Ah, a new week and a new region. This week my focus will be on Liguria, home of Genoa and Cinque Terre. With picturesque homes built into the side of hills overlooking the ocean, the coastline of Liguria is some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. I was lucky enough to spend a several days traveling between the five towns that make up Cinque Terre during the semester that I lived in Ascoli Piceno. The food, along with the sites, is absolutely unbelievable. This week's meals are especially exciting to me as it gives me a chance to relive those days in Cinque Terre.
One of the easiest breads to make, as well as one of the most frequently served breads in Liguria. Nearly every day in Italy, my roommate and I would have "snack time". This didn't end just because we were on a vacation in Cinque Terre for a few days. We would buy some fresh focaccia bread and some cheese or salami, or whatever else we felt like, and sit on the rocks or the beach for a bit, savoring the view and our delicious snack!
Making focaccia really is pretty simple. Just be prepared for the fact that the dough is super sticky at first, and can make a huge mess if you aren't careful! (It was really fun trying to open the door for Ryan, who was standing in the pouring rain with his hands were full of groceries, while my hands were coated in dough.) I like to top mine with sea salt and rosemary, but you can kick it up a notch and even do things like focaccia stuffed with cheese or spinach. Like everything else, experiment and have fun with it!
Adapted From Rustico: Regional Italian Country Cooking by Micol Negrin, 2002.
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 1/4 cups warm water (around 110 degrees)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Mix flour, yeast, and salt together either with a wooden spoon in a mixing bowl.
- Add 3/4 cup of warm water and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Mix with a wooden spoon until everything is incorporated. Continue to mix using either the spoon or your hands until the dough is no longer sticky, adding extra flour as needed. Knead the dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface.
- Form dough into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Flip the dough so that the top gets coated in oil as well. Cover the bowl with plastic or a moist towel and let the dough rise for about an hour.
- Put dough on an oiled 18 inch pizza pan. Use your fingers to stretch the dough to the edges of the pan. If the dough is recoiling back after you stretch it, simply let it sit for a few minutes until it is easier to work with. It is also ok if the dough simply does not reach to the edges. You will just end up with a slightly smaller focaccia.
- Brush the top of the dough with the remaining olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and rosemary. Press your fingers into the dough to create the characteristic "dimples" that is on focaccia bread.
- Let the dough rise at room temperature for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven the 475 degrees.
- Bake at 475 for 15-20 minutes or until golden on top. Serve warm.
Ryan's rating of Focaccia Bread - 4.