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So yummy, focaccia genovese! Fluffy, thin, loaded with very healthy extra virgin olive oil, it is so delicious you will eat even the smallest crumbs to enjoy its whole taste!
Ok, buying it in a typical Ligurian bakery may not be really convenient if you live anywhere in the world, so why don’t you bake it yourself? It is as easy as a piece of cake.
Every time I go on holiday, or I have a weekend away in Liguria, I can’t help getting into my favorite bakery and buying a slice of focaccia. Tempting, pleasantly warm, salty to the right point…you can forget about your diet for a little time and taste this genuine delicacy.
Focaccia genovese, “fügassa”, a typical speciality from Liguria in the Northern Italy- its origin dates back to old times, has become one of the most well-know symbols of the Italian cooking tradition. People from Liguria state that the delicious fragrancy of their focaccia can’t be created outside Genova, but we can try to bake something very similar.
What should a genuine focaccia genovese be like? What makes it different from the any kinds of flatbread.
A few typical features we will try to replicate:
- The holes: if there are no holes, it is not focaccia genovese;
- Traditionally, it is about 2cm thick (no more than this);
- It must be toasty and crispy outside, soft and fluffy inside;
- It must be oily at the right point: this melt in your mouth delicacy, must not be chewy;
- The salt grains should be visible on the surface.
If you want to bake a very toothsome focaccia, allow yourself plenty of time, because only a long and accurate rising process gives the focaccia its particular taste and light fluffy texture.
So, in the evening start preparing what you will enjoy the following day. You may follow faster methods, but the result won’t be as good as the traditional one: a tasty focaccia, but not the genuine focaccia genovese.
A preview: how can you make the surface deliciously golden brown? Something a plane ticket to Liguria is worth of? Before the last rising process, it is completely covered with a salamoia (brine) of water, salt, and extra virgin olive oil. It makes the focaccia fluffy and amazingly tasty: the holes are white and soft amid the golden brown surface.
A tough challenge, we may take up…and win.
Before we start, a few pieces of advice to make our focaccia perfect:
- Opt for some good olive oil for the dough. Use light, preferably Ligurian extra virgin olive oil for the salamoia; it won’t spoil the natural taste of your focaccia.
- Always protect the dough from any air streams, because they might hinder the rising process. Close the doors of your kitchen when you knead the dough;
- After the first rising in the baking tray, the dough should be easy to stretch perfectly with the palm of your hands. A good dough must not tear apart when it is stretched.
- Be careful not make the edges too thick;
- Let it rise in the baking sheet for 1 hour, or 1 hour and half before poking the holes, this will help to create those peculiar holes;
- Holes are poked by using three fingers from a side to the other;
- Prepare plenty of salamoia, because before cooking, the dough will soak it up. As a result, the peculiar contrast between the golden brown crispy surface and the white soft texture will make focaccia even more scrumptious.
