Focaccia is a type of Italian bread that has gained global popularity as a basis for sandwiches. Rosemary focaccia is commonly eaten as an appetizer, snack, or side item. It is often served with olive oil or sometimes prosciutto in restaurants. Most people don’t know a whole lot about Focaccia – Heavenly Italian Bread or it’s origins so here’s a bit about it.
Focaccia – Heavenly Italian Bread
Flat, hearth baked bread has existed since Ancient Roman times but the basic recipe may have originated even earlier than that. These loaves were usually baked on hearth stones or on a flat surface that could be placed inside the fire itself for a period of time. The original flatbread might have even been cooked in the fire’s smoldering ashes rather than over a hot flame.
In the historical era, recipes for this particular bread did not always include leavening agents because the dough would apparently rise just fine inland. However, near the coast the additional help that was provided by yeast was necessary to accomplish this feat. The bread was historically used to sop up the thin, sour soup that was a dietary staple at the time. Focaccia style breads were, after all, commonly served to slaves in the Roman Empire.
On a lighter note, Focaccia also traditionally played a part in Twelfth Night celebrations. A bean was placed in the bread to point out the person who would serve as the evening’s Lord of Misrule in much the same fashion as a ruler is chosen by the king’s cake tokens during the modern Mardi Gras festivities. However, the Lord of Misrule seemingly acted as more of a jester than the honoree of the fete as is normally the case at Mardi Gras.
No matter its history, Focaccia is fairly simple to make. Water, olive oil, salt, yeast, and flour are all among the usual ingredients. Some recipes also call for quantities of lard which tends to produce a lighter, flakier loaf than is otherwise typical.
Common Focaccia toppings include rosemary, tomatoes, potatoes, olives, sage, cheese, onions, or meats. One topping is traditional, but one of the aforementioned topping plus one of the aforementioned herbs is also a mixture that is commonly seen.
Although the recipe is very similar to the one used for pizza dough, Focaccia had a thicker texture which is often produced by the presence of leavening agents. Focaccia dough is also coated with a layer of olive oil to hold in moisture while pizza dough is not, leading the latter to have a much drier texture overall.
Multiple holes are even poked into the surface of the Focaccia dough or it is scored with a knife prior to being baked. Either way, this helps keep bubbles from forming on the bread’s surface during the cooking process but this isn’t even an issue with pizza crusts. Finally, there is the question of shape. Pizzas are usually round, while Focaccia remains quite square.
Focaccia – Heavenly Italian Bread comes in both sweet and savory varieties. The sweeter version can be found in parts of France, Austria, and Northern Italy. These recipes incorporate things like honey, raisins, citrus peels, eggs, sugar, and spices. The southern portions of the country are where the oily, salty types of bread can be found.
Of course, Americans will be especially familiar with the savory versions since the recipes for that sort of Focaccia accompanied immigrants who made their way to the country during the 1900s.
However, if home baking is not among your many talents and international travel is currently in the cards for you, these loaves can likely be found at a supermarket near you. After all, why not jazz up your ordinary ham and cheese with Focaccia – Heavenly Italian Bread?
Have you tried Focaccia? Do you like it? Share your experiences with us!