, you can slap it on the counter and make some pleats and when it is fairly smooth, form a ball with a circular movement of your hands.

6. Let the dough ball rest in a slightly oiled bowl for two to three hours (cover the ball with plastic wrap or a wet towel). (I left mine for two hours). Make sure the dough rests in an area without a draft and at room temperature. You may put it in the oven off with the light on. This is the first rise.

7. Take the dough out of the bowl and form a ball working a bit with your hands to revive the dough and form the ball again. Put the ball in a focaccia pan (16x12x1 inch) coated with oil. The size of the pan is critical, because if it’s wrong you will have either a too thin or a too thick focaccia; the final product must be no more than 1cm thick. Let the ball rest covered for 30 minutes. This is the second rise.

8. At this point, you are ready for the real fun. Stretch the dough balls in the pan to cover the entire surface (by hand, no rolling pin, please!). Once the focaccia covers the entire surface of the pan, let is rest again covered for 20 to 30 minutes. This is the third rise.

9. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.

9. Now use a mix of 2 tbsps water and 2 tbsps oil and pour some on the focaccia. Using the tip of your fingers, form the famous “dimples” on the surface. Spread some kosher salt on the surface, press in some toppings (if you are using any), and put the pan in the preheated oven at the lowest level for 10 minutes and then in the middle for another 5 minutes. Check the status of cooking and make sure it’s golden but not brown at all. Remove from the oven and finish the surface by brushing the cooked focaccia with some olive oil using a brush. Enjoy!

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