It is fluffy, succulent, savory, this flatbread makes a satisfying snack in the middle of the afternoon, or a toothsome appetizer for your aperitive. You may not know it, here it is: focaccia, flatbread from Apulia, in the “heel” of Italy.
Bake it once, you will fall in love with it at first bite!
What does flatbread from Apulia fit? Everything!
There is something magical about this flatbread: everybody will love it, so get your oven ready to bake it over and over again. In Apulian bakeries it is made early in the morning and its perfume pleasantly spreads all along the streets. Just imagine what may happens in hour house: your neighbors can’t resist, they will ring your doorbell: “Can we come in?”.
Actually, this delicacy fits any time of the day to your taste: it makes a good lunch or dinner, or a snack in between the meals- enjoy it while you are quietly strolling downtown. Students are used to wrapping flatbread from Apulia in a piece of food paper and taking it to schools: their breaks become much more scrumptious. It makes a tempting either lunch on the beach or an informal dinner while watching football with friends. This flatbread is perfect from dawn till dusk!
Is it tasty? No, it is much more than “just tasty”!
I really can’t tell you how appetizing this delicacy is, so you have only one way to give the game away: tasting it!
Get ready, at the first bite, your teeth will sink into a super fluffy, well-leavened delicacy you will fall in love with, right in that moment! But watch out for the tomatoes, they may drop onto your clothes at every bite! They are true merit badges, aren’t they? Ahah! (Of course, that who will have to remove the stains from the clothes, won’t be really happy, but this is another story!).
The recipe wants a slightly unusual dough …
- Potatoes are essential because their precious starch makes the dough fluffy and soft. The percentage ranges from 10 to 20% of the total weight; it varies according to the quantity of the other ingredients: they have to be all well-balanced. Too many potatoes make the dough difficult to be kneaded, and baked correctly, hence flatbread gets indigestible. Of you don’t add any potatoes, you will bake toothsome flatbread, but it won’t be as fluffy as Apulian flatbread. Potatoes keep it soft up to 3, 4 days;
- Mother yeast; the genuine registered recipe of Bari wants only mother yeast, but it can be well replaced by brewer’s yeast (the ordinary fresh yeast cube) or dry one;
- Finely-ground semolina which fits bakery products; it makes the dough more rustic and, along with flour type 0 or 00, favors the rising process and imparts a nice yellowish hue;
- Tomatoes: cut fresh tomatoes into halves and squeeze them a little. This recipe doesn’t want any tomato purée. According to people from Apulia, it isn’t allowed! Tomatoes make your flatbread pleasantly red- dry oregano and olives give the finishing touch of class; a true delicacy!
- Black olives are preferred but also green ones may be used. The original recipe is not really clear about that!
- You are thinking about using ANY oil, aren’t you! Definitely not! Only extra virgin olive oil can be used in the dough and to oil the baking tray. It delivers a stronger and unique taste; moreover, it makes the surface deliciously crunchy with a soft and fluffy center; never use lard!
What will you feel when you bite the flatbread?
Every bite has got a different taste and texture- the center deliciously tastes olives and tomatoes; the edges (rigorously golden brown and crunchy) are very savory. The tomato natural juice makes the texture wet and soft; the bottom, succulently soaked with extra virgin olive oil: it is the crunchiest and most tempting part of any good flatbreads, so homogenous to be enjoyed at every morsel- a symphony of different tastes. So, you will eat three different kinds of flatbread in one!
Before getting started
It is a quite simple recipe, but the final result depends on several factors such as the hands which prepares it- a few tricks make the difference.
- Sieve the all the types of flour before adding water for a more homogeneous result.
- Always keep yeast far from salt. I usually mix flour type 0 with semolina: the final texture varies according to the percentage of each flour, but the first dough has to be soft and smooth. If you combine yeast and salt, you will spoil it. Add them in different moments not to deflate the dough.
- Don’t knead the dough too much otherwise it will get too hard. The raw dough of flatbread from Bari must be quite malleable and workable to be easily poured onto a well-oiled baking tray and flattened with oiled fingers.
- Using too much water, or adding it altogether is a huge mistake; add only be lukewarm water, neither too hot, nor too cold.
- Pour the dough directly into an oiled baking tray, then flattened it with your hands. Press the dough gently not to tear it or make holes.
- Prepare the seasoning of tomatoes, black olives, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, and salt a little time ahead and allow to stand to combine all the ingredients evenly. The topping is a quite tricky matter here: Apulian flatbread doesn’t want any loose scattered ingredients, they must come as a whole.
- This flatbread must be golden-brown, charred. Use an iron or aluminum tray for a perfect result.
How to make the fluffiest flatbread ever: Apulian flatbread with tomatoes
- 200 gr flour type 0 or 150g of flour type 00 + 50g of Manitoba
- 200 gr finely ground semolina
- 150 gr potatoes
- 1/2 cube fresh yeast or a full tbsp of dry yeast
- 1/2 tbs sugar
- 1 full tbs salt
- about 200 gr datterini or cherry tomatoes
- 15-20 black and/or green olives
- coarse salt
- dry oregano to taste
- extra virgin olive oil to taste
- Wash the potatoes and get rid of any impurities; cook them in boiling water for 20-25 minutes or until tender;
- Let the potatoes cool down a little, then peel and mash them;
- Dissolve the yeast into 150ml of lukewarm water and add the sugar to active it;
- Sieve the two types of flour, add the salt and the potatoes;
- Start mixing with the stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment or on a flat surface with your hands;
- Mix until smooth and even;
- Pour the water with the yeast and knead carefully (fit the stand mixer with the dough hook if using it);
- Gradually add 2 tbsp of oil, one at a time;
- Knead with your hands, or in the stand mixer at medium speed; don’t worry if the dough doesn’t come together, it is ok- it will, when you pour some more water;
- Pour water until a soft and almost sticky mixture;
- Knead a couple of minutes until the elastic web forms, the dough should release easily from the side of the bowl and twist around the hook; don’t knead it too long not to stress it;
- Pour it onto a floured surface (use the Manitoba flour, not the semolina);
- Sprinkle the dough and your hands with flour; shape the dough into a rectangle and then fold the two extremities towards the center; and then fold it again laterally;
- When a smooth dough has formed, make a ball with floured hands and place it into a bowl;
- Cover the bowl with cling film and let it rise at about 80°-85°F (for example briefly switch on the oven, then switch it off: you will have the right temperature for the rising process) until the dough has tripled its volume;
- In the meanwhile, half the tomatoes and dress them with salt, oil, and oregano; set aside; a little liquid will be released;
- Pour the dough onto an oiled baking tray (26-28cm round one), flatten it with the tips of your well-oiled fingers;
- Place tomatoes and black olives spaced well apart on the surface and press them into the dough. Pour a little tomato liquid for a more flavorful taste;
- Generously season with extra virgin olive oil, more oregano and coarse salt;
- Let the flatbread rise for one hour or until it has doubled its volume; to rise and develop more flavor; the tomatoes will have sunk into the dough;
- Pre-heat the static oven at 180-200°C (360°-390°F) and bake for about 25 minutes: first place the tray onto lower rack for 10 minutes, then move it to the middle one until for the remaining minutes;
- Check for its doneness: the edge should be crunchy- take it out of the oven; a scrumptious flatbread is ready to be fully enjoyed either hot or cold to your taste!
How to store it
Let your flatbread cool down completely-it will take about 2 hours, wrap it into cling film. It will keep fresh and fluffy up to 3 days at room temperature. It should not be frozen.