Focaccia genovese: the authentic perfect recipe
Ingredients for the dough:
- 500 gr flour type 0, W260-280, max 300, or a mix of 150g of flour type 0 whose W is unknown and 350g of Manitoba flour
- 300-320 gr room temperature water
- 3 tbsp organic olive oil
- 1 tsp dry brewer’s yeast or 20 gr of fresh yeast, or half a bag (15g) of dry yeast (PaneAngeli, for instance)
- 1 tsp honey, or 3g of malt, or 1 tbsp of sugar
Ingredients for the salamoia:
- 150 gr water
- 4-5 tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil (possibly Northern Italian oil, as it is more delicate)
- 10-15 gr fine salt
- 1 small handful of coarse salt
- Start preparing the dough in the evening, you will enjoy a digestible and fluffy focaccia the following day;
- Prepare the first dough: combine 140g of flour (or the mix with Manitoba flour) with 100g of water;
- Crumble the yeast and add it to the mixture. If you use dry yeast, dissolve it in 30g of total water; use lukewarm water but be careful because if it is too warm, it will kill the yeast;
- Knead the mixture in a stand mixer (such as kitchen-aid) with the flat beater until smooth and elastic (the gluten has formed). The mixture is compact and it doesn’t stick to the beater (it will take about 3-4 minutes);
- At the beginning the mixture may be a little sticky and the stand mixer might work with difficulty: knead at low speed and dough will develop little by little;
- If you don’t have a stand mixer, knead for about 5 minutes;
- Let the dough rise into the bowl covered with cling film for about 30 minuets. If you leave it on the pastry board, cover it with a tea-towel to protect it from air streams. I usually pre-heat the oven at 25-26 °C (77-79°F) then I put the dough onto the upper rack of the switched off and closed oven: it will rise evenly without getting dry;
- Make the dough stronger: when the initial dough has doubled its volume, add the remaining flour and water, the honey, and the malt;
- Knead in the stand mixer with the hook for about 5 minutes at low speed, until a smooth and sticky “ball”;
- Eventually, add the oil and salt a little at a time: the dough will easily release from the hook and the sides of the bowl;
- Transfer the dough to a marble or wooden board and fold it as it were the pizza dough;
- Roll it out in the shape of a rectangle. Fold in two, flatten and rotate it at the right angles and fold it in two again. Repeat this operation three or four times, at least, the dough will get richer in air, and dry. I usually make this operation only once, but 3 times would guarantee the best result; the dough should sit to rest about 15-20 minutes after every folding process;
- After the last folding process, put the dough back into the bowl, oil it and cover the bowl with cling film and a tea towel;
- Set aside in the fridge overnight, from 8 pm to 10 am, for instance;
- Take the dough out of the fridge and let it stand for 10 minutes at room temperature.
- Sprinkle some flour, and stretch the dough with a rolling pin;
- Roll it in a rectangular shape, but do not overstretch the dough;
- Grease a 35x28 cm baking tray with very little oil, and gently transfer the dough into it; be careful not to tear it!
- Cover with cling film and let it rise for one hour;
- After one hour pat the dough using your hands to fit the tray; be careful not to break the dough;
- Cover with cling film again and let it rise from 30 minutes to 1 hour at room temperature ( I usually put it into the switched off oven);
- Now, poke the holes in the dough: flour your fingers (if you have long nails use your knuckles, otherwise you will break the dough and stop the rising);
- The holes should be quite deep and close one to the other; it should look like a mattress. Start from the side which is the farthest from you and get to the one which is the closest to your belly;
- Prepare the salamoia: combine salt, oil, and water (at 30°C- 86°F). The salamoia will keep the dough moist and give its holes the characteristic white color;
- Stir well until the salt has evenly melted in the water, pour it onto the focaccia to fill every hole completely. Don’t worry: it is not too much, the brine will be soaked up by the focaccia little by little;
- Let it stand for 1 hour and half at room temperate until the the dough has soaked the salamoia;
- Add a little oil and a handful of coarse salt;
- Pre-heat the static oven at 220°C (428°F) and bake it on the lower rack for ten minutes, then transfer the tray onto the medium rack and bake for 5-10 minutes more (it must not get too dry),
- Take your focaccia out of the oven and let it cool down on a cooling rack to prevent it from getting chewy;
- And the finishing touch: brush it with a little only and grill it in the oven for 1 minute…your focaccia genovese si really to be…loved … and eaten!
A few toothsome variations :
You may top your focaccia with thinly sliced white onions or a few green onions before baking it…delicious. You may also add datterini tomatoes, dry oregano, or very tasty black or green-pitted, olives.
How you can store focaccia :
Focaccia genovese (as other similar baked produces) should be eaten a few hours after the baking; anyway it lasts about one day in a paper bag. You may also freeze it.
In Liguria, Focaccia genovese is eaten at breakfast time. Well, you may not understand it, but oily salty focaccia and milk is a very unusual couple, people from Liguria definitely fond of!
You can have it all the times of the day: as a snack in the middle of the morning, for lunch, as afternoon snack, or for dinner.
Paired with cheese or salami, it perfectly fits a buffet party with friends